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Baseball league renames award in memory of Penn State frat pledge who died after fall

Courtesy Piazza Family
Courtesy Piazza Family

(READINGTON, Pa.) — A youth baseball league in New Jersey has renamed its sportsmanship award in honor of Penn State sophomore Tim Piazza, who died in February after he was fatally injured at a Penn State fraternity house.

The Readington Township Junior Baseball League’s award is honoring Piazza, 19, as he was from Readington Township and played baseball there.

The idea to rename this existing award came from one of the league umpires, who had coached Piazza, and thought this would be a great way to honor him, according to Bill DiGiovanni, the Readington Township Junior Baseball League president. The award was presented to four winners this past weekend at the championship games.

DiGiovanni told ABC News Tuesday that Piazza was one of those players who would have gotten the sportsmanship award if it existed when he played in this league. Piazza always cheered on his peers and was the kind of player every coach wanted to have, DiGiovanni said.

Piazza’s brother, as well as some of his former Penn State friends and former high school classmates, came to this weekend’s award ceremony to show their support, DiGiovanni said, calling the event a great way to “do something positive for that family.”

Piazza was a pledge at Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity when he died on Feb. 4 after he fell down the stairs during a pledge ceremony at the house on the night of Feb. 2. Fraternity members did not call 911 until the morning of Feb. 3, about 12 hours after Piazza’s fall, according to a report on the grand jury’s investigation. Piazza’s death “was the direct result of traumatic brain injuries,” according to the forensic pathologist.

Eighteen Penn State students are facing charges: eight for involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and hazing, among other charges; four for reckless endangerment and hazing, among other charges; and six for evidence tampering. The Beta Theta Pi fraternity — which has since been barred from Penn State — is facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and hazing. The students have not entered pleas. A judge will decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial.

A defense attorney for Joseph Ems Jr., one of the frat brothers charged in the case, said his client was one of many people present that night who may not have known about the extent of Piazza’s injuries.

“This is not somebody who’s got a gaping head wound that’s gushing blood. This is somebody who’s blood alcohol was three times the legal limit and apparently had some internal injuries,” said Ems Jr.’s attorney, William J. Brennan.

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