UNION COUNTY, NJ — Even after 38 years of service, Dan Mondelli is an inspiration to the Union County baseball community.
“Danny has put in 38 years of service and, in all of those years, he’s impacted many players and coaches,” Governor Livingston High School head baseball coach Chris Roof said. “For me, I’ve known Danny since 1999.
“Danny has taught me so much about the game, both mentally and the Xs and Os. I wouldn’t be the coach I am today without Danny.”
That message is from one hall of fame coach about another.
Mondelli, a highly successful mentor on the high school and college circuit, will be honored during the Union County Baseball Association’s 86th annual Hot Stove Dinner on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 1 p.m., at the Gran Centurions banquet hall in Clark.
Mondelli, who is now in his first year as head baseball coach at Raritan Valley Community College, is one of five individuals who will be inducted into the Union County Baseball Hall of Fame at the gala event.
Roof, a 1992 graduate of Governor Livingston who has guided the Highlanders to more than 400 wins, two state championships and three county titles, was inducted into the county baseball hall of fame in 2019.
Mondelli, a 1982 graduate of Governor Livingston who grew up in Berkeley Heights and now resides in Scotch Plains, was a longtime assistant coach at Elizabeth with coach Ray Korn before he became a head coach at Linden for seven seasons and then at Holmdel for five more. He then began to coach for the mentor he played for in high school, legendary Governor Livingston head coach Bill Howard.
“I hung around long enough,” Mondelli, 58, said. “I guess I wore them out.”
Also being inducted into the county baseball hall of fame are Robert “Red” Migliore of Elizabeth and Anthony Foti of Elizabeth, both posthumously, and the Simo brothers, Todd and Tim, of New Providence.
Migliore was a legend in the city of Elizabeth, working with countless children, teaching them baseball, all while coaching the Roselle American Legion baseball team to numerous championships.
Sons of county baseball hall-of-famer Bill Simo, Todd and Tim Simo dominated Union County high school baseball from 1996 to 1999 as players at New Providence High School.
Foti, a 1984 Elizabeth High School graduate, starred at St. Mary High School in Rutherford before transferring to Elizabeth and then played in college at St. Leo University in Florida before transferring and having a successful pitching career at Montclair State University.
Miglore passed away in 2019 at the age of 82, and Foti in 2022 at the age of 56.
Each year, the hall of fame committee attempts to provide an outstanding dinner for the many baseball fans from Union County and the surrounding areas. Todd Frazier of Toms River will be the featured speaker at the dinner. Frazier played on the 1998 Toms River Little League team that captured that year’s Little League World Series championship. Frazier went on to play professionally for several teams, including the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Yankees and the New York Mets.
In addition, a tribute will be paid to the players of the 1983 Roselle American Legion baseball team and its coach, Bob Catullo.
As in past years, other prestigious awards will be presented at the dinner, including the Chris Zusi Memorial Award for the Outstanding Male Athlete of Union County and the Union County Baseball Association Scholarship.
Mondelli, who has been a college coach since 2018, after coaching on the high school ranks from 1983 to 2017, guided his 2003 Linden squad to that year’s Union County Tournament championship game, after the Tigers eliminated Summit High School in the quarterfinals and Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School in the semifinals.
“Everything I’ve done, if you put it all together, especially my coaching in Union County, is probably the biggest reason I’m receiving this honor,” Mondelli said.
Mondelli graduated from what was then Kean College in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and then went back to Kean to earn his master’s degree in administration in 2000.
Mondelli began his coaching career at Governor Livingston with Howard in spring 1983, when he was a freshman at Union County College. He was a volunteer assistant in 1983 and 1984 at Governor Livingston and then the junior varsity coach in 1985 and 1986.
He then moved to Elizabeth and was the junior varsity coach there from 1987 to 1990 and then served as Korn’s assistant coach at Elizabeth from 1991 to 2001.
Mondelli was the head coach at Linden from 2002 to 2008 and then the head coach at Holmdel from 2009 to 2013. He was an assistant at Old Bridge High School in 2014, for one year, before returning to Union County to be an assistant on Roof’s staff for three seasons, from 2015 to 2017.
Mondelli’s presence was a big reason why the Highlanders won the Group 2 state championship for the third time in 2015 and then captured the program’s first UCT crown in 2016.
“I could not be happier for Danny to get into the Union County baseball hall of fame,” Roof said. “Nobody deserves it more than him.”
Mondelli entered the collegiate ranks for the first time in 2018 and was an assistant coach at Montclair State that season and 2019.
After not coaching in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mondelli spent a year in Tennessee and coached at a private school there called University School of Nashville.
Mondelli returned to New Jersey to coach as an assistant last year at the County College of Morris in Randolph.
Mondelli taught physical education at Elizabeth from 1987 to 1997 and then had an administrative position there from 1997 to 2001. He taught physical education at Linden from 2002 to 2018 and retired from teaching in 2018.
“I was 16 years at Elizabeth and 16 at Linden, which was a tie, so it was time to go,” Mondelli said.
Mondelli was also a big part of Elizabeth teams that won UCT titles in 1989 and 1991 and the overall Group 4 state championship in 1994. The 1990 squad was 26-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country when it fell to Rahway High School in that year’s UCT title game.
“When I think of Union County, I think of home,” Mondelli said. “My first 25 years of coaching were in Union County. The competitiveness was always very high. Union County was like the biggest county in a way, and also the smallest, as players from Elizabeth knew all the players from say Westfield, back in the day.
“I’m a Union County guy and Union County is in my heart.”
Sponsored by the UCBA, in cooperation with the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Union County Board of County Commissioners, the Hot Stove Dinner is the primary fundraising effort for the Union County Youth Baseball Leagues. The summer and fall leagues have given more than 40,000 boys and girls an opportunity to participate in an organized baseball program for the past 80 years.
Tickets are still available and can be purchased online at ucba-nj.org or by downloading and mailing the table reservation form to the Union County Baseball Association, P.O. Box 176, Fanwood, NJ 07023.
Photos Courtesy of Daniel Mondelli