Mike Ranieri is in the midst of his longest waiting game ever.
This time, the slugging baseball player isn’t stepping out of the batter’s box and playing games with an opposing pitcher.
His wait is for a ring on the telephone at his Braintree home or a knock on the door. You see, Ranieri is on the outside looking in. He is waiting for a call from Major League Baseball.
Four nights a week he puts on a uniform and plays center field for the All-Dorchester Sports League baseball team in the Boston Park League. And he keeps his ears and eyes open.
When they held the free-agent draft a few weeks ago, Ranieri, 22, who completed a starry career at Trinity College this spring, was not selected.
There was talk about how the Chicago White Sox nearly drafted him. “I don’t know where you heard that, but I can’t really say anything about that.”
Ranieri, nonetheless, has high hopes that there is a professional contract somewhere in the near future that requires his signature.
“I’ve had a couple of private tryouts, a couple of teams have talked to me, but there is nothing substantive,” Ranieri said.
His coach for the ADSL is Josh Powell and “he is doing what he can to help me.”
A major league scout will show up at one game or another to see him play, but nothing has happened yet.
What is happening is typical for early summer: After the free agent draft, ball clubs are finding out who they can sign and who will be going to college and won’t be turning professional. Then, when they have an idea of how many minor league players they need for their farm system, they will make some additional free agent signings.
That’s what Ranieri is waiting for.
He won’t be waiting forever. “Heck, I’m 22 years old and need to get on with my life,” said Ranieri, a former Globe All-Scholastic football player for Braintree High.
He has a degree from a prestigious school in Trinity and there is a good position with Prudential Insurance waiting for him in Hartford come September. That is, if he doesn’t give professional baseball a whirl.
Ranieri has played baseball since he was 7. He remembers those first games at Watson Park in the Braintree National Little League and since then he has dreamed of playing professional baseball at Fenway Park.
Ranieri’s career at Trinity College was outstanding. The hard-hitting center fielder was named to the American Baseball Coaches Association Division 3 All-America squad as a third-team selection.
He was also a three-time all-New England selection and the first player at Trinity to receive All-America honors since 1980 when first baseman Peter Martin was named to the distinguished team.
Ranieri earned his way on to the squad. He hit a team-high, a league-high and a career-high .449 at the plate. He had four home runs and 19 runs batted in. Ranieri holds 16 Trinity season and career records. This year he set the season records for hits with 61 and stolen bases with 23.
During his four years at Trinity, Ranieri had 180 hits in 435 at-bats for a blistering .413 batting average. He also finished with record totals in runs scored, runs batted in and total bases.
“It was a great time at Trinity,” Ranieri said. “It seems like the last few years went by in a flash.”
For the third straight year, Ranieri was selected to play in the annual New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association’s All-Star Game at Fenway Park in Boston.
Ironically, he has played more times in Fenway Park than he has been there to watch the Red Sox.
“I’ve always been playing baseball games growing up, and I never had time to go to any games at Fenway,” Ranieri said. “For instance, the other night I had tickets for the Red Sox game, but I had to play for ADSL and I couldn’t go. It’s always been that way.”
Last summer, between his junior and senior year, he stayed in Connecticut and played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for the Middleton Giants. “It’s a lot like the Cape Cod League,” Ranieri said. “You play with wooden bats, and the league is filled with good college players.”
Wooden bats is a transition that all college players must make if they want to play professional baseball. Aluminum bats, standard in college, are illegal in pro ball. “It is easier to hit a ball with a metal bat. There is a large sweet spot,” Ranieri said. “The sweet spot on a wooden bat is so small. But practicing with a wooden bat will make you a better hitter.” It certainly worked for him.
Trinity head coach Bill Decker is sorry to see Ranieri leave. “Mike is undoubtedly one of the top players in the history of Trinity baseball,” said Decker, who has a 103-66 record in six years as head coach. “Mike deserves every accolade and record because of his hard work and dedication to the game of baseball.”
With Ranieri on the team, Trinity never had a losing season. But this year’s performance was particularly noteworthy. This year, Trinity finished with a 19-15 record — after getting off to a terrible start.
“We had a bad beginning,” Ranieri said. “We never got focused when we started the season in Florida, and you are playing so many games, you don’t have a chance to fix things.”
Trinity played 11 games during its one-week visit to Florida and was 5-11 after 16 contests.
“We finally got it together,” Ranieri said, “some of our younger players stepped up and we turned it around.”
Trinity certainly did. The Bantams won 12 of their next 15 games. Trinity even scratched its way into the post-season tournament.
In the ECAC Division 3 tournament, Trinity, seeded eighth, defeated No. 1-seeded Babson and fourth-seeded Plymouth State before losing to third-seeded Tufts, 5-4, in the championship game.
“That has been the highlight of my collegiate career,” Ranieri said. “A lot of teams would have packed it in after our start, but we didn’t, and we were rewarded.”
So now Ranieri waits for the telephone call. He still isn’t packing it in. It’s that determination that has made him what he is.
Copyright © 1996 Boston Globe, all rights reserved. Written by Paul Harber.