Lyndhurst Legion Post 139 aims for solid summer


The summer is upon us, so that means it’s time for summer baseball.

And that means one thing: The Lyndhurst Post 139 American Legion is sponsoring one of the top local teams in the area.

Like they have for over a half century, the members of Post 139 have pooled their talents _ and funds _ to put a competitive team on the field at Breslin Field, a team that would make the area proud, especially when it comes time for the District and New Jersey state playoffs later this summer.

Mike Voza is the team’s field general again this summer, aided by the assistance of general manager Jerry Sparta.

Voza is certain that the team will be competitive throughout the long nights of summer and perhaps into the postseason.

“We offer a unique brand of baseball,” Voza said. “We strictly use wood bats. Some people like it and some don’t, but there are no cheap hits and you have to earn everything. We feel like we have a team that can compete with our pitching and our defense. We’re in a very competitive league.”

The Post 139 squad is in a league that features Rochelle Park, Ridgewood and Ramsey, three perennial powerhouses. Lyndhurst won its first three games of the summer, before falling to Rochelle Park Friday night.

“To be 3-0 to start the year was outstanding,” Voza said. “I never thought it could happen. We beat Ridgewood, 4-3, and we scored three runs without getting the ball out of the infield. We capitalized on three walks and a few errors, but we managed to win. We’re going to be in every game because we pitch and play defense. We do have our work cut out for us.”

The Post 139ers won a game against each of their divisional foes before falling to Rochelle Park.

“We won once against each team to start off,” Voza said. “That was a good way to start the season.”

Leading the pitching staff is former Lyndhurst High School ace Nolan Kelly, who has been featured here in the sports pages of The Observer over the years. Kelly, a former Observer Athlete of the Week who has overcome Tourette’s syndrome, had a complete game victory over Rochelle Park in his first start.

“He’s one of our go-to starters,” Voza said of Kelly.

Nic DiTomasso, another former Observer Athlete of the Week for Lyndhurst High, is another top starter. DiTomasso throws strikes and keeps the ball down, a crucial factor especially on the new fast FieldTurf surface at Breslin Field.

Andrew Fitzgerald, another former Lyndhurst hurler, is another key member of the Post 139 starting staff.

A major find has been Lyndhurst native Augie Burkhardt, who played hockey at St. Peter’s Prep.

“One of our players mentioned Augie as someone who could throw hard,” Voza said. “So he has come in and he’s now our closer. He has two saves already. He’s been a big help.”

Sean Bielitz is a left-handed pitcher who once played for St. Mary’s of Rutherford. Conner Clare, whose father once played for Lyndhurst High and the Post 139 teams, is another pitcher. The younger Clare is a product of Rutherford High and will play at Rutgers-Newark in the fall.

Justin Grippo is another pitcher who plays the outfield as well. He’s also Voza’s nephew who was a multi-sport standout at Mahwah.

Nick Carnevale, who will begin his senior year at Lyndhurst in the fall, is the team’s shortstop. High school teammate Vin Dorio, who will graduate shortly from Lyndhurst High, is the team’s second baseman. They form a lethal combination up the middle.

Ryan Donohue is the team’s first baseman. Donohue, who will also return to Lyndhurst High and is also a standout bowler in the winter, is a slick fielder around the bag at first.

The designated hitter is a familiar face, namely none other than North Atrlington. Christian Castro will play second and third when called upon.

“He’s a big, strong kid who can hit,” Voza said. “He doesn’t get cheated at the plate when he swings.”

Castro is headed to New Jersey City University to play in the fall.

Andrew Connor, the impressive Nutley senior, is the team’s centerfielder. He’s also the team’s No. 3 hitter in the lineup.

“He’s a good baseball player,” Voza said. “He does everything well. He’s not going to blow you away with his talents. He’s just going to do everything.”

Matt DeMarco, the current Lyndhurst senior, is the team’s right fielder.

“I played Little League baseball on the same team with his father,” Voza said. “So I know Matty well. He has a good arm in right and has a little bit of potential with the bat.”

Max Vigliotti, who is another Lyndhurst High junior, is getting some quality time in the outfield.

“It should be a very interesting season,” Voza said. “I think we have a good team. We’re going to compete. We offer a unique brand of baseball.”

It’s a brand of baseball that should make the summer more exciting for baseball fans in the area.

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”