Thistle baseball? No, you’re not misreading that

The Thistle 11U baseball team includes, standing, from left, Kevin Kinsley Jr, Ayden Vargas, Giovanny Arcos, Tyler Boston, Daniel Valle and Asher Carney. Kneeling, from left, Dominic DeSordi, Jon Rocco, Sean Gunby, Justin Morales, Amare Garrett, and Owen Alvarez. The coaches are, standing the rear, from left, Craig Smith, Kevin Kinsley Sr. and Billy Alvarez. Thistle photo

When anyone from Kearny or West Hudson for that matter hears the word “thistle,” two things likely come right to mind — soccer and fish & chips. But that understanding of the word will soon change, especially on the sports end of it all. Here’s how.

About a year ago, two dads were talking in a back yard, thinking about where they could find a baseball travel/club for their two sons. The dilemma was both of the boys played travel soccer on Kearny Thistle United FC — so finding a baseball club that doesn’t discourage multi-sport athletes was proving to be a challenge.

Couple that with the extremely high cost involved in travel/club baseball, it would otherwise force the boys to only be able to choose one sport over the other. That’s when Kevin Kinsley Sr., said: “Why don’t we start our own baseball program?”

Being on the board of directors with Kearny Thistle United FC, Billy Alvarez immediately suggested the idea to the board — and with their approval, Kearny Thistle Baseball was born.

One year later, the 11U program won a USABL championship, recently won a USABL tournament in Carteret, as well as being very highly competitive against just about every known travel/club program they’ve faced.

They are currently led by head coach and Kearny multi-sport athlete Craig Smith.

Smith was born and raised in Kearny and has played soccer with the Kearny Thistle FC Program as well as playing soccer and baseball at Kearny High School. He has also coached youth sports for over 30 years.

Kearny Thistle United FC has prided itself on child development for 50 years. Now they offer and encourage the ability to participate and develop in more than just one sport. The ability to schedule both baseball and soccer has proven to not only be logical, but successful.

“The program cannot thank the people that have made this possible enough and have supported the idea,” Alvarez said. “We are very grateful to Mayor Alberto Santos and especially Recreation Director Ralph Cattafi who without his support, the program would not have local fields to play on. With their support, hopefully the program can continue to grow as we currently have two 11U teams and the demand for 10U & 12U is an immediate goal as there are players currently wishing to be able to play both sports.”

Meanwhile, Kearny Thistle Baseball will be hosting a clinic & tryouts for the upcoming fall season from Aug. 15 to Aug. 19. Information and registration may be found at or, by contacting Alvarez at (201) 424-9784 or Though the team is currently all boys, girls are encouraged to try out, too. Also, there is no Kearny residency required.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.