HAMMOND | Darrel Chaney is not the only Hammond-spawned major leaguer.
Former Cubs pitcher Carmen Pignatiello is an agent for Nationwide Insurance, which sponsored the Cal Ripken Major/60 World Series Skills Competition Saturday night at the Hammond Optimist Youth Sports Complex.
"I guess since I was born at St. Margaret's like so many people around here, you can say I was 'born' in Hammond," Pignatiello said. "But really, I was raised in Calumet City."
Pignatiello hooked up with Nationwide after officially retiring from baseball this year. The left-handed reliever played briefly for the Cubs in 2007 and 2008. After being signed and released by the Minnesota Twins, Pignatiello played a season of independent ball with the Schaumburg Flyers in 2009, then was the Joliet Slammers pitching coach for two years.
"I wouldn't trade my time in baseball for anything," said Pignatiello, who struck out 140 hitters in 156 1/3 innings with the Dayton Cubs in the Class A-Advanced Florida State League in 2003.
"Playing for the team I grew up rooting for (the Cubs) was a dream come true. But you know, life out of baseball has been nice. I get to spend time with my family year round, I can go water skiing in the summer, enjoy family picnics and reunions... These are things you can't do when you're on the road playing baseball all the time."
Pignatiello manned a Nationwide booth at the World Series, where he was able to converse with players and fans, and presented the awards at the skills competition.
"Nationwide wanted to be a part of this event, and they thought a former major leaguer who is now in their company would be a perfect fit to represent them here," said Pignatiello, who lives in Geneva.
In the Golden Spikes base-running competition, the Hammond Optimist Bulldog trio of Rafael Rios, Santino Barbosa and Jevon Morris had the fleetest feet, recording a winning time of 35.3 seconds.
In the Bean 'Bob' competition, South Lexington's squad of Jonathan Thomas, David Forish II and Blake Pulliam had a winning count of 5.
In the Around the Horn competition, the Opp, Ala. Bobcats team of Trey Moody, Hagen Hodges, Mathew Cook, Trey Spurlin, Taylor Duffell, Lane Worley, Dalton Grider and Ethan Baker recorded a winning time of 12.1 seconds.
The Home Run Derby was won by Gavin Hall, of South Lexington. Runner-up was Crown Point's Nick Geisen, followed by Rigo Martinez of Hammond Optimist. George Valera, of Kingsbridge, N.Y., and Zach Murphy, of Grand Forks, N.D., tied for fourth.
CORRECTION: In Saturday's edition of The Times, the Diamond Girls who serve as valets for the participating teams were incorrectly associated with Hammond's College Bound program which helps students pay for their college tuition contingent on performing community service.
"Most of them are still in middle school and are too young to be part of the program," said World Series administrative director Deanna Breclaw. "They are just local girls who willingly volunteered to be a part of this event."