By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Nick D’Errico had hit the crossroads of his life. After attending Brookdale Community College and playing baseball there, D’Errico walked away from the game he loved.
“I stayed away from baseball for two years,” said D’Errico, the Kearny native and Kearny High School grad. “A lot happened to me in those two years. My Dad (Michael) passed away. It wasn’t a good time for me.”
After the two-year respite, D’Errico first enrolled at Kean University.
“I tried out for the team there and stuck around for a few practices,” D’Errico said. “But I knew I wasn’t going to be able to play there.”
So D’Errico packed up his belongings and headed to New Jersey City University.
“I had to find my way back to the diamond,” D’Errico said.
At NJCU, there was a familiar face already there – namely D’Errico’s former Kearny teammate Kevin DeMauro.
“A great bond developed between us,” D’Errico said. “I knew who I could turn to. He was one of my own and knew what it was like to be a college baseball player. It really helped having Kevin there.”
For DeMauro, it was like a reversal of roles.
“Nick took me under his wing when I was in high school, being a couple of years older than me,” DeMauro said. “We were teammates and friends, so I tried to make him feel as comfortable as possible. It was great to play on the same diamond again. It’s almost kind of unreal how it happened.”
D’Errico (whose uncle, David, is one of the best soccer players to ever come out of Kearny and played professionally in the North American Soccer League) and DeMauro were reunited as teammates once again, this time at NJCU.
“I had been coaching a little at Harrison (High School), but I knew it wasn’t time for me yet to hang up the cleats,” D’Errico said. “I still had the itch to play.”
As it turned out, both Kearny products played prominent roles this season for the Gothic Knights, who won 17 games, including memorable victories over nationally ranked Kean and Ramapo. When the Gothic Knights upset Kean, the Cougars were the No. 1-ranked team in the nation among NCAA Division III schools.
“The one thing I always knew about Kearny kids is that they are tough,” said secondyear NJCU head baseball coach Jerry Smith. “Nick and Kevin have that same mental toughness. I can’t say enough good things about Kevin. He’s a special kid, a gamer, the kind of guy that puts his teammates first. He’ll do anything for the team, as a closer, as a starter. I knew his talents would come through this year. I knew that we had a chance to win any game Kevin pitches.”
DeMauro had a 2-6 record with a 5.57 ERA in 13 appearances, eight of which were starts.
D’Errico came in and became the starting third baseman for the Gothic Knights, but was moved to shortstop early in the season.
“Nick solidified our defense when we put him at shortstop,” Smith said. “He definitely had a blue-collar approach to playing. Getting someone like Nick is what our program is all about.”
D’Errico started every game and batted .261 with no homers and eight RBI. He had nine stolen bases and was hit by nine pitches during the season. During the course of the year, D’Errico played second, shortstop, third base and even pitched in two games.
“I’ve never really had a set position in my life, but I took a liking to shortstop,” D’Errico said. “I’m surprised with the amount of playing time I received.”
DeMauro had a lot of versatility.
“It was new to me, being all over the place,” DeMauro said. “I definitely expected to do better. I have another year to improve. But this was a great season. Everyone was so happy that we were able to beat teams like Kean and Ramapo. It wasn’t expected, but we worked hard enough to deserve it.”
So the two kids from Kearny got the chance to play together again at NJCU. DeMauro is working toward a degree in fire science with the hope of eventually becoming a fireman when he graduates next May. D’Errico is approaching a degree in health and physical education. He wants to become a teacher and coach.
“This gets the ball rolling,” D’Errico said. “I don’t ever want to walk away from the game again.”
The two have another year together with the Gothic Knights.
“I’m already looking forward to it,” DeMauro said. “It’s great that we have one more year together. It would be awesome if we could continue to win next year.”
“I definitely feel like there are things I can improve on for next year,” D’Errico said. “We made a lot of progress this year. I feel we could be a team to beat next year. We could win it all.”
“I think people are going to think twice about facing us,” DeMauro said. “We put ourselves on the map a little. Now, we’re a threat. I definitely have going out as a winner next year in my mind already.”
And if the Gothic Knights do become winners next year, it will be with the help of two talented young men from Kearny who took the long way home to becoming teammates once again.