North Arlington kids show their love of baseball at annual camp

Robert Kairys is a 13-year-old North Arlington resident, headed into the eighth grade at the North Arlington Middle School.

Kairys is also an avid baseball player and fan.

“I like the Mets,” Kairys said. “I like Pete Alonso.”

Good choice, considering the talented Mets rookie is now headed to the All-Star Game next week and the Home Run Derby.

Kairys also wants to become a better baseball player.

“I want to definitely get quicker hands while batting,” said Kairys, who is a catcher/second baseman/pitcher in the North Arlington Babe Ruth league. “I think that will help me be a better player. I like playing baseball a lot. It’s my favorite sport. I just like the game itself. It’s the best sport to play.”

So that’s the reason why Kairys attended the annual North Arlington Vikings Baseball Camp, run by North Arlington High School head coach Paul Marcantuono.

“It’s amazing to have something like this in North Arlington,” Kairys said. “I didn’t have to drive for an hour to get better in baseball. I just came here.”
Here was Rip Collins Field, where a handful of avid baseball players convened last week for the camp.

Connor Reylance was another of those avid players who attended the camp. Connor is also 13 years old and an eighth-grade student at the North Arlington Middle School.

“I like playing baseball a lot,” Reylance said. “It’s my favorite sport.”

Connor is also a Mets fan who admired recently retired third baseman David Wright.

“I like the big plays in baseball,” Reylance said. “There’s nothing like the big plays.”

Reylance offered what he learned at the camp.

“I liked how to throw to the right base from the outfield,” Reylance said. “I’d like to throw the ball harder. I hope to learn something from the camp, so I can improve every time I play, get better a little bit more every game.”

T.J. Roman is a 10-year-old fifth grader from Jefferson School. Roman plays the outfield and shortstop in Little League, but he had a special goal in mind at the camp.

“I want to learn how to pitch,” Roman said. “I want to learn how to throw different pitches.”

Roman is a Yankees fan whose favorite player is Aaron Judge.

“It’s good to have this in North Arlington,” Roman said. “I can just walk down here to the field. It’s a short walk and easy to get here. I don’t have to drive for three hours to have a little bit of fun.”

Nathan Smith is a 13-year-old eighth grader at the North Arlington Middle School. Nolan is a Mets fan, but his favorite player is Colorado Rockies slugger Nolan Arenado.

“I play third base,” Smith said. “I think he’s a very good third baseman.”

Smith also had a goal in mind in attending the camp.

“I want to become a better hitter,” Smith said. “I think that’s important in baseball. You need to score runs. I could be that person that my team can count on to drive in runs.”

Smith also liked the convenience of the camp.

“It was good to have this here,” Smith said. “It’s going to be the offseason soon, so I want to get better. I want to stay in shape for the upcoming season and have fun at the same time.”

Marcantuono was happy to provide a source of baseball learning for the kids of North Arlington. After all, some of them may become one of his players in the future.

“I think that’s the most important thing,” Marcantuono said. “We want to be able to build relationships with them at such a young age. I’ve had some of these kids since they were in fourth grade and they keep coming back. Any time you get the chance to work with the younger kids is great.”
Marcantuono said that the teaching is a little different.

“We try to teach them techniques that they can use now,” Marcantuono said.

However, the development of the relationship between Marcantuono and the youngsters is the most important factor.

“When they walk in freshman year and see me in the gym, they know who I am,” said Marcantuono, who teaches physical education at the high school. “They become a little more familiar with me. I’m also a mentor, which is a great program for our school, so they’re familiar with me and it is an easier transition for them. They know that I’m easy to talk to. Some kids are scared when they come into the school for the first time. These kids know they can rely on me.

Added Marcantuono, “The kids see me and they already have a relationship with me. It’s always good to have things like this for the younger kids.”

Marcantuono also said that the camp gives the kids a heads-up as to what high school baseball is all about.

“They know what practices are like,” Marcantuono said. “They remember when we did a certain drill. They remember things we’ve done. I know the kids and this makes things easier for me down the road.”

And Marcantuono was having as much fun as the campers.

“Any time I’m out here on the field, coaching baseball and teaching kids who want to learn, it’s a blast,” Marcantuono said. “The kids in North Arlington realize how passionate I am about baseball. I’m always here at the field. It’s where I belong.”




The kids of North Arlington were treated once again to the North Arlington Vikings Baseball Camp, held last week at Rip Collins Field. Photo by Jim Hague



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.”