SPRING VALLEY — When John Fogerty sings “Put me in, Coach, I’m ready to play today” in his song “Center field,” he could be singing about anyone on the tight-knit Hall Red Devils baseball team, a group of guys who grew up together playing a number of sports.
Observe them in the dugout or on the field, and you’d soon see one in particular the teammates turn to and opponents especially don’t turn their backs on.
Jimmy DeAngelo, the BCR 2019 Baseball Player of the Year, went 8-0 with an 0.87 ERA on the mound. At the plate, he shared team-high batting averages with sophomore Payton Plym with a .418 average along with 29 RBIs and four home runs.
“Happy and honored to be able to be considered the top player in the area,” DeAngelo said. “None of this would be possible without my coaches, teammates and my family.”
Just this week, DeAngelo was named to the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association 2A All-State Team for the second straight year.
DeAngelo is also known for being a standout player on the basketball court, and in his senior year pitching in late as quarterback for the Red Devil football team.
“Jimmy has been involved in a whole lot of wins during his career,” Hall baseball coach Tom Keegan said. “He, along with classmate Chance Resetich, were four-year varsity players.
“He’s played multiple positions over the years. In fact, I think the only thing he didn’t do for us was catch.”
With a 25-1 record and 199 career strikeouts, DeAngelo showed a quiet confidence on the mound pitching for the Red Devils, favoring his slider to confound batters. His only defeat came his freshman year at Orion.
“Just keeping a relaxed mind, take every pitch by pitch and not looking ahead or thinking about the previous pitch,” he said. “And just knowing I’ve always had a good defense behind me.”
Of his best memories as a pitcher, an obvious one stands out — winning the state championship game in 2018, defeating Teutopolis 4-1.
“It was fun and one of the best experiences in my life so far,” DeAngelo said. “Last year was a phenomenal experience, because it was goal James (Mautino), Chance, the seniors and I had since we were younger, and to accomplish it was just amazing.
“That team was the most selfless team and always wanted to do it for the team, no one wanted anything for themselves.”
Keegan said, “Jimmy proved from the get-go that he belonged.
“He grew up around the game and was well coached at an early age by Matt McDonald, who has been a huge help to our program,” Keegan added. “He seemed to develop year in and year out, be it offensively or on the mound. When Jimmy had the ball in his hand, we were pretty confident in the outcome.”
When DeAngelo had a bat in his hands, his team was confident as well, with “Jimmy D” sporting a .416 average with 161 hits and 141 RBI for his career. He also tallied six home runs and 120 stolen bases for Hall.
His biggest at-bat this year with the Red Devils “was against Ottawa because we were losing the whole game. I hit a grand slam to tie it, and we ended up winning.”
Another favorite moment in the batter’s box was hitting a home run against Riverdale in the this year’s regional championship win.
“We lost earlier in the year 10-0, and they came into the regional championship chirping, and to win the way we did (10-0) for the third straight regional championship was just satisfying,” he said.
He sent another over the fence in the sectional championship against Alleman, which Alleman won 8-7 to thwart the Red Devils’ title repeat hopes.
“Definitely disappointed that we couldn’t be able to make it back down to state. That was a big goal of mine, to have my high school career end in Peoria,” DeAngelo said. “But proud of winning a regional championship and making it back to the sectional championship when many people thought we wouldn’t get out of the regional.”
He likes to keep a simple routine when preparing for competition.
“I just try and get focused early on in the day and just relax,” DeAngelo said. “Like listening to music to get my mind off the game, and getting a good deep stretch in.
“Playing other sports really helped me just stay in shape and always doing something to keep me busy.”
The game of baseball seems to suit DeAngelo particularly well, in which he will take the next step in his career playing for Parkland College next season in Champaign, where he will join former Hall teammate Ty Ryarczyk.
“I know it’s gonna be a little difficult to not having those people (Red Devil teammates) around me every day,” DeAngelo said. “But I will be in the same town as Cam (McDonald) and Ty (Rybarczyk), so that’ll be cool.”