Middletown, NJ - He was just the type of teammate that every player wanted. Selfless, passionate, and optimistic in the way he lived his life. In fact, some would describe him as the perfect teammate. He was present at the 2005 ABCCL All-Star Game, supporting his teammates from the dugout just four days after undergoing surgery for testicular cancer. Traveling two hours to get to the stadium, there was never a doubt that he would attend the game.
But that's just the type of player and person he was. Always there, standing behind his teammates even though he was unable to play in the ABCCL summer classic. He showed that same kind of dedication and support for his country, as a United States Marine.
Ryan Iannelli, a former Kingsway Regional High School baseball standout, was killed in action on September, 28 after a helicopter he was piloting crashed in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. He was the 139th US service member with ties to New Jersey to have died in the war on terror.
Iannelli was a former ABCCL all-star who played for the Ocean Giants in the summer of 2005. He graduated from Oral Roberts University in 2006, and was a member of the team that reached the NCAA Super Regional in 2006, playing the outfield and being used regularly as a pinch runner.
ABCCL President Monique Koehler was one of Ryan's biggest fans. After watching him in the summer of 2005, she knew that there was something special about him.
"In the truest sense of the term, Ryan Iannelli was a role model," said Koehler. "In the brief time that I knew him, it was abundantly clear that his ball playing ability was just a small part of what made him such an exceptional person. He was devoted to his family, his religion and his country. He faced serious health issues with a positive attitude and a determination that was inspirational. He was not to be denied... and ultimately won that battle in the face of long odds. That he chose to join our armed forces should not be surprising. The fighting spirit, selflessness and commitment to teamwork that we saw on the baseball diamond and in his personal life couldn't find a more fitting outlet then in service to his country and the people whose freedom he sought to protect. All of us whose lives were touched by this fine young man will keep him in our hearts forever."
In order to honor and remember Ryan, the Atlantic Baseball Confederation will name its annual ABCCL DreamMakers All-Star Game, the Lt. Ryan K. Iannelli All-Star Game, and the MVP awards for the game, the Ryan K. Iannelli MVP Award. Players who are chosen to receive the award will not only display a high level of skill on the diamond, but they will also embody the strength of character that Ryan showed us all each and everyday of his life.