Belleville will kick off its Hispanic Heritage Month celebration with a softball doubleheader against a team from Puerto Rico — where ballgames are almost as common as warm breezes and palm trees.
A team featuring members of the Belleville Police Department – and honorary member/slugger Mayor Michael Melham – will play the scrappy Puerto Rico Joint Forces of Rapid Action team on Thursday, Sept. 15.
Board of Education President Luis Muñiz and Councilwoman Naomy DePeña will throw out the first pitches at No. 8 School’s Clearman Field at 183 Union Ave. at 6 p.m.
There will also be a DJ, and members of the public are invited to come enjoy the celebration, which is being hosted by Belleville Township, the Belleville School District and the Mayor Michael Melham Civic Association.
Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, is a time to recognize the contributions and achievements of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South Americas.
“In a township where some 48% of our residents are Hispanic, it’s especially important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month,” Melham said. “And what better way to do that than by playing a sport that is beloved by so many of our native countries.”
Police Chief Mark Minichini said the annual doubleheader can be traced back more than two decades. He said it took a short hiatus before returning last year, when the teams split a doubleheader in fierce, yet friendly competition.
The Belleville team will once again be led by Sgt. Juan Lisojo, who was an outfielder on the Rutgers University baseball team under legendary coach Fred Hill from 2009-12. Melham, too, is no slouch, playing baseball for Belleville High during the 1990s.
“We’re hoping for a sweep this year, but it will be tough,” Lisojo said. “They are very competitive and have some very good players. But we’ll be ready for ’em.”
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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.