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TRADITIONS: Platt and Maloney expanding Monday’s rivalry game to recognize the past — and future — of Meriden baseball

TRADITIONS: Platt and Maloney expanding Monday’s rivalry game to recognize the past — and future — of Meriden baseball

reporter photo

MERIDEN — Platt and Maloney will be honoring their basebal past, present and future on Monday at Ceppa Field.

The rivalry game between the Panthers and Spartans, scheduled for 6 p.m., will be preceeded by a 3 p.m. game between Washington and Lincoln middle schools.

And, much like the schools already do with football at the Stoddard Bowl, Platt and Maloney will recognize past baseball legends. On the Platt side, the inaugural honoree is former pitcher Terry Bongiovanni. For Maloney, it is former coach Ed Zajac, after whom the baseball field at Maloney High School is named.

“I had talks with (Meriden Schools Family-School Liaison Coordinator) Dave Salafia and (Platt athletic director) Rich Katz  and Dave brought the idea forward about bringing in honrees from the past,” said Maloney AD Bob McKee. “We want them to throw out the first pitch. We want to make this a tradition to honor players from the past before the last Maloney-Platt meeting each year.”

McKee said he wants it to be a day to celebrate Meriden baseball and that there are talks of expanding the tradition to other sports as well.

“We want to make this a big event,” McKee said. “We will have the middle school kids play before us and then we will bring in some people from the past. We will see how it goes.”

Maloney announcer Jens Kiss will read the bios of Zajac and Bongiovanni before the game. Maloney’s Allegrettos choral group will perform the National Anthem. The middle school players will stand along the baselines with their high school counterparts during the performance.

Zajac, a 1952 graduate of Meriden High School, was a basketball and baseball player who went on to UConn, where he was a four-year member of the baseball team.

Following UConn, Zajac entered the military and managed the Third Army baseball team out of Fort Jackson, S.C. At the completion of a two-year tour of duty, Zajac returned to Meriden and became an English and Social Studies teacher.

Zajac served as an assistant baseball coach to Bill Papallo and Ben Nessing as well as an assistant basketball coach to Norb Fahey for 19 years and then with Howie Hewitt for two. As a JV coach, Zajac compiled a record of 301-100.

Zajac became the Maloney head baseball coach in 1973 and remained at the post until retiring from teaching in 1994. He finished with a 271-160 record.

Zajac’s 1989 squad made the state finals. He was the Connecticut Coach of the Year in 1992 and named a Meriden Sportsman of Distinction in 1994.

As for Bongiovanni, he participated in cross country, soccer, basketball and baseball while at Platt in the mid-1960s. During his senior year he captained the soccer, basketball and baseball teams and was named All-Conference in each.

In baseball, Bongiovanni was a standout pitcher and had a .351 batting average in his senior year. He was named Platt’s first All-State player. 

Drafted out of high school by the Chicago Cubs in the third round of the 1967 Major League Baseball Draft as the 42nd pick overall, Bongiovanni spent three years in the Cubs organization and two years with the Yankees.

Bongiovanni still owns five Platt High baseball records: pitching wins in a season (11) and in a career (28), no-hitters (3), career strikeouts (421) and strikeouts in a game (24).

“He was a workhorse,” Katz said. “He was a dominant pitcher and was the best hitter on his team.

“Terry and Ed are two of the best baseball men the city has ever had,” Katz added. “Ed is a legend for everything and I think Terry is the most domiant pitcher in the history of Meriden high school sports.”

Terry owns his own financial/insurance company and resides in Meriden with his wife Ellen. They have three children — Nicole, Ty and Trey.

Should Monday’s game get rained out, all events will be held on Tuesday.