Inductees No Bradley baseball player ever swung the bat with more efficiency than Joe Napoli.
The long-time Peoria lawyer, who came to Peoria on a baseball scholarship out of the U.S. Air Force in 1957, not only won the only NCAA Division I batting championship ever produced by a Brave player, but he swung a torrid bat throughout his three year varsity career.
Napoli, an infielder, hit .396 in his sophomore year in a 14-6 season for Bradley that was good enough for a second place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference East.
He followed this with a .329 mark as a junior as Bradley went 19-5 and first place in the MVC East.
Then, in 1960, Napoli produced his finest year, hitting .490 to lead BU to a 13-2 season and a second place finish in the MVC East. He led Bradley in hits, batting average, doubles, runs batted in and total bases.
The .490 average led all NCAA Division I players in 1960 and gave BU its only national bat title.
His .392 lifetime bat mark still leads all Bradley players who have played at least 50 games. He had just 17 strikeouts in his three years.
Longtime BU coach Leo Schrall said that Napoli was “among the first collegiate players that he coached that had major league talent.”
Offered a tryout with the San Francisco Giants, Napoli decided to attend law school.
Napoli was co-founder of the Bradley Chief Club and as a sports agent worked with many Bradley athletes, including Steve Kuberski, Roger Phegley, Al Smith, David Thirdkill, Mitchell Anderson, Mike Williams, Hersey Hawkins, Donald Reese and Marcus Pollard.
No Bradley baseball player ever swung the bat with more efficiency than Joe Napoli.
|2006 Tri-County Male Co-Athlete of the Year|
Zach led Illinois Valley Central to the Class A state baseball championship in June. He finished with a 12-1 record and a 1.04 ERA, striking out 116 batters while walking only 13. Drafted in the third round by the New York Yankees, he signed immediately and went 5-2, with a 3.09 ERA and was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 18 prospect in the Gulf Coast League last summer.