- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 205 lb.
Pitcher-first baseman Paolo Ceccaroli was a three-time Olympian and is a member of the Italian Baseball Hall of Fame. He represented Italy in the Olympics in 1992 and 1996 as well as the 1984 demonstration event. He played 27 years at Italy's highest level, his career spanning four decades.
Ceccaroli debuted in 1977 as a right fielder for his hometown Rimini club. He was just 4 for 28 with 8 strikeouts. In '78, he was 5 foe 30 for Rimini, while moving to first base. He began pitching as well in 1979 and had a 1-1, 1.29 record; at the plate, he was 6 for 32 with two walks at age 17. In 1980, he was 3-0 with a 3.81 ERA but walked 18 in 26 innings. He batted .220/.278/.320. In both 1979 and 1980, Rimini won Serie A1 titles. He was 1-2 with a save in 1981 while hitting .284/.342/.505. He debuted for the Italian national team in the 1981 European Championship, going 5 for 10 with two walks and a double as a part-time DH. He allowed 3 unearned runs in four innings for the Silver Medal winners. He had a 4-2 record in 1982 and batted .221/.250/.359. He was used solely as a pitcher in the 1982 Amateur World Series, allowing 7 runs and 8 hits in 3 innings as the worst Italian hurler.
Paolo was 2-2 with a 3.54 ERA in 1983; at the plate, the youngster hit .261 while becoming the starter at first base for Rimini. Rimini won the pennant. He was 6-4 in 1984 and hit .262. Ceccaroli produced at a .263/.333/.263 rate as a part-time first baseman in the 1984 Amateur World Series and lost both decisions with a 6.11 ERA; he allowed 27 hits and only struck out 3 in 17 2/3 innings. He also appeared for Italy in the 1984 Olympics. In 1985, he was 19-4 with a 3.35 ERA for Rimini, leading Serie A1 in wins for the first time. In the 1985 European Championship, he had Italy's second-highest ERA with a 0-2, 6.17 record. He allowed 17 hits and 10 walks in 11 2/3 innings. Italy still won the Silver Medal.
Ceccaroli again led the league in wins in 1986 with a 14-2, 2.14 record while hitting .373/.426/.538 with 35 RBI in 47 games. He struggled in the finals, though, going 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA on the mound and 7 for 28 with 2 doubles and 3 walks at the plate. With their ace struggling, Rimini fell to Grohe Grosseto. In the 1986 Amateur World Series, he was Italy's main hurler, working 21 innings and fanning 15 in an improvement on 1984. He was 1-1 with a 4.28 ERA, beating rival Holland (who started future minor leaguer Tonny Cohen), getting a no-decision against Puerto Rico and losing to Taiwan. He also made one relief appearance.
For Rimini in 1987, he was 6-1 with a 2.05 ERA and hit .326/.359/.417. He was better in the finals this time, at 1-1, 1.59, as he was on the champion team for the fourth time. He was 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA in the 1987 European Championship as Italy got another Silver. He was also in the 1987 Intercontinental Cup. In 1988, he fell to 4-4, 3.88 and .276/.311/.480. He did not pitch in the finals, but was 6 for 13 with a double as Rimini won again. He was 1-0 with a save and a 1.97 ERA in the 1988 Baseball World Cup and went 1 for 5 with a double as well. He was second on the staff in ERA after Fulvio Valle and his 12 strikeouts tied Rolando Cretis for the Italian lead. He got the win over Spain (a combined shutout with Valle) and saved Massimo Fochi's win over the Netherlands.
In 1989, Ceccaroli hit .398/.454/.611 and was 8-3 with two saves and a 1.91 ERA, walking only 17 in 94 1/3 innings. He led the league in ERA for the only time while finishing 28 points behind Giuseppe Carelli in average. He was 3 for 14 in the finals with a 0-2, 7.56 record as Rimini lost to Grosseto. He was 2 for 3 in the 1989 European Championship and posted a record of 2-0, 2.94, tying Walter Cossutta for the most wins on the Italian staff and placing second in ERA as Italy got the Gold Medal. He also played in the 1989 Intercontinental Cup.
The next year, he batted .360/.409/.489 and was 12-4 with 5 saves and a 2.61 ERA. He walked 24 in 134 2/3 innings. In the finals, he hit .227/.292/.500 with 6 RBI in 7 games; he was 1-1 with a 2.65 ERA. Rimini lost to Nettuno. In the 1990 Baseball World Cup, he was struggled at 0-3, 11.88 with an opponent batting line of .390/.457/.610. He was 2 for 4 as the backup 1B behind Guglielmo Trinci. Ceccaroli helped Italy win Gold in the 1991 European Championship, going 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA and having an 0-for-4 at the plate. In the 1991 Intercontinental Cup, he was 1-1 with a 5.89 ERA, leading Italy with 18 1/3 innings. He beat Spain and lost to Japan.
After spending 14 seasons with Rimini, Ceccaroli transferred to Parma for the 1992 season. He hit .299/.311/.483 and was 6-1 with 3 saves despite a 6.72 ERA. In the 1992 Olympics, he was 0 for 3 at the plate and had a 0-1, 11.70 record. Opponents hit .447/.480/.745 against him. His 10 innings were second on Italy's staff (behind Valle) and his 5 strikeouts led the team. He took the loss against Team USA, getting pounded by Calvin Murray, Jason Varitek, Phil Nevin and company. One bright spot was striking out US cleanup man Michael Tucker 3 times and holding him to an 0-for-4.
Paolo had a strong offensive campaign in 1993, with a batting line of .389/.424/.711 and 30 RBI in 36 games. He was 10-1 with two saves and a 3.26 ERA. He was one win behind league leader Mike Hinkle, a former AAA hurler. In the 1993 Intercontinental Cup, he split DH duties with Trinci but was only 1 for 16 with a walk and 6 Ks. He was 0-1 with a 0.79 ERA as one of Italy's top hurlers. He hit .440/.462/.660 in the 1993 European Championship, playing DH or 1B when not pitching. He led Italy in average, tied Trinci for the most RBI on the team and was second to Fochi in slugging. He was 0-2 with a 9.89 ERA. Italy won the Silver Medal.
In 1994, the veteran batted .374/.440/.518 with 40 RBI in 41 games and was 5-2 with three saves and a 3.74 ERA. In the finals, he was 7 for 23 with two walks and won his only decision with a 1.59 ERA as Parma won the title. He was Italy's main first baseman in the 1994 Baseball World Cup and hit .333/.355/.467 with 8 runs in 7 games; he tied Luigi Carrozza for the team lead in runs. He also was Italy's closer, with two saves and no runs in 3 2/3 IP. He slumped to .224/.281/.308 in 1995 and had a record of 9-2, 4.33. In the finals, he recovered offensively to help Parma win again (going 9 for 18 with 2 doubles and a triple, winning his only decision and allowing one run in two innings). He was left off the Italian national team for the 1995 European Championship, the first event he had missed in 12 years, since the 1983 European Championship. He did play in the 1995 Intercontinental Cup, but was ineffective as Italy's first baseman (2 for 17) and did not pitch.
Ceccaroli returned to form with Parma in 1996 at .376/.418/.555 with 14 doubles, 43 runs and 42 RBI in 51 games. He was 7-3 with two saves and a 3.21 ERA, only walking 6 in 53 1/3 innings. In the finals, he hit .259/.286/.630 with 3 homers and 6 RBI but was 0-1 with a save and a 6.30 ERA on the hill. Parma fell to Nettuno. In the 1996 Olympics, he was 1 for 14 with a walk, 9 strikeouts and two errors while splitting first base with Pierpaolo Illuminati. On the mound, he allowed three runs in five innings over four appearances. He saved Italy's win over host Australia, retiring the final four batters (two by strikeout) to seal Roberto Cabalisti's win. It was Italy's lone save of the Series. It would be 12 years until a player topped his three Olympic appearances (others, including Fochi, would make 3) as Pedro Luis Lazo (Cuba) and Rob Cordemans (Netherlands) became the first four-time Olympians. It would be Ceccaroli's last appearance for the Azzurri, even though he would have several more productive seasons in Italy.
In 1997, he hit .333/.407/.497 with 57 runs in 52 games and was 3-3 with 3 saves and a 4.57 ERA. In the finals, he batted .364/.444/.773 with six runs in six games. After only starting one game in the regular season and semifinals, he started two games in the finals, winning both (with a 5.00 ERA) as Parma won. It was the 8th and final title-winning squad Ceccaroli would play for. He was 3-2 with four saves and a 3.77 ERA in 1998 and hit .342/.397/.599. He hit a career-high 12 homers and drove in 48 in 47 games. In 1999, he was 4-3 with four saves and a 3.41 ERA. He fell to .257/.328/.388 offensively.
The right-hander was 8-1 with two saves and a 2.35 ERA in 2000, walking 19 in 84 1/3 innings. He hit .259/.321/.356. He was 7th in the league in both wins and ERA. He had his last solid offensive campaign in 2001 (.315/.390/.438), the year he turned 39. He was okay as a pitcher (4-4, Sv, 4.99, 13 BB in 70 1/3 IP). Ceccaroli played his 11th and final season for Parma in '02. He slumped to .192/.241/.240. As a pitcher, he was 3-7 with a save and a 6.60 ERA. Opponents hit .345/.384/.513 off him. He tied Alessandro Parri for 10th in the league in losses. In 2003, Ceccaroli returned to Rimini for his last season in A1. He was 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA and allowed a .323/.358/.516 batting line. At the plate, his own batting line was .244/.269/.339.
He then dropped down to Serie A2. He was 9-2 with a 1.94 ERA for Palfinger Reggio in 2004, finishing 7th in ERA and 4th with 49 RBI. He hit .346. In 2005, he was 6-2 for Colecchio with a 4.27 ERA and hit .307/.393/.380. In 2007, he was 10th in Serie A2 with 26 RBI. In 2008, the 46-year-old hit only .197/.275/.282 but was still an ace hurler (3-3, 14 Sv, 1.05). He led Serie A2 in saves.
In 2009, Ceccaroli was 1-2 with 5 saves and a 4.20 ERA for Colecchio, tying for third in Serie A2 in saves. He was 1 for 1 at the plate. He was Colecchio's manager in 2010-2011 and continued to appear on occasion, though not regularly. In 2010, he was 3 for 6 with a walk at the plate but allowed four runs in two innings and took a loss as a pitcher. The next year, he tossed three shutout innings at age 49 and went 3 for 8 with a walk.
Ceccaroli was 170-73 with 42 saves and a 3.64 ERA in 421 games at Italy's highest level. In 2,024 innings, he walked 538 and struck out 1,221 while allowing a .267/.313/.371 line. He hit .296/.347/.440 with 89 homers, 620 runs and 743 RBI in 1,196 games. Through 2011, he was second in history in games played (behind Roberto De Franceschi), second in wins (13 behind Rolando Cretis), second in appearances (behind Cabalisti), 6th in complete games (105), tied for 6th in saves (between Mattia Salsi and Peter Nyari) and 6th in innings (between Daniel Newman and Paolo Cherubini).
Through 2010, he was 8th in the history of the Italian national team in games played with 119. The only players ahead of him were Ruggero Bagialemani, Roberto Bianchi, Trinci, Davide Dallospedale, Giorgio Castelli, Mario Chiarini and Alberto D'Auria. All the players ahead of him were primarily position players while Ceccaroli was primarily a pitcher.