SAINT LEO, Fla. - J.P. Ricciardi, a former switch hitting second baseman for the Saint Leo College Monarchs and current front-office executive for the New York Mets, will be the guest speaker at the second annual Saint Leo University Baseball Opening Night with the Lions, scheduled for Saturday, January 22, 2011 at the Student Community Center.

Saint Leo Baseball will use this evening as a formal way to kick-start the 2011 season, using it as an opportunity to continue to cement this as a tradition for the Saint Leo University baseball program.  Former major league pitcher Dave Dravecky was the guest speaker at the initial event in 2010.

In his newest role as the Special Assistant to the General Manager for the New York Mets, Ricciardi will assist General Manager Sandy Alderson in all aspects of the Major League Baseball squad’s operation.

The West Boylston, MA resident served as senior vice-president of baseball operations and general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays of the American League from November 14, 2001 to 2010. Under Ricciardi’s direction, the 2006 Blue Jays finished second in the American League East, representing the first time the franchise finished higher than third since the World Series year of 1993.

During the later part of the 2010 season, Ricciardi served as an analyst for ESPN’s award winning Baseball Tonight show.

The 51-year-old native of Worcester, MA played baseball and basketball at St. Peter Marian High School and graduated in 1977. Saint Leo was his next stop where he was a starter on the baseball team for three of his four years, playing with fellow Hall of Fame student-athletes Jim Corsi and Bob Tewksbury.

“Looking to build on the success of last year’s inaugural Opening Night, we decided to host a baseball alumni weekend in conjunction with the event,” quoted head coach Russ McNickle.  “After meeting with J.P. and hearing his stories about his time at Saint Leo and seeing the success he has had in Major League Baseball, I thought he would bring a great message to everyone associated with the Lions baseball program.  We are so excited about his desire to continue to give back to his baseball program and more importantly to Saint Leo University.”

Ricciardi, who was inducted into the Saint Leo Hall of Fame in 2003 and his former high school’s HOF in 2008, was signed as a free agent after college by the Mets and played two years in the organization with Little Falls (NY) in the New York-Penn League and Shelby (NC) in the Southern League.

After retiring as a player, following the 1981 season, the New York Yankees hired him as a coach in their minor league organization for two years (1982-83). In 1985 he joined the Milwaukee Brewers and served one year as coach with Helena (MT) of the Pioneer League. The same year found him earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Worcester State College. 

J.P. went to work for the Oakland A’s in 1992 and remained with the west coast team until he joined Toronto. During his time with Oakland, he was New England area scout and minor league instructor (1986-91), East Coast scouting supervisor (1992-93), National cross checker (1994-95), special assistant to Alderson and Billy Beane (1996-98) and was named director of player personnel (1999-2001) where he was responsible for major league scouting, trade evaluation and advised the Baseball Operations Department.

Major League baseball named Ricciardi to the selection committee for the 2000 United States Olympic baseball team, which brought home the gold medal.

“Opening Night with the Lions” will be held in the Saint Leo Student Community Center Boardrooms and the event is scheduled to get underway at 6:00 p.m. For tickets or more information, contact head coach Russ McNickle at russell.mcnickle@saintleo.edu or by phone at 352-588-8227.