Photos and Story by Mary Peters, Syracuse (N.Y.) - Growing up in Syracuse meant that there were occasional trips to watch the Syracuse Chiefs. Brian Ciampichini went to a few games when he was younger, but being able to play here as a high schooler each year made his love for the game stronger.
Hitting a walk off home run his senior year at Cicero High School is a memory that Ciampichini will cherish forever.
"I told the guys on the bench that I'm going to hit a home run to win the ball game for us," he said. "And I did. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime things."
Ciampichini later played for the Syracuse Junior Chiefs, a try-out baseball team. It is a pretty high caliber level of baseball, he said. He was an outfielder and pitcher.
Ciampichini's love for baseball and the Chiefs continued to grow. He watched Ed Ricks play for the Chiefs, a pitcher that spent a few years between the Chiefs and the Yankees. On June 15, 1975, Ricks became the only Chiefs pitcher to hit a home run, until Mitch Atkins hit one on June 8, 2012, according to Syracuse.com.
"When he (Ricks) retired, he started playing high level softball and I played in that same league," Ciampichini said. "We ended up playing together, became good friends."
Ciampichini continues his love of the game not only by playing softball, but he makes regular trips to his favorite ballparks.
"Just watching the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field when they sing 'Take me out to the Ballgame'," he said. "You've got to experience it. Wrigley Field is like a museum for baseball. There is no other like Wrigley and Fenway."
He has brought his two sons to these ballparks, too. They were all-star baseball players in high school and he was active with the teams during their playing years. His sons do not play anymore, but sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley is one of many memories that they share and traditions that they continue.
"You have to experience it, even if you're not a fan, you should go there," Ciampichini said about Wrigley Field.
He currently resides in Chicago, but makes trips back to Syracuse to see his sons every two to three weeks.