There have been two phrases synonymous with success when it comes to Kearny Little League baseball.
Those phrases are “Rick’s Auto Body” and “Witt family.”
Well, sure enough, those terms are at the top of the heap once again this year, as Rick’s Auto Body captured the Kearny Little League World Series last week, defeating Coccia Realty in two straight games in the best-of-three series, winning the first game, 6-5, and the second one, 11-8.
For years, the Rick’s Auto Body domination was spearheaded by head coach and former league president Joe Witt.
But when Joe moved to neighboring North Arlington, he had to step down from his duties as both coach of Rick’s and league president.
So Joe did the best thing possible. He turned over the coaching duties of Rick’s to his brother, Tom.
Sure enough this season, Tom Witt did a masterful job molding his group of 12 young men, ages 12 and under, into champions.
“I don’t know where the success comes from,” Witt said, obviously being modest.
Quite frankly, it comes from dedication and hard work.
“Well, we do practice a lot,” Witt said. “When the kids get to the field, they’re there to play baseball. All of the kids show up every practice. There are no excuses. They come to practice, they try very hard and you see the results.”
Although, honestly, Witt didn’t think he had the makings of a championship team when practices began in earnest in March.
“I wasn’t expecting too much,” Witt said. “We only had two 12-year-old kids.”
However, Witt saw some promise.
“Our balance was pretty good,” Witt said. “Although we had a very young team, with four 10-year-olds and two 9-year-olds, I thought there was a good mix. When you have a young team like that, you’re usually rebuilding. But we had four 10-year-olds who went in and played right away.”
Another strength to Rick’s Auto Body _ despite the service and care you receive from Billy and his staff there _ is the team’s pitching staff.
“As anyone knows, pitching in Little League is 95 percent of the game,” Witt said.
Witt can begin with his two 12-year-old standouts, namely Billy McChesney and Trayton Witt, Tom’s son.
McChesney is a left-handed flame thrower.
“He’s our ace,” Witt said. “He can throw pretty hard for his age.”
The younger Witt is a rising star, much like his older brother, T.J., and his cousins before him.
“Trayton is more of a control pitcher,” the elder Witt said. “He’s around the plate.”
The other pitchers are 11-year-old Joey Rocco and 10-year-old Kyle Watson. Rocco is another lefty. How many Little League teams have two left-handed pitchers at their disposal?
“We’re very lucky with our pitching depth and balance,” Coach Witt said. “With the pitch count, you need to have pitching depth.”
The pitch count rules came into play in the second game of the World Series, when young Watson had to come in for a relief stint.
“He came in and shut the door,” Witt said of young Watson. “With the kids having to come out, you have to be careful who you’re pitching. Having four pitchers goes a long way.”
Rick’s Auto Body doesn’t have one starting catcher. In fact, all four of the pitchers _ including the lefties _ don the catching gear and get behind the dish.
“When one is pitching, the other is catching,” Witt said. “There isn’t just one who I can say is the catcher. All four caught.”
Rocco spent most of his time at first base when he wasn’t pitching.
“He’s a good clutch hitter,” Witt said of Rocco. “Whenever we needed a clutch hit, he’s our man.”
The second baseman is 10-year-old Jayden Morales.
“He came into his own this year,” Witt said of Morales. “He just started to hit the ball. He came along nicely. I’m glad to have him for two more years.”
The shortstop was either the younger Witt or Watson.
“Both of them are our leading hitters,” the elder Witt said. “It was neck and neck between the two.”
The third baseman is 11-year-old Paul Pepe, who is a slick fielder at the hot corner.
“As a hitter, he puts the ball in play,” Witt said. “He came up with a few clutch hits for us.”
The left field duties were shared by 9-year-old Jayden Vazquez and 11-year-old Gustavo Lima, who was a first-time player in Little League baseball.
Shane Byrne, a 10-year-old player, was the centerfielder.
“He’s also a pitcher,” Witt said. “I think he’s going to be a pitching prospect for us for the next three years.”
Right field is shared by Elijah Castro, a 10-year-old player who delivered some key hits, and 9-year-old Isaac Moya, who is a left-handed bat.
“He can slap the ball and go the other way,” Witt said of Moya. “He’s also a pitching prospect.”
The team’s assistant coaches were Dan Watson, Frank Goresh and Dan McChesney.
Needless to say, it was a happy time for Rick’s once again. It’s hard to keep count of how many championships the Witt family has won coaching Rick’s.
“It’s been in our family for the last 45 years,” Tom Witt said. “It started with my father (Tom Witt, Sr. and then went to Joey and now to me. All these years and we’re still going.”
And going strong.