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Widger among inductees in S.J. baseball hall of fame


Widger among inductees in S.J. baseball hall of fame
Chris Widger has never strayed far from home. Even during a major-league Baseball career that spanned a decade, Widger, a 1989 graduate of Pennsville, still maintained a home in the town where he attended high school.

And because of his deep local ties, Widger said, it's special to be inducted into the South Jersey Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Hot Stover Baseball Club of South Jersey will celebrate the 21st anniversary of the South Jersey Hall of Fame by inducting eight members during tomorrow's 49th annual awards dinner, set for 2 p.m. at Masso's Columbus Manor in Williamstown.

"For me, it's more of an honor to be inducted into something like this with the people I grew up with and the people who followed my career," Widger said in a phone interview.

Others to be inducted are contributor Dave Townsend, former Cherry Hill East coach Dave Martin, and the following players: Mike Moriarty (Bishop Eustace), Mike Campo (St. Augustine), Mark Freed (Pennsville), and Dan Severino (Audubon). Woody Graham (Atlantic City) will be honored posthumously.

Widger, 37, was a third-round draft choice of the Seattle Mariners out of George Mason University in 1992.

He began his major-league career 1995 in Seattle and also played for the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals ), New York Yankees, St . Louis Cardinals , Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. No matter where he played, he always went back to Pennsville in the off-season.

"For me, when I was always on the road, everybody would ask me about wanting to get out of a small town like Pennsville," said Widger, who had 55 career home runs and 222 RBIs. "The more I was on the road, the more I missed being home."

What some might not know is that Widger didn't become a catcher until his senior year at Pennsville, when he helped lead the Eagles to the South Jersey Group 2 title, batting .440 with 34 RBIs.

Ed Rieger, the successful former Pennsville coach, who stepped down after the 1987 season, had a major influence on Widger's career.

"I didn't like catching because it was too much work," Widger said, laughing. "Ed Rieger convinced me that if I wanted to play in college, that would be the best route."

And it proved to be his ticket to the major leagues.

Widger thought his career might be over when he was released by the Cardinals in spring 2004 despite having a guaranteed contract.

"I was angry and bitter, and I didn't want to go to triple A, so I went home," he said.

Widger eventually played with the independent Camden Riversharks that season. The next year, he was invited to the White Sox' camp but was a long shot to make the team.

Widger made a favorable impression during spring training and spent the season with the White Sox, earning a World Series ring in 2005. In Game 3 of the World Series, he worked a bases-loaded walk in the top of the 14th inning that gave the White Sox their seventh run in a 7-5 victory against the Houston Astros . The Sox won the next game to sweep the series.

"Winning the World Series was obviously important to me. But just as important was how the season went," Widger said. "I decided to play and have fun and not worry about the politics, and it was a very satisfying season."

Since retiring after the 2006 season, Widger has been working as a Baseball analyst for CN8. But the network recently laid off many of its 300 workers and will become a new Comcast Network in Philadelphia.

Widger said he doesn't know what his future holds. But he is looking forward to tomorrow's Hall of Fame induction, with so many who supported him throughout his career.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 28, 2008

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