Kings and Queens of Baseballtown
Rocky Santilli, 2006
Rocky Santilli was a long-time men’s fast pitch softball coach who started his managerial career in 1959 with the Rising Sun Sunners and, sick over the course of the next 41 years, amassed over 2,000 victories along with dozens of trophies and honors.
Santilli, 79, was the face of the legendary Leesport-based Sunners teams that dominated the local and regional softball scene from the 1960s through the mid-1990s. With Santilli at the helm, the Sunners captured three Amateur Softball Association (ASA) national titles (1975, ’77 and ’79) and a share of the International Softball Federation (ISF) Men’s World Fast Pitch Championship in 1976. They also won gold medals at the Olympic Festival in 1978 and ’79.
Santilli’s success with the Sunners earned him the honor of piloting the United States softball team at the Pan Am games on four occasions. In 1979 and ’91 he served as an assistant and in 1983 and ‘87 he was the head coach. The U.S. brought home silver medals in all four Games, finishing behind Canada each time.
In 1991, Santilli was rewarded for a remarkable career by being just the third American inducted in the ISF Hall of Fame. Two years later, he was enshrined in the ASA National Hall of Honor and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
Santilli, a 1944 Reading High graduate, returned to coaching in 1998 as the head coach of the Schuylkill Valley High School girls’ softball squad and guided the Panthers to a 64-67 record over seven seasons. He retired from that position at the end of the 2004 season.