web analytics

Category: Sports

Strong turnout for first-ever Kearny football camp

Photo by Jim Hague New Kearny head football coach Nick Edwards shows 6-year-old Alick Krzanowski how to throw a football during the Kearny football camp held last week at the high school.

Photo by Jim Hague
New Kearny head football coach Nick Edwards shows 6-year-old Alick Krzanowski how to throw a football during the Kearny football camp held last week at the high school.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Nick Edwards became the new head football coach at Kearny High School last month and he wanted to do something right away to spur some interest in the program.

“I had all these ideas of things I wanted to do once I got the job,” Edwards said. “I wanted to show the community and especially the kids what I’d like to do. The kids are where I have to start, especially with the little ones.”

So Edwards decided to organize a football camp for kids ages 7 through 14. Basically through getting the word out with phone calls, texts and e-mails, Edwards put together the three-day camp and remarkably had almost 50 participants.

“I’m extremely excited, because this was all about word of mouth,” Edwards said. “I got in touch with some of the coaches from the Kearny Generals (the town’s youth football program) and they got the kids to come out. I’m very pleased and happy. I never thought we would get that many kids.”

During the first day of the camp, held at Kearny High School, the kids learned all about offensive skills.

“We taught them how to get in a proper stance,” Edwards said. “We taught them how to properly hold a football and run with the football. We taught them how to catch as a receiver.”

The second day, it was the defensive side.

“We worked on the different positions, like how to play defensive back and linebacker,” Edwards said.

The third and final day was strictly for fun. There were competitions for punting, passing and placekicking.

“We wanted to make it fun for the kids, so they get some interest in the sport and want to come back,” Edwards said. “Hopefully, they enjoyed themselves that they want to play football in the future.”

Photo by Jim Hague Jacob Platero shows off his kicking skills during the Kearny football camp.

Photo by Jim Hague
Jacob Platero shows off his kicking skills during the Kearny football camp.

 

Edwards said that there were some Generals players with prior football experience, but a majority of the campers were kids who were playing football for the first time.

“That really excited me that they were here,” Edwards said. “Most were kids just interested in playing football.”

Edwards had solid assistance from his assistant coaches, but also his returning varsity players.

“We made sure they were there,” Edwards said. “The players have to be ready to be adults in real life. They have a responsibility with the younger ones. I go back to my younger days and I remember watching my brother play and looking up to him. The little kids had fun with all the big kids around.”

One of the bigger kids was former Kearny player Wenner Nunes, who has a chance to be a starting offensive tackle at Lehigh University this fall.

“Wenner is a great kid and I have a great relationship with him,” said Edwards, who was an assistant coach under Oscar Guerrero when Nunes played for the Kardinals. “It was great to have him here. I knew Wenner would be a good college player.”

Kyle Griffin, who is headed to Springfield College to play football, was also on hand to help the youngsters.

“Those are two kids that the little ones can look up to,” Edwards said.

Edwards was impressed with the level of talent that participated in the camp.

“There were a lot of kids that opened some eyes,” Edwards said. “Some play for the Generals, so I can see a kid who has the fundamentals already and perhaps someday can help us. It’s a reason to get excited for the future.”

One of the most impressive youngsters was sevenyear- old Vincent Richard, who played flag football last year and will join the Mighty Mites this season.

Richard was throwing the football 35 yards in the air with regularity in almost stunning fashion.

“I like playing football,” Richard said. “I learned how to throw the football the proper way. It’s definitely going to help me when I play.”

Obviously, Richard is a quarterback – and his favorite player is Eli Manning.

“I want to be like Eli,” Richard said.

Jacob Platero is a 13-yearold defensive back who plays for the Generals. Platero was one of the better competitors in the placekicking competition.

Photo by Jim Hague Seven-year-old Vincent Richard throws the football during the Kearny football camp.

Photo by Jim Hague
Seven-year-old Vincent Richard throws the football during the Kearny football camp.

 

“It’s really not a position I want to play,” Platero said. “But I gave it a try.”

Platero is another Giants fan whose favorite player is Victor Cruz.

“I wanted to be here, because I wanted to learn more about football,” Platero said. “I couldn’t throw well at all before this week and now I learned the right way to throw. I’m glad they had this camp. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.”

Jimmy Mullen is a state champion wrestler, but the 9-year-old showed off his football prowess.

“I can’t say which sport I like better,” Mullen said. “But I like playing football. This week has been awesome. I learned how to grip the ball and being a quarterback that helps. It’s good to start thinking about football, because the season is coming up. We learned everything here, offense, defense, kicking, punting. It was great.”

All in all, it was a great week for Kearny football.

“It was the start of a new beginning,” Edwards said. “I want to do the right thing for the kids and the community.”

It looks as if Edwards is well on his way.

Nutley East 12s: On to the state championships

Locals defeat Hoboken to win Section 2 title; head to states in Wallington

Photo courtesy Lisa O’Neill The Nutley East Little League 12-year-old All-Stars are headed for the state championships this week. Here they are after they captured the Section 2 championship last week against Hoboken. From l: Natalia Bascunan, coach Chris Bascunan, AJ Lotito, Jeremy Kraft, Danny Caraballo, Jim Quinn, Manager Mike O’Neill, Jack Christman, Louis Conca, Ryan O’Mara, Nutley East Little League President Mike Kraft, Josh O’Neill, Aidan Okamoto-Wolf, coach Mike Ifverson and Peter Lopez. Missing from the photo is Blayke Alvarez.

Photo courtesy Lisa O’Neill
The Nutley East Little League 12-year-old All-Stars are headed for the state championships this week. Here they are after they captured the Section 2 championship last week against Hoboken. From l: Natalia Bascunan, coach Chris Bascunan, AJ Lotito, Jeremy Kraft, Danny Caraballo, Jim Quinn, Manager Mike O’Neill, Jack Christman, Louis Conca, Ryan O’Mara, Nutley East Little League President Mike Kraft, Josh O’Neill, Aidan Okamoto-Wolf, coach Mike Ifverson and Peter Lopez. Missing from the photo is Blayke Alvarez.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Mike O’Neill thought that his 11-and-12-yearold All-Star team from the Nutley East Little League would fare well in the postseason.

“These kids have been playing together since they were eight years old,” O’Neill explained. “They’re used to playing with each other.”

Last year, the same team, known as the Nutley Raiders, won the Montville travel title, as well as another 12-and-under championship.

“I coached them when they were 10s and 11s,” O’Neill said. “I knew they were pretty good.”

But good enough to reach the New Jersey State Little League championships?

It’s safe to say that the kids from Nutley East dared to dream. Reaching the state level is almost unfathomable, considering only four teams from the entire state will compete for New Jersey’s top honors.

But for the kids from Nutley, the dream has become a reality.

Nutley East not only won the tough District 8 championship two weeks ago, but last Friday night, Nutley East added the Section 2 title, defeating Hoboken 9-5 in the title game at Garfield.

Nutley East went undefeated in the section tournament, defeating Hoboken, 7-5, then defeating Teaneck Southern, 7-0, and finally defeating Hoboken again in the championship round.

It marks the first time since 2009 that Nutley East has reached the state championship level and only the third time since 1982.

“I don’t think it’s fully sunk in what these kids have accomplished,” O’Neill said. “They definitely deserve it. They’ve worked very hard and put a lot of time and effort into it.”

Nutley East was set to begin their quest for a state championship Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m., when they take on Section 1 champs Wayne National at Wallington Little League. The other competitors in the tournament are Section 3 champions Toms River East American, which won the state title in 2005 and won the overall Little League World Series championship in 1998, and Section 4 champions East Greenwich.

Leading the way for the Nutley East All-Stars is Josh O’Neill, the manager’s son.

The younger O’Neill, who was a finalist in the NFL’s Punt, Pass and Kick competition last fall in Atlanta, has proven to be quite a baseball player as well.

O’Neill pitched a gem against Teaneck Southern, striking out 15 in 6 1/3 innings and allowing just three hits.

“He’s a great control power pitcher,” said the elder O’Neill. “He has five different pitches, a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, a regular fastball, a slider and a knuckleball.”

Say what? A 12-year-old kid throwing a knuckler?

“He looked up what (former New York Met Cy Young award winner) R.A. Dickey throws and how he handles it,” the elder O’Neill said. “He also learned the slider from watching (New York Yankees ace closer) Mariano Rivera. If he’s going to learn different pitches, he’s learning from the best. He throws the knuckleball here and there. But he picked it up on his own.”

Going to the Punt, Pass and Kick finals and the state Little League finals in the same year is not a bad deal for O’Neill.

“He’s had a year you can’t believe,” his father said.

Danny Caraballo is another Nutley East hurler.

“He has a side-arm motion, but he has great control,” O’Neill said. “He’s a dominant pitcher. I think he can develop into a five-tool player. He has tremendous athletic ability. He can play any position we need him.”

Peter Lopez is the team’s lone left-handed pitcher.

“He’s very different than the other two,” O’Neill said of Lopez. “He’s very smart and savvy and relies on his control. He hits his spot. He’s also a very calm and collected kid on the mound.”

A.J. Lotito rounds out the pitching rotation.

“He’s not the most overpowering pitcher, but he throws strikes,” O’Neill said.

The catcher is Ryan O’Mara, who has an affectionate nickname.

“We call him ‘Turtle,’ because he doesn’t run fast,” O’Neill said. “But he’s a tremendous kid.”

O’Mara hit a clutch homer in the win over Hoboken.

“He’s as steady as a rock and gives his maximum effort every time,” O’Neill said of O’Mara.

Lotito is the team’s regular first baseman.

“He’s our No. 4 hitter who drives in a lot of runs,” O’Neill said. “He puts the ball in play.”

Louis Conca is the team’s second baseman.

“He’s your prototypical second baseman,” O’Neill said. “He’s steady with the glove and is usually in the right position to make a play.”

The shortstop duties are shared between Josh O’Neill and Lopez, depending upon who’s pitching.

“They’re both key hitters for us,” O’Neill said. “Peter is our leadoff hitter and Josh bats third.”

The third baseman is Aidan Okamoto-Wolf, who has been a true leader in the postseason.

“He’s a very solid defensive player who keeps getting better and better,” O’Neill said. “He’s grown every day as a hitter.”

Okamoto-Wolf has hit .657 this postseason with an astounding five homers, two of which have been game winners.

Left field duties are shared by Jack Christman and Jim Quinn.

Lopez or Caraballo play centerfield. O’Neill depends a lot on Lopez.

“No kid works harder than Peter,” O’Neill said. “In centerfield, he defends with perfection. I’ve never seen a kid get a better jump on the ball. He has an unbelievable first step.”

Jeremy Kraft is the starting right fielder. He bats fifth in the order. Blayke Alvarez, a second baseman/outfielder, is another key reserve, as is Natalia Bascunan.

Yes, the Nutley East All- Stars have a girl on the team, perhaps the lone team in the state finals to have a girl on its roster.

“She’s a joy to have on the team,” O’Neill said. “She does everything you ask.”

O’Neill receives assistance from Chris Bascunan and Mike Ifverson.

Needless to say, the kids from Nutley are excited to be in the state tourney.

“They really have worked hard to get here,” O’Neill said. “They’ll definitely be ready.”

 

Lyndhurst Post 139 has pitching in line for postseason

Photo courtesy Gina Lazorczyk Lyndhurst native Willie Krajnik, soon-to-be a senior at St. Mary’s of Rutherford, is a key member of the Lyndhurst Post 139 American Legion baseball team as they begin action in the District 1 playoffs.

Photo courtesy Gina Lazorczyk
Lyndhurst native Willie Krajnik, soon-to-be a senior at St. Mary’s of Rutherford, is a key member of the Lyndhurst Post 139 American Legion baseball team as they begin action in the District 1 playoffs.

 

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Before Lyndhurst Post 139 began play in the American Legion District 1 tournament in Parsippany, manager Mike Voza knew that his team was more than well prepared.

“Without a doubt, having pitching in line is important in the postseason,” Voza said. “This team was built for the postseason. I told the kids in April that I needed them to be pitchers in the postseason. Maybe they might get an inning here or there in relief, but it’s important, because we play practically every day.”

The postseason began Sunday with Lyndhurst Post 139 securing a 2-1 victory over Sussex in the first round of the District 1 tourney.

Bobby Miskura pitched a three-hit complete game for the locals and drove in a key run as well.

It’s important to get quality pitching now, because the games are nine innings, not seven innings like the regular season. There lies the reason to have as much quality pitching as possible.

“Believe me, there’s a big difference between seven and nine innings for a pitching staff,” Voza said. “You can have your three best pitchers lined up for the first three games, but that’s not enough. You need pitchers to throw nine innings for five games in a week. That’s why we have the kids we have on the team. We knew we were going to need kids to pitch.”

Part of Voza’s coaching background comes from his days as an assistant to Jeff Albies at William Paterson University.

“Albies had a rule that the pitchers pitch and the hitters hit,” Voza said. “I’ve adopted that philosophy with this team.”

Voza said that before the American Legion season, he had a meeting with Willie Krajnik, the Lyndhurst native who will be a senior at St. Mary’s of Rutherford this fall.

“I told Krajnik, who is one of our better pitchers, that he might not see a lot of action in the regular season,” Voza said. “But once we got through the regular season and got to the tournament, he would see a lot of action.”

Krajnik is expected to be the starting quarterback for the St. Mary’s football team this fall.

“He’s throwing 150 passes a day to get ready for the football season, but he’s being counted on to pitch for us right now in the playoffs.”

Miskura made things easier for the Post 139 pitching staff with his impressive nine-inning stint on Sunday.

“He’s a machine,” Voza said of Miskura. “He’s such a competitor. He changes speeds and works the batters. He’s everything a coach wants.”

The Post 139 squad was next slated to play in the District 1 tourney in Parsippany Tuesday night, with Anthony Pacillo getting the nod. In the third game, Kevin Rehbein was slated to be the starting pitcher.

“We’re all set up and rested,” Voza said. “That’s the luxury of having good pitchers. We’re lucky to have recruited that talent and then have the kids buy into it.”

Needless to say, Voza knows his team is ready for the challenge of making the state tournament once again.

“We feel terrific where we are,” said Voza, whose team posted a 17-2 record in the regular season playing in a new league, the Union County American Legion league. “Our pitchers are rested and ready to go. We didn’t have to play a tournament to get into the district, which helped us.”

Lyndhurst Post 139 was slated to face Livingston Post 201 in the second round of the District 1 tourney. The top two teams in the district advance to the state championships in Ewing that begin Sunday.

Voza said that he has another key contributor, namely future NJIT shortstop Rex McMillan.

“He’s a difference maker,” Voza said of McMillan. “He turns potential singles into outs and makes tough plays look like routine ground balls. He’s a magician out there.”

Voza said that McMillan made a game-deciding play in the first round of the District 1 tourney.

“We were all ready to give up a run at home,” Voza said. “With a runner at third and one out, he went against baseball convention and threw the ball home on his own and got the runner. It was a huge momentum swing in our favor. It was an incredible play.”

Needless to say, Voza believes his team is ready for the challenge that comes with a state tournament appearance Sunday.

“We are right where we need to be,” Voza said. “We have all the parts, the pitching, the hitting, the defense, the base running. We have everything an American Legion coach wants in a team.”

Kearny girls’ basketball camp gives locals a head start

Photo by Jim Hague As Kearny High School head coach Jody Hill (far l.) looks on, Meagan McClelland (l.) and Emily Angeles display some of their ball handling skills at the annual Kearny High School Girls’ Basketball Camp recently

Photo by Jim Hague
As Kearny High School head coach Jody Hill (far l.) looks on, Meagan McClelland (l.) and Emily Angeles display some of their ball handling skills at the annual Kearny High School Girls’ Basketball Camp recently

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Eight-year-old Natalie Natalie likes playing basketball a lot. So much that she wants to stay a step ahead of her twin brothers, who are seven.

“We have a 10-foot basket at home so I can practice my shooting,” said Natalie, a Jefferson School student. “I have practiced hard on my shooting and I feel like I’m getting better.”

Natalie wanted to continue her improvement, so she attended the Kearny Girls’ Basketball Camp recently at Kearny High School.

Natalie attended the camp last year and had such a good time that she made sure she attended the camp, directed by Kearny High head girls’ basketball coach Jody Hill, for another year.

Nearly 100 young ladies spent a week learning more about basketball and having a little bit of fun at the same time. And this camp was strictly for and about girls. No boys allowed.

“It really helps me a lot,” said 11-year-old Olivia Montenino, who attends Roosevelt School. “I have two brothers at home and this gets me away from them. If you have boys here, they’re always hogging the ball and tell you that you can’t play because you’re a girl.”

Olivia said that she was able to work on her shooting and defense at the camp. She obviously wasn’t alone.

“I think it was great that we had such a great turnout,” Hill said. “I know some girls told me that they were really looking forward to it. The kids have so much fun and they are learning so much. I think the fact that the numbers are so high, it means that a lot of girls are interested and want to play.”

Hill said that she had to make a tough call in limiting the camp to strictly girls.

“I think the decision I made to separate the girls and the boys was a good one, because the girls like that aspect,” Hill said. “They’re able to get some confidence and don’t have to worry about that intimidation factor. They’re put in an environment that they’re used to and I can see the difference in the way they handle everything.”

Hill said that she has received great support from local organizations and teams, like Sacred Heart of Lyndhurst.

“A lot of these teams have spread the word and other girls have come,” Hill said. “You get to see some of the same faces every year and that’s great to see. I like to think that these girls are taking some of the skills they learn and working on their game on their own.”

Hill said that she was impressed with some of the up-and-coming talented players.

“Kearny definitely has a few surprises talent-wise,” Hill said.

One of the rising stars is Sydney Pace, who is 13.

Pace is the younger sister of former Kearny High standouts Stefanee and Samantha, both of whom went on to play college soccer.

Sydney is a soccer and softball player, much like her sisters, but for the week, she concentrated on her basketball skills.

“It’s tough to juggle all three sports, but I’m managing,” Sydney said. “This camp helps me a lot with basketball. I’ve been working on my left hand, because it’s my weaker hand. But this camp helped me get better.”

Meagan McClelland is another 13-year-old standout who is entering the eighth grade at Lincoln School.

“I play a lot of basketball, but this is a great experience for me,” Meagan said. “It is going to help me prepare for high school and make me a better basketball player now.”

Meagan said that she learned a lot of different shooting techniques.

“It’s definitely going to help me practice on my own,” she said.

Photo by Jim Hague More than 90 young ladies participated in the annual Kearny Girls’ Basketball Camp, under the guidance of Kearny High head coach Jody Hill (c.).

Photo by Jim Hague
More than 90 young ladies participated in the annual Kearny Girls’ Basketball Camp, under the guidance of Kearny High head coach Jody Hill (c.).

 

Hill received a lot of assistance from some of her former players, including 1,000-point scorers Janitza Aquino and Stefanie Gomes, both of whom are former Observer Female Athlete of the Year recipients who are now currently attending Montclair State.

Giovanna Scrimo is a 14-year-old who will be a freshman at Kearny High in the fall.

“It’s definitely going to help me a lot, as I try out for the basketball team,” Giovanna said. “Since I’m left-handed, I worked to use my right hand this week. I’ve been coming to the camp for eight years now. I feel I’ve learned a lot.”

Sandra DaSilva is another 14-year-old who will enter Kearny High in September.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Sandra said. “I’m very excited about it. I’ve been playing basketball for two years now and this was my first year at camp. It was the best experience for me.”

Since she is a potential point guard, Sandra concentrated on point guard skills.

“Shooting and ball handling are important for me,” Sandra said. “This has totally prepared me to get ready to play later this year.”

“I think the future looks really bright,” Hill said.

“There are a lot of good seventh and eighth grade players here. We have a whole new group coming up and I can see already it’s going to be a really nice group.” Which is another advantage of having a girls’ only camp. You can see firsthand what the future has in store.

Hill wanted to thank Applebee’s of Kearny for being a camp sponsor, helping to defray the cost of the campers’ T-shirts.

Lyndhurst hurler Kelly overcomes struggle with Tourette syndrome

Photo by Jim Hague Soon-to-be Lyndhurst High School junior Nolan Kelly has taken on a tough challenge, living with Tourette syndrome and being able to pitch varsity baseball with the illness.

Photo by Jim Hague
Soon-to-be Lyndhurst High School junior Nolan Kelly has taken on a tough challenge, living with Tourette syndrome and being able to pitch varsity baseball with the illness.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Maria Kelly noticed that there was something different about her son, Nolan, when he was just a toddler.

“He lost all his language skills at 18 months,” said Maria Kelly, who is an early development/ kindergarten teacher in Lyndhurst. “He also would rock and hit the back of his head, but wouldn’t say anything. We talked with his pediatrician and did early intervention with Nolan.”

It was first believed that Nolan Kelly had tactile perception problems, that his sense organs were just being overloaded. But when Nolan was five and started developing tics in his neck, eyes and shoulders, Maria Kelly realized what was happening.

Nolan was suffering from Tourette syndrome.

According to Wikipedia, Tourette syndrome is an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder that is identified through multiple physical tics and perhaps even a vocal tic. The tics tend to come and go and can be suppressed temporarily, but need to be monitored and treated with medication.

There are some instances where a Tourette syndrome sufferer would exclaim derogatory and obscene remarks uncontrollably (called coprolalia), but only a handful of people with Tourette’s has that infliction.

Tourette syndrome sufferers are becoming more accepted, simply through education and awareness. For instance, United States national soccer goalkeeper Tim Howard, a former Kearny resident, is a Tourette syndrome sufferer who makes the most of his infliction and has become a spokesman for those with Tourette’s. Of course, Maria Kelly was naturally concerned.

“I wasn’t worried about his mental capabilities, because he was always super smart,” Maria Kelly said. “I worried about him socially and how other people would react to him.”

Nolan Kelly’s strain of Tourette syndrome has caused facial, head and neck tics. His vocal tic sounds like he’s grunting or clearing his throat. He does not have coprolalia.

Nolan never thought much about his disorder.

“I guess I really never paid much attention to it and it never really bothered me,” Nolan Kelly said. “I guess it was not until sixth grade, when people would look at me and ask me about it, just asking if I was fine. I knew I had Tourette, but I didn’t research it. My mom and dad (Pete, a bank executive) helped me through it. We went to a neurologist who told us more about it.”

Nolan has never really thought of his illness as an infliction.

“In school, sometimes it makes it hard to focus and it takes me longer to do assignments,” Nolan said. “But I’m pretty much a normal kid.”

Maria Kelly wanted her eldest son to be like her other children, son Evan and daughter Mackenzie.

“We didn’t want to treat him any differently,” Maria Kelly said. “I think we’re very fortunate to have known since he was in kindergarten.”

Baseball has always been a major part of Nolan’s life since he was a youngster.

“I guess I started with tee ball when I was six years old,” Nolan Kelly said. “I also played other sports, like basketball and hockey. When I’m playing baseball, the tics kind of go away.”

When Nolan reached Lyndhurst High School, he expressed interest in playing baseball and pitching for the Golden Bears.

“My wife taught Nolan in Franklin School and she knew Nolan and Maria,” said Lyndhurst head baseball coach and athletic director Frank “Butch” Servideo. “He played freshman baseball last year and our freshman coach Patrick Auteri spoke highly of Nolan. I wondered whether he could handle it.”

Servideo hardly ever realized that Kelly had an infliction.

“Sometimes you hear him clear his throat in the dugout, but once he gets on the mound, he stops,” Servideo said. “He creates more focus on the mound and concentrates when the target is set.”

Kelly throws all three of his pitches – fastball, curveball and change-up – for strikes. The 16-year-old Kelly has already made his mark with the Lyndhurst varsity.

Photo by Jim Hague Lyndhurst High School pitcher Nolan Kelly gives a hug to his mother, Maria, an early childhood teacher in Lyndhurst. Kelly has overcome Tourette syndrome to be a solid member of the Lyndhurst varsity baseball team.

Photo by Jim Hague
Lyndhurst High School pitcher Nolan Kelly gives a hug to his mother, Maria, an early childhood teacher in Lyndhurst. Kelly has overcome Tourette syndrome to be a solid member of the Lyndhurst varsity baseball team.

 

“He could be one of our better pitchers next year,” said Servideo of Kelly, who will be a junior. “We need to get him in the weight room and get him working on weight training activity. He’s a hard worker and you can see some of the qualities he has. It’s tremendous. I know other students admire him for what he’s been through.”

Nolan is a high honors student at Lyndhurst.

“We feel very proud of him,” Maria Kelly said. “I think he’s amazing. What he’s been able to accomplish is amazing. I know it can’t be easy for him.

He’s lucky to have friends who are supportive of him and accepting to him, because I still worry about him.” “I have great friends,” Nolan Kelly said. “Once I tell people about it, they’re all accepting of it.”

Maryann Mule, who is a case manager for student services at Lyndhurst, has been working with Kelly to help with anything he might need.

“She’s been there for me 100%,” Nolan Kelly said.

Servideo said that there are other members of the Lyndhurst varsity who look after Kelly.

“The older kids have taken Nolan under their wing,” Servideo said. “No one can say anything bad about him, because the older kids won’t allow it.”

“I never have a problem with anyone,” Nolan said. “The other kids are really nice to me. They are accepting and good natured about it.”

Now, Kelly feels like he’s become an advocate for Tourette syndrome.

“I like talking to people about it, educating people about Tourette’s,” Nolan said. “People can live with issues like mine and live normal lives. They can succeed.”

Nolan Kelly now monitors his Tourette syndrome with medication, taking three pills twice a day.

“If I didn’t take the pills, the tics could get worse,” Nolan Kelly said. “The only downside is that I sometimes get tired and feel like falling asleep. But it does cut down on my tics and the frequency of them.”

In the meantime, Kelly hopes that he can open up some eyes about Tourette syndrome.

“I hope that I can open the door and inspire others who have it,” Kelly said. “They can overcome it like I have.”

Nutley East wins 10-year-old District 8 championship again

Photo courtesy of Dave Walsh The Nutley East 10-year-old All-Stars proudly display their trophies after winning the recent District 8 championship. From left are Joe Pezzino, Nick Polewka, Chase Nicolette, Justin Edert, John Coppola, Jake Walsh, Scott Christman, Billy Searle, Joe Senatore, Spencer Ojeda, Max Malanga. In the back from left are coaches Billy Edert, Dave Walsh and Dave Christman. Nick Palangio was missing from the picture

Photo courtesy of Dave Walsh
The Nutley East 10-year-old All-Stars proudly display their trophies after winning the recent District 8 championship. From left are Joe Pezzino, Nick Polewka, Chase Nicolette, Justin Edert, John Coppola, Jake Walsh, Scott Christman, Billy Searle, Joe Senatore, Spencer Ojeda, Max Malanga. In the back from left are coaches Billy Edert, Dave Walsh and Dave Christman. Nick Palangio was missing from the picture

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Dave Walsh didn’t know what to expect from coaching Little League for the first time this season in the Nutley East Little League.

“I was able to find time to do it,” Walsh said. “It turned out to be exciting and great.”

Walsh was the manager of the Nutley East 9-and-10-year-old All-Stars that competed in the District 8 tournament, a tourney that Nutley East captured a year ago.

“I was a little surprised that I was selected to coach,” Walsh said. “Incredibly, I was almost thinking of not doing it, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. It was very enjoyable.”

Coaching became even more of a joy after Walsh’s team recently captured the District 8 9-and-10-year-old All- Star championship last week.

Nutley East defeated Bloomfield National, 9-2, to win the district crown for a second straight season – although this year’s team had a totally new roster from a year ago.

“This was a totally new experience for these kids,” Walsh said. “None of them had this kind of experience. I even had three 9-yearolds on the roster. They handled the pressure very well.”

Walsh knew that he had a chance with this team despite the thoroughly new roster.

“I thought we had a decent team,” Walsh said. “I knew the kids were hard workers. I just didn’t know how they would match up with the other teams. You never know what can happen.”

The Nutley East All-Stars steamrolled through the District 8 tourney, winning all four contests.

Walsh got his first sign that his team was competitive in the very first game against Livingston.

“We were down, 5-0, in the early going, yet we came back to win 12-10,” Walsh said. “It showed that this team had a lot ot of character.”

When Nutley East defeated Bloomfield National to secure the district championship, Walsh became very emotional.

“It really brought tears to my eyes,” Walsh said. “I’ve never felt that way about a team before. I played baseball all my life and never felt like that. It was exciting.”

Walsh was happy to share the moment with his son, Jake, who was a first baseman on the team.

“It was a great experience for us,” Walsh said. “It was great that he was a part of it.”

Walsh said that his team’s pitching was the key to the team’s success.

“The pitching was unbelievable throughout the whole tournament,” Walsh said. “That’s great for 10-year-olds. They never fell apart. They had such good composure. When someone made a mistake, the pitchers made up for it.”

Joe Pezzino, Billy Searle and Justin Edert, all of them 10-year-olds, handled the pitching chores.

“It’s huge, because the kids can only throw 75 pitches,” Walsh said. “It’s a good thing we stayed in the winners’ bracket, because we didn’t need more pitchers.”

Searle is the team’s regular catcher, but also plays third base. Johnny Coppola is the team’s other catcher.

“He’s unbelievable,” Walsh said. “The kid can play anywhere. Billy would be our No. 1 catcher, but we need him all over.”

The manager’s son, Jake, plays first base, with Scott Christman at second base. Pezzino and Edert share shortstop duties. When one pitches, the other plays shortstop and vice versa. Searle and Coppola also share third base action.

The left fielders are a pair of 9-year-olds in Nick Polewka and Joey Senatore.

Spencer Ojeda and Nick Palangio are the centerfielders, with Chase Nicolette and Max Malanga in right field.

Walsh said that he received assistance from coaches Billy Edert and Dave Christman.

Walsh also credited the coaching that the players received during the regular season.

“We have a lot of good coaches in the league,” Walsh said. “The kids were well prepared for the District tournament. We had a lot of talented kids. We just had to put them together in the right places. It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I’m just really happy and surprised that they put it all together and played very well.”

Unfortunately, the Nutley East All-Stars saw their summer of fun come to a close last week at the Section 2 tourney in Secaucus, losing in consecutive games.

However, Nutley East was happy and proud to be there.

“Everyone was excited,” Walsh said. “The kids were all thrilled. Moving on to the Section tournament was a lot like having extra innings. We got to play more baseball. That was like gravy. These kids have big hearts and they played their hearts out.”

Baseball-loving youngsters flock to Kearny baseball camp

Photo by Jim Hague The participants, coaches and instructors all get together for a group shot at the second annual Kearny baseball camp, organized by Kearny High head coach Frank Bifulco (far right, standing).

Photo by Jim Hague
The participants, coaches and instructors all get together for a group shot at the second annual Kearny baseball camp, organized by Kearny High head coach Frank Bifulco (far right, standing).

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Kailyn DaSilva may be only eight years old, but she knows what she likes to do.

“I love playing baseball,” said DaSilva, a student at Kearny’s Franklin School. “I play third base. I want to play more baseball.”

DaSilva didn’t mind being one of the lone girls to attend the Kearny Baseball Camp, held last week at the Franklin School Field.

More than 60 youngsters, from ages 6 through 14, participated in the week-long camp, organized by Kearny High School head baseball coach Frank Bifulco.

“This is the second camp and the biggest thing with that is that the kids are coming back,” Bifulco said. “They ask questions about what we did last year and that’s encouraging. Every kid has a chance to be a part of something we’re building here.”

There was talk that the sport of baseball was dying in a soccer-happy town like Kearny. But this camp – as well as the successes of some of the Kearny teams in local youth tournaments –serves as proof that the sport is flourishing.

“It’s encouraging that they all want to play baseball,” said Bifulco, who just completed his second year as the Kearny head coach. “You have so many different talent levels here. We tried to make it fun. We want the kids to learn and want them to get better. They want to get better. But it has to be fun for them to learn.”

One of the ways Bifulco made the camp fun was when he introduced a “slip and slide” water contraption to teach the youngsters how to slide properly into a base.

“They need the skills to slide the right way, but this way, we made it fun,” Bifulco said.

Eight-year-old Eli Jablonski, who played for the Kearny 8s in the recent Lyndhurst tournament, is a first baseman/ pitcher. He said that he learned to hustle, much like his favorite players on the Boston Red Sox, like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia.

“I’m going to use what I learned here on a daily basis,” Jablonski said.

Travis Witt, a 12-year-old Garfield School student, is a shortstop and pitcher who played for the Kearny Little League 12-year-old All-Stars in the recent District 5 tournament, where they went to the finals.

“I learned how to hustle, how to field,” Witt said. “It’s definitely going to help with my batting. It encourages me to want to play more baseball.”

Ten-year-old Brendan Solano is a Roosevelt School student who likes the Mets and likes David Wright and Matt Harvey. A left fielder and third baseman, Solano said that he learned about hitting during the camp.

“I learned about squaring up the right way and taking a level swing,” Solano said. “It was really a lot of fun.”

Chris Serrano is a 10-yearold student of Schuyler School.

“I was excited to come, because baseball is my favorite sport,” Serrano said. “I’m a shortstop and a pitcher, so what I learned here at camp is really going to help me. And I’m definitely going to hustle more.”

Ryan Tully, a recent graduate of Lincoln School, will now head to Kearny High School in the fall. It was important for Tully to make a good impression on his future coach Bifulco.

Tully, one of the rising stars in town, worked on his pitching mechanics in the camp.

“I was fooling around with the grip on my two-seam fastball,” said Tully, who received instruction from former Kearny High head coach Jim Sickinger. “I throw it like my normal fastball, but it moves a little bit more now. It really helped me a lot. I also worked on my off-speed stuff. I’m willing to play anywhere. I just love playing.”

The same can be said for 13-year-old Ryan Watson, who was a pitcher/infielder by trade, but learned new positions at the camp.

“I never played the outfield before, so this really helped me develop some outfielder skills,” Watson said. “This camp will go a long way in my development. It’s a lot of fun and without fun, baseball would be just a game.”

Bifulco provided each camper with an in-depth evaluation.

“They get to work on things on their own,” Bifulco said. “The key is to teach the kids the right way. We had a great staff of instructors and counselors here. The kids are learning things every day.”

Bifulco really liked the future of the sport.

“The 10, 11 and 12-year-olds are really impressive and they could be dangerous by the time they get to high school,” Bifulco said. “They’re all playing together in Little League and on travel teams. About 30 of the kids here are from that age group. If they stay interested in baseball and we can bring them in when they get to high school, that would be incredible.”

Bifulco said that he enjoys working with the youngsters.

“I love it,” Bifulco said. “As a coach, you get to teach these kids fundamentals and there’s no pressure about winning and losing. They get a lot in the week, fielding, pitching, hitting. We could do a camp just on hitting alone. We want to create an atmosphere where the kids want to play baseball and they’re passionate about it. That’s the pleasure of doing this.”

NA’s Nocciolo earns Observer Athlete of the Year

Three-sport standout becomes second straight Viking; fourth in six years to earn honor

Photo by Jim Hague North Arlington graduate A.J. Nocciolo (center, r.) receives the 2012-2013 Observer Male Athlete of the Year award from Observer general manager Robert Pezzolla (center, l.). From l. are North Arlington High School Principal Louis Manuppelli, head baseball coach Paul Marcantuono, head football coach Anthony Marck, Pezzolla, Nocciolo, A.J.’s mother Cesarina Petracca, Vice-Principal Dennis Kenny and athletic director Dave Hutchinson.

Photo by Jim Hague
North Arlington graduate A.J. Nocciolo (center, r.) receives the 2012-2013 Observer Male Athlete of the Year award from Observer general manager Robert Pezzolla (center, l.). From l. are North Arlington High School Principal Louis Manuppelli, head baseball coach Paul Marcantuono, head football coach Anthony Marck, Pezzolla, Nocciolo, A.J.’s mother Cesarina Petracca, Vice-Principal Dennis Kenny and athletic director Dave Hutchinson.

 

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

When A.J. Nocciolo moved from Bloomfield to North Arlington, just before Nocciolo was to begin sixth grade, he felt a little out of place.

Luckily, Nocciolo’s family moved right across the street from a school playground, so the best way to make new friends in the new neighborhood would be through the one thing he felt most comfortable doing _ playing sports.

“I loved playing baseball back then and I could see the new kids weren’t really welcoming me, because they thought I was much older,” Nocciolo said. “I was a lot bigger than everyone, but when I told them I was only 12, they let me play. I started to hit a lot of home runs and although I really didn’t fit in, I made friends with everyone.”

Nocciolo’s first sport was baseball.

“I always played baseball,” Nocciolo said. “My father was a good baseball player. He was a good pitcher.”

Nocciolo gained some attention as a basketball player in middle school.

“He was an outstanding basketball player,” North Arlington High School head football coach Anthony Marck said. “He scored 52 points in a grade school game. That’s when I first noticed him. You could see the pure athleticism in him.”

As it turned out, football became Nocciolo’s main sport, but it took a while for Nocciolo to find his true position.

“When he first came to us, he was a lineman, because he was too big to play anywhere else,” Marck said. “But I knew he was a skilled position player.”

So Marck first put Nocciolo at tight end.

During one early practice, a frustrated Marck unleashed a diatribe at his players.

“He turned around and yelled, `Can anyone here throw a football?’” Nocciolo said. “Everyone laughed, but I raised my hand and asked if I could go in at quarterback. He let me go in and I dropped back and let it go.”

The ball traveled 60 yards in the air.

Later that year, North Arlington was scrimmaging against Kearny in a 7-on-7 drill.

“I hit Jimmy Roman with a pass in the corner of the end zone,” Nocciolo said. “I knew with Jimmy’s speed, he could beat his defender, so I put the ball in the back of the end zone and he caught it.”

“I just wanted to see what he could do and he threw a deep pass, some 35 yards, to the back of the end zone, on a corner route,” Marck said. “He said that he looked off the other receivers and threw it there. I told the coaches right then that he was no longer a tight end.”

Nocciolo spent his last three years at North Arlington as the Vikings’ starting quarterback. Even though he stood 6-foot- 3 and weighed 240 pounds, which constitutes a lineman in most NJSIAA Group I schools, Nocciolo was a signal caller, a rare one at that.

“He was definitely a oncein- a-lifetime athlete,” Marck said. “As a former quarterback myself, I wondered if I would ever coach a player like that. But he was everything I wanted and more.”

In his senior year, Nocciolo threw for 2,045 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also rushed for 378 yards and scored five touchdowns. He was also a tenacious defensive player from his linebacker slot, collecting 31 tackles.

Nocciolo also played basketball, averaging 10 points and 13 rebounds per game.

After not playing baseball since his freshman year, Nocciolo returned to the baseball diamond last spring and played third base, batting .450 for the season.

For his efforts, Nocciolo has been selected as the 2012-2013 Observer Male Athlete of the Year. Nocciolo received his award recently from Observer General Manager Robert Pezzolla.

Nocciolo becomes the second straight North Arlington athlete to receive the award. Tyler Krychkowski was the 2011-2012 recipient. Mike Gross (2007-2008) and Peter Santos (2009-2010) were also North Arlington athletes to earn the Athlete of the Year honor, which means that North Arlington has claimed the award for four of the last six years.

Marck had nothing but praise for his passing protégé.

7-10_web2

 

“He worked at his craft 12 months a year,” Marck said. “I don’t know if there was a day where A.J. didn’t throw a football. But he was an athlete first and did whatever it took to help the team he was on. I think we’re fortunate in North Arlington to get kids who are truly dedicated and in order for our teams to succeed, we have to have kids play more than one sport. It’s a credit to A.J. for being able to play three and do well in three. He just loves to compete and is the ultimate competitor. It was a pleasure to see what the kid could do every single day.”

David Walsh, who recently resigned as the head boys’ basketball coach at North Arlington, also had praise for Nocciolo.

“He knew what it took to be a better athlete and knew that it took a lot of work,” Walsh said. “He might not have been the best basketball player, but he was going to give 100% every single day. He had a nice mid-range jump shot, but his best shot was the 3-pointer. But because of his size, he knew he had to mix it up down low. He was big enough and tough enough to get the job done and that was a big plus for us.”

Walsh believed that Nocciolo’s basketball prowess came easy.

“He just loved to play and liked to play our style,” Walsh said. “He wanted to be a part of our program. He could have easily found something else to do, but he wanted to play basketball. Playing those three sports isn’t easy. I think he realized that being idle is bad. It’s smarter to be active. Free time is a coach’s enemy. I can say that I had some of the best athletes in North Arlington over the last 20 or so years.”

Walsh did coach all four Observer Athlete of the Year recipients.

North Arlington head baseball coach Paul Marcantuono was happy to have Nocciolo back on the diamond last season.

“He was always mentally ready to compete and he brought that attitude to the baseball team,” Marcantuono said. “He’s a tough kid, a great kid, a superior athlete. He told me that he really missed playing baseball and wanted to come back.”

Nocciolo knew that there were no guarantees for playing time in baseball, especially after sitting out two seasons.

“He told me that I had to earn it,” Nocciolo said.

The first game of the season, Nocciolo took an 0-for-4 collar.

“He went right back into the batting cage after that game,” Marcantuono said.

“I must have been in there for an hour or so, hitting balls,” Nocciolo said. “I promised him that I wouldn’t go 0-for-4 for the rest of the season and I didn’t. If I didn’t get a hit, I worked hard to get it the next at-bat.”

“I think he had 10 multi-hit games,” Marcantuono said. “For someone who didn’t play baseball for two years, that’s phenomenal.”

Nocciolo did receive a lot of attention from major colleges, but because of his grades, he will head to ASA College in Brooklyn, a junior college that has sent several players to major Division I colleges, including Gilbert Pena, who went to the University of Mississippi and recently signed with the Green Bay Packers.

“I want to compete at the Division I level and prove that it doesn’t matter where you come from,” Nocciolo said. “I just want everyone to know that I’m always a Viking and I’ll always bleed blue. I was able to give my all every day and that’s important to me.”

It’s safe to say that Nocciolo is more than welcome in his neighborhood now as one of the finest all-around athletes the school ever produced.

 

Several local athletes under consideration for top Athlete award

Photo by Jim Hague Kearny’s Haley Durning had a sensational senior year in soccer and track and field, heading the list of other candidates worthy of The Observer’s Athletes of the Year awards

Photo by Jim Hague
Kearny’s Haley Durning had a sensational senior year in soccer and track and field, heading the list of other candidates worthy of The Observer’s Athletes of the Year awards

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

While Lyndhurst’s Camila Alonso and North Arlington’s A.J. Nocciolo were the recipients of the 2012- 2013 Observer Female and Male Athletes of the Year respectively, there were several other area graduated athletes who were true credits to their respective schools and deserved consideration for the prestigious honor.

Among the girls, there was no finer candidate for top honors than Haley Durning of Kearny.

The multi-talented Durning was a standout goalkeeper in soccer, earning All-Hudson County and All-Group IV honors, and was a sensational competitor in track and field, winning her share of gold medals on the local and state sectional level in both the indoor and outdoor season.

More importantly, Durning graduated from Kearny High School as the No. 2 student academically in the Class of 2013, a high achievement on its own.

Durning was also one of the team’s leaders, earning the nickname of “Mother Duck” from coach Al Perez because the younger members of the team constantly followed Durning around.

Durning certainly left her mark as one of the most diversified female athletes in the school’s history.

Another standout Kearny athlete was soccer standout Katie O’Neill, who is headed to the University of Binghamton in a few weeks to play soccer there. O’Neill was clearly one of the best all-around players in the state and should be able to make her mark on the college level as well.

Fellow Kearny senior Kristen Stankus had a brilliant senior year, as the school’s top female bowler and as a slugging catcher for the softball team.

Speaking of softball, how could you go wrong with the talented battery from Lyndhurst, namely pitcher Casey Zdanek and catcher Julieann Schneidenbach? The two friends led the Golden Bears to their best season in recent memory, going all the way to the NJSIAA North 2, Group II sectional title game. Zdanek will take her talents to Drew University in the fall where she’s bound to be a success. Lyndhurst’s Lexus Lopez was probably the most diverse athlete in the area. A topflight bowler, who earned a full scholarship to FDU to bowl in the fall, Lopez also played basketball during the same season as the bowling season. That was some grind for the talented Golden Bear.

Queen of Peace pole vault expert Michelle Rozalski certainly made her mark during the indoor and outdoor track seasons. Headed to Seton Hall in the fall, Rozalski was among the very best in the pole vault in the state.

Harrison’s Rayven Lucas earned her mark as a basketball standout. The daughter of Harrison’s native son Ray (currently on SNY television as a Jets analyst and on the Rutgers radio network), Rayven led the Blue Tide to a highly successful season and will take her talents to Montclair State to play basketball in the fall.

North Arlington had two top female athletes in Katie Rouski, who competed in volleyball, basketball and softball and Mackenzie Cutruzzula, who was a fine athlete in track and field.

Among the boys’ athletes, Charlie Bingham of Nutley had perhaps the most diverse season, competing in soccer, basketball and tennis. Bingham was one of the best soccer players on a Maroon Raider that won 13 matches last fall and competed for both county and Super Essex Conference honors.

Bobby Trombetta, a fellow Maroon Raider, broke the school record for wrestling victories with 141 in his storied career, a mark that was third all-time in Essex County. He wrestled most of his senior year with an injured shoulder.

During his career, Trombetta won four county titles, three district crowns, two Region gold medals and three medals at the state tourney. He is headed to wrestle at Bloomsburg University.

Dave Fierro keyed Nutley’s best hockey season, scoring 28 goals and adding 11 assists for a team that won 17 games. Fierro was also a fine golfer for the Maroon Raiders.

Kearny’s Dylan Hoch overcame the adversity of playing for a sub-par team to reach the 1,000-point plateau and set a new school single-game scoring mark with his 49-point performance against McNair Academic.

Ryan Michaels of Kearny had a solid year as a wrestler and as the sure-handed catcher on the Kardinals’ varsity baseball team.

Jeff Frytek of North Arlington was a key member of the basketball and baseball teams along with Athlete of the Year Nocciolo.

Bobby Keegan of Queen of Peace, whose older sister Courtney was a former Female Athlete of the Year recipient during her days at QP, overcame injuries to have solid seasons on the gridiron and on the hardwood.

Belleville’s Aaquil Ingram made the most of his senior year on the gridiron by securing a scholarship to play at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts in the fall.

All in all, it was a great local high school sports season, culminated by the individual performances of The Observer’s two Athletes of the Year.

Lyndhurst welcomes youngest of Little Leaguers in month-long tourney

Photo courtesy Anthony Farinhas Young Anthony Farinhas Jr. has been one of the top pitchers and hitters for Kearny in the Lyndhurst Junior Little League tournament for 7-and-8-yearolds.

Photo courtesy Anthony Farinhas
Young Anthony Farinhas Jr. has been one of the top pitchers and hitters for Kearny in the Lyndhurst Junior Little League tournament for 7-and-8-yearolds.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It’s not called “The Tournament” for nothing.

For the last quarter century, Lyndhurst has hosted a junior Little League tournament for youngsters aged seven-andeight years old, giving these aspiring diamond dandies their first true taste of competitive baseball.

From June 26 through the end of July, 17 teams from all over northern New Jersey converge on Lyndhurst’s premier Little League facility off the banks of the Passaic River for some thrilling baseball action. It’s perhaps the biggest tournament of its kind found anywhere.

Locally, there is a fine representation from two teams from Lyndhurst, as well as one from North Arlington and one from Kearny.

And it’s more than just a baseball tournament.

Organizers, like tournament director Dave Rehbein, try to make the tourney as much fun as possible for the participants and fans alike.

“This is their true introduction to baseball, so we want to encourage the kids to keep playing,” Rehbein said. “We want to make it fun.”

Aside from the baseball action, there are countless raffles throughout the tournament. There are baseball gloves to be won, but even more impressively, there are raffles for 22 bicycles.

“We take the money we raise from our 50-50s and buy the bikes,” Rehbein said. “We have other things that are donated. For my standpoint, I love watching the young kids, because it’s all new to them. You see the smiles on their faces and all of the work we do is well worth it.”

In the past, there have been as many as 22 teams that participate in the double-elimination tournament. This year, the number has been trimmed to 17.

“We could have had more,” Rehbein said. “I get calls from all over, wanting to bring teams in, but we don’t want to make it too big.”

It’s the 11th time that Rehbein has run the tourney.

“It never gets to be a problem, because everyone loves watching these kids play,” Rehbein said.

There has even been a celebrity watch at the games in Lyndhurst.

One of the teams in contention is Englewood Cliffs, which has a player Dylan Gooden. Yes, Dylan is the son of former Mets and Yankees pitching ace Dwight “Doc” Gooden and the former Cy Young Award winner has been at his son’s games, graciously greeting the fans who recognize him.

“He’s been here two or three times and he’s been signing baseballs, provided they don’t interfere with him watching his son play,” Rehbein said.

Dan Watson is the coordinator for all 7-and-8-year-old baseball in Kearny.

“It’s a great tournament,” Watson said. “Dave is a great guy and everything is for the kids. It’s stressed that it’s for the kid. Imagine that they’re able to raffle off bikes for the kids. There’s something to win every single game. I love the tournament and will never leave as long as it’s played. It’s good competition for the kids and it’s fun for them. As they move on, they will always remember playing in the tournament. As they move up to Little League next year, they already have a little taste of what they’re going to see.”

Watson said that Kearny has participated in the tourney for the last six years.

Anthony Farinhas is the coach of the Kearny entry in the tourney.

“I’ve enjoyed coaching this team tremendously,” Farinhas said. “You want the kids to learn something about the game and this is such a tremendous experience for them. They get to compete against other teams from other towns and see the other competition at such an early age.”

Farinhas said that he wanted to compile a team that featured kids who want to play the game.

“You want to have kids who have the passion to play and that makes me enjoy it more,” Farinhas said. “They are soaking it all up like a sponge. If they have the passion at an early age, it only helps as they progress.”

Farinhas said that his team represents the future of Kearny baseball.

His son, Anthony Jr. has been one of the team’s top pitchers, having struck out 50 batters so far. Anthony Schimenti is another promising pitcher and Adam Juchnik, who also plays shortstop, has the potential to be a great one someday.

A pair of twins occupies catcher and first base for Kearny. Jonathan Muller is the first baseman, while Matthew is the catcher.

“Matthew is an outstanding catcher with a great demeanor behind the plate,” Farinhas said. “He’s always very calm back there. I love his demeanor.”

Tranton Witt, the younger brother of Kearny standout T.J., is the second baseman.

“He’s a very aggressive player,” Farinhas said.

Juchnik spends most of his time at shortstop.

“He’s a very good player and he’s very vocal,” Farinhas said. “He probably has the most experience of anyone on the team.”

Billy McChesney is the third baseman.

“He hits the ball a ton,” said Farinhas of McChesney, who also serves as the backup catcher.

Michael Ciardiello plays left field, but Ciardiello also sees time at third base. Eli Jablonski is the centerfielder and Chris Carson is in right field.

Kyle Antosh, Jonathan Hernandez and Nate Matthews are key reserves.

“These are the best eightyear- olds in Kearny and I guarantee that they will have a bright future in baseball,” said Farinhas, who has received assistance from Bobby Carson, Jim Muller, Chris Juchnik and Watson.

Other towns in the tourney include Garfield, Paramus, Hoboken, Teaneck, Wood- Ridge, Oradell, Rutherford, Little Ferry, North Bergen and Maywood.

Needless to say, it’s been a labor of love for the people in Lyndhurst, like league president Bob Laverty and committee members Mark Naseef, Terry Chiappa, John Berko and Nick Romito. A tip of the cap goes to recently retired Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Rick Pizzuti, who helped make the tournament successful. Pizzuti spent 42 years with the Parks and Recreation department in Lyndhurst.

There are countless others behind the scenes who make “The Tournament” as it is now readily known a success. And will continue to do so in the years to come.