Giuliano Celenza is not as well known as Cal Ripken, Jr.
Still, Celenza, a star player with the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team, can relate to Ripken, the Hall of Fame shortstop with the Orioles. Both athletes grew up in the Baltimore area, and both spent their entire careers with their hometown teams while bringing championships to Charm City in their respective sports.
Celenza, who has won five indoor soccer championships with the Blast, hopes to add one more banner to that collection before retiring at the end of the season. The Essex resident will be honored in a pre-game ceremony prior to the Blast taking on the Chicago Riot at 7:35 p.m. on Friday at the 1st Mariner Arena.
“I’ve had a great run and couldn’t ask for anything more from the Blast or the game of soccer,” said Celenza, who played high school soccer at Archbishop Curley before moving on to the Community College of Baltimore County Essex and UMBC. “I’ve had a good run, but I’m getting older now and I believe it’s the right time to move on to something different. It takes a lot more time to recover after games now.”
Celenza ranks fourth on the Blast’s all-time scoring list and is one of just four players to record 400 points in his Baltimore career.
Celenza has recorded 424 points in his career and has 26 points in 15 games so far this season. The Blast’s 2001 Territorial draft pick, Celenza joined the Blast late in the 2000-01 season and recorded at least one point in seven of the 12 games he played in during his rookie season.
A two-time All-League selection and a two-time All-Star, has won five championships with the Blast and led the MISL with 38 goals during the 2005-06 season. He was named MVP of the 2004 All-Star Game after recording a hat trick and one assist, leading Team USA to a 10-1 win.
Celenza, who was also drafted by the Baltimore Spirit in 1996 out of high school, opened the 2010-11 season with one goal against the Chicago Riot on Nov. 19 to record the 399th and 400th points of his career. The milestone made Celenza one of just three players in franchise history to record 400 or more points and play in more than 200 games.
“Epitome of a local hero,” said Blast owner Ed Hale in a statement. “He played his whole career here in Baltimore because of his love of Baltimore, fans and mostly his family.”
Celenza said he is working toward hopefully joining the Maryland Transportation Authority police. However, he still has some unfinished business to take care of with the Blast.
The Blast announced this week that that if the team wins the 2010-11 regular season, the 2011 MISL Championship Game will be March 25 at 1st Mariner Arena.
“To be able to close out my career with a championship in front of the home fans would be the perfect ending,” Celenza said. “I grew up coming to Blast games and always imagined playing for them. The team has been amazing to me and the fans we have are the best.
“The soccer tradition at all levels in Baltimore is unbelievable. We have great youth programs like the Bays, successful college teams like Maryland, UMBC, Towson, and of course the Blast. Winning one more championship would be the best way to tell the fans thank you for the past 11 years.”