When Kearny softball standouts Alex Colon and Sara Ryan were looking for a competitive outlet to continue their development this summer, head coach Jim Pickel referred them to Hoboken RBI.
In early August, the Kardinals’ double play tandem as well as North Arlington slugger Jeylene Joza will be heading down to Florida to compete against girls from all over North America.
On July 16, Hoboken RBI defeated rival Roberto Clemente RBI out of Jersey City to win the 2022 RBI Softball Northeast Division Championship at Washington Park in Jersey City.
Hoboken RBI, which is composed almost entirely of girls from Hudson County, will be one of eight regional champions set to compete in the RBI World Series, which will take place Aug. 8-13 at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Florida.
RBI (Revitalizing Baseball in Inner Cities) is Major League Baseball’s initiative to help grow baseball and softball opportunities for inner-city youth. The program, which started in South Central Los Angeles in 1989, is now in 200 cities with more than 150,000 participants each year aged 5-18.
Hoboken RBI has been affiliated with MLB since 2010 and made it to the RBI World Series seven years in a row from 2011-17.
“It’s a big deal for me. It means so much to be able to come from a small town and find a place on this Hoboken RBI team with so many other great girls that come from so many good schools means a lot,” said Colon, a rising senior at Kearny . “I have never been on a competitive team like this before and it’s huge.”
“It has helped me because I see how these other girls play and it makes me want to be better,” Ryan, a rising junior, said. “I’ve seen more competition and new competition than I did during the high school season.”
Ryan, who hit .443 this spring for Kearny, plays second base while also seeing time in right field for the first time. Colon, who drew 17 walks and was hit by 15 pitches this season, splits time between shortstop and catcher.
Neither Colon nor Ryan fully knew what to expect when they started with Hoboken RBI, but quickly fit right in with their new teammates, many of whom they play against during the regular season.
“When we got there we were a little timid and shy. We didn’t know if we were good enough, but since she was by my side, she always made me confident in myself and we pushed each other,” Colon said. “We knew that we were the only girls from Kearny there so we had to stand out.”
“We try to get kids that want to play and kids that want to have fun,” said Hoboken RBI coach Vinny Johnson, who also coaches Hoboken High School’s softball team. “I guess that’s why we get players who want to join our league.”
Joza, who slugged four home runs this season for North Arlington, didn’t have those same concerns. The rising junior, now in her second year with Hoboken RBI, grew up in Jersey City before moving to North Arlington in seventh-grade, so she played with many of the same girls when she was younger.
“I played with a handful of the girls growing up in Little League and on travel teams when I lived in Jersey City,” said Joza, who splits time between second base and both corner outfield spots. “It’s always been a solid group of girls that have followed each other and been on the same team. It’s been a great experience.”
Like Ryan and Colon, Joza is looking forward to the competition that awaits them in Vero Beach in a couple of weeks.
“The competition is definitely going to be different and I think it’s going to make me a stronger player, playing against players from all over the country,” Joza said.
“I knew we could do it,” Ryan said. “It’s really exciting and I know it’s going to be a lot of fun to be there with these girls.
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)