Team Rizza Rockers

The Rizza Rockers, a team made up of public service employees from North Riverside and Riverside – Brookfield High School graduates, started playing in 1986 in the North Riverside Fall Ball Rec. League. The next year they struck gold when they won the North Riverside Summer League. With confidence firmly in hand, they started playing some softball tournaments. Because of their great play, they won an “A” bid to the ASA Nationals in Indiana, taking fourth place in their first “A” Nationals despite having only two players who had played in a national tournament before. They were led by pitcher (Chops) Chiappetta and First-Team All- American Jeff Berger at shortstop. Fresh from their success at the “A” Nationals, the Rockers looked to challenge themselves to be as good as teams like the Blues, Jinx, and Touch, so they started playing in the toughest leagues around Chicago, including Forest Park, Bensenville, and Mt. Prospect. In 1993 they won the Suburban Life Tournament. That year they played in the No Gloves Nationals, the Hawthorne Tournament, the Grant Park Tournament, and in the ASA Nationals. They appeared in the ASA Major and “A” Nationals from 1987 to 1999. They also played in the short-lived Sports Channel Television League. As many teams climb the ranks of competitive softball, they often abandon the players they started with in favor of stronger players from other teams. The Rockers believed in an opposite formula – stick with younger players. This strategy paid off because they were able to develop their talent. It often failed, however, when some of the top teams would recruit these younger players. For a number of years, the Rockers seemed to be a farm team for some of the top teams. Their strategy of sticking with younger players and playing in the toughest leagues began to pay off as the Rockers started to hold their own with the era’s top teams, the Whips, Sports Station, Bud North, Dollhouse, Primetime, Splinters, and Bucks. In the late-90s, they went head-to-head with Lettuce and were able to hold their own against this legendary team. In 1998 they won the No Glove Nationals, beating Lettuce in the semi-finals and Pugliese in the finals. That year they were led by short center and Forest Park MVP, Greg Ziegler. Ziegler also played with the Rockers the longest and formed a bond with the Rockers’ manager that will last a lifetime. Many fine young players wore the Red & Black of the Rockers. It was said that manager Lane Neimann had the biggest phone book in the game. With a great sponsor like Joe Rizza Ford, the Rockers were always well stocked with players and looked sharp on the field. Joe Rizza continued his sponsorship during the entire time the Rockers played softball. His only requirement was that they looked good. And they did.