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Crown Jewel of Summer

Those who believe in the cultural and life values that youth sports teach know that youth baseball in particular embodies those timeless values first and foremost. Baseball’s contribution to society has stood the test of time since Alexander Cartright and a group of Team Knickerbocker contemporaries developed the first set of codified rules in 1845.a

 

The words of movie character Terence Mann in Field of Dreams probably say it best…

 

The one constant through all the year, Ray, has been baseball.

American has rolled by like an army of steamrollers.

It’s been erased, rebuilt and erased again.

But baseball has marked the time.

This field, this game is a part of our past.

It reminds us of all that once was good and could be again.

                                                Universal Studios, 1989

No one understood these words or the concepts underlying them better than Louis ‘Coach’ Presutti, founder of Cooperstown Dreams Park (CDP). Beyond that,… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Head Coach Jose Morel

Youth baseball thrives wherever kids play the game in the right way for the right reasons. Just ask Jose Morel, head coach for the Bergenfield Bears youth travel team. Jose believes in helping young ball players to “grow as a unit, to cultivate and grow as a group.” Human development priorities figure greatly into his coaching philosophy, and the 2015 collection of Bergenfield Little League (BLL) All-Stars could not have had better luck in having him as their head coach.

Bergenfield Little League logo (Courtesy of Bergenfield Baseball)

Coach Jose, who hails from the Dominican Republic but grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, has lived in Bergenfield “for about 10 years” and wanted to get involved in youth baseball as a coach from the day he stopped playing. “I like teaching the kids and seeing them learn and grow. There’s no greater joy than seeing a 10u kid hit a ball for the first time.” Which parents do not want their child’s coach to have a philosophy like that?

With Carolina, his wife, he has two children, 15 year-old Andrew and 12 year-old Adela. Both have played in the BLL; Adela plays on the All-Star team that’s making the trip… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Xavier Haskins

At 11 years-old, playing for a 12u All-star team, you might say that 2B-C Xavier Haskins is ahead of his time. Then again, standing at 4’8” and 80 lbs., you might also say that he has a lot of catching up to do. Either way, he makes his mark as a player and a teammate. Like his teammate, Rodolfo Sanchez, Xavier is a little guy who plays bigger than you might expect.

Xavier likes playing “because it’s very competitive and it’s a fun sport.” With Robinson Cano as his favorite professional player, Xavier figures to have that as his motto. He likes Cano “because of his style and he is a great baseball player.”

Robinson Cano, Fluid and Smooth (Courtesy of photos.nj.com)

As smaller players go, Xavier can take a great lesson from recently deceased Yogi Berra, one of the smallest, most successful catchers in MLB history. Yogi stood at 5’7”, only 11 inches taller than Xavier.

His experience in the Northeast Bergen All-Stars and Little League Districts tournaments, and now at Cooperstown Baseball World, has exposed him to “good, talented players” from many different places. That enables young players like Xavier to learn different techniques that he can incorporate… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Ricardo Suero

One of the time-honored truths of baseball is that, unlike other sports, it empowers the weak and humbles the strong. In that regard baseball is an equal opportunity sport: players of every size, shape and physical stature may achieve the same levels of success, provided they work hard enough to attain it.

David Ortiz (Courtesy of gazettereview.com)

The Bears’ Ricardo Suero recognizes the inclusiveness of baseball. He likes playing the game because, “It’s a very fun sport and I love how it includes everyone and anyone.” If that sounds like a heavy insight for a 12 year-old, consider that in the eyes of young athletes, having a teammate on the field – or on the court or on the track, for that matter – requires only that they have the desire and the ability to play. Kids do not stipulate artificial boundaries and criteria; adults can learn a lot from that.

Carlos Beltran (Courtesy of usatoday.com)

The 5 foot, 100 lb. P-2B names David Ortiz, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes as his favorite professional players “because to me they are the best in the MLB.” His MLB idols have important roles on their respective team rosters; Ricardo has an equally… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Rodolfo Sanchez

In competitive sports, smaller players always have to work harder than the bigger players. Standing at 5’8” ‘Rocket’ Rod Laver was one of the shortest players in his sport, but he developed a wickedly powerful tennis serve that few could match when he played. Anthony Jerome ‘Spud’ Webb, standing at 5’6”, not only won an NBA slam dunk contest, but he did it in a league where players’ average height is 6’7”, over a foot taller than Spud stood in his high-tops. Journeyman LHP Bobby ‘The Cat’ Shantz stood 5’6”, played 15 years in MLB and posted a lifetime 119-99 won-lost record, to go with 1,072 strikeouts and a 3.38 ERA. Shantz’ best year came in 1952 when he won MVP in the American League with a 24-7 won-lost record and a 2.48 ERA.

Bobby ‘The Cat’ Shantz (Courtesy of auctionguy.com)

All these ‘undersized’ professionals proved that the size of a player’s heart always supersedes the size of his/her foot, hand, torso, reach or anything else. At 4’11” and 78 lbs. the Bears’ C-2B Rodolfo Sanchez knows the deal. Besides having played in the Bergenfield Little League District tournament, he has also played in the Paramus and Northeast Bergen All-Stars… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Malik Little, Jr.

Anyone who follows baseball has heard the well-known baseball maxim, “Baseball is a simple game; you see the ball, you hit the ball.” Although that quote comes from the 1988 movie, “Bull Durham,” it’s really an extended paraphrase of Pete Rose’s best piece of advice to aspiring young hitters.

Quote from the legendary Pete Rose

Once you get to know Malik Little, Jr. of the Bergenfield Bears, you could almost hear him whispering to himself those words of wisdom from the MLB all-time hits leader. The succinctness of those words resonates loudly with the Bears’ SS-2B-CF-C-P, who participated on Bergenfield’s first-ever youth travel team to Cooperstown. As with Pete Rose’s advice, Malik keeps his observations short-and-sweet, with a minimum of verbiage. When asked why he likes playing baseball, he replies, “Because I love the game.”

Derek Jeter sharing his wisdom (Courtesy of brandonsteiner.com)

His favorite professional players comprise Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, and Yogi Berra. None of his MLB idols could be fairly described as verbose, not even the belated, beloved Yogi. Malik’s reason for choosing them as his favorites comes down to the simple, direct affirmation: “They are all amazing baseball players with many accomplishments.” Right. No long-winded testimonials,… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Luke Beckles

In the universal family of baseball even fierce competitors build friendships that last entire playing careers and beyond. Classic rivals have always formed within the same teams as well as on opposing teams. Many morphed into classic friendships during and after their playing days. Among them, NY Giants’ manager John McGraw and ace pitcher Christy Mathewson, NY Yankees’ manager Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson come to mind. Among players, the NBA’s Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson, and the NFL’s Chuck Bednarik vs. Everybody all carved out a piece of history for themselves.

Matthewson & McGraw (Courtesy of dccrimestories.com)

All bitter rivals on the field, they became and remained close friends off the field. They all left their marks as members of a universal family of sports competitors. In baseball friendships like these happen every season. Luke Beckles, the Bears’ 5’1” 93 lb. P-SS, understands this. He enjoys playing baseball “because it’s a team sport and you can also build friendships for a lifetime.”

Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera formed a virtually unbeatable nucleus of the Yankees’ championship teams of the 1990s and early 2000s. In addition to being part of that family of Yankee greats, Luke names them as his… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Julian Pinto

Of all the Bears players who formed Bergenfield’s inaugural Cooperstown travel team, Julian Pinto sits right up there as one of the true ‘gamers’ on the squad. The 5’1” (make sure to remember that 1”) 99 lb. SS-3B-2B likes playing baseball “because I love sports and team comradeship.” He also likes playing travel games because “I enjoy playing against the best competition.” Yep, spoken as a true ‘gamer.’

Miguel Cabrera: Detroit Tigers Gamer (Courtesy of thesportfanjournal.com)

Julian names Derek Jeter, Joc Pederson and Miguel Cabrera as his favorite players. “They are determined, hard working, and they inspire me to play the game.” Their inspiration seems to be paying off, too, especially based on Julian’s baseball achievements to date.

Julian has played against the “best competition” in the Florida Holiday Classic, and the Georgia Champions Tournament. His team won that Holiday Classic, and he also played on the 1st place Optimist Challenge earlier this year. He played his best game in the “2014 Holiday Classic championship game, where I hit my first-ever home run.”

Joc Pederson: LA Dodgers Gamer (Courtesy of dodgersnation.com)

His goals as a player include “to work harder to improve my skills and get stronger when I move… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: John Gallagher, Jr.

John Gallagher, Jr., comes from a family of baseball lovers. In fact, he likes playing because, “My whole family loves baseball and it’s so much fun to play.” Standing at 5’7” and weighing 107 lbs., the right-handed Bergenfield Little League (BLL) P-C-1B-3B looks too tall to play at the 12u level. That being said, John plays tall, and that says it all.

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (Courtesy of baseball-fever.com)

Speaking of playing tall, John names as his favorite players Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Derek Jeter. “They’re exciting to watch and also class acts who are good for baseball.” He could not have picked a more dynamic group of professional players to emulate.

More than being exciting players to watch, they satisfy John Gallagher’s most important criterion. Among his own goals as a player, John wants “to be a good team leader.” All 3 of his MLB idols have proven themselves as team leaders, if only for the work ethic they bring to the game. Based on his own game accomplishments to date, John Gallagher finds himself on the right track.

Just two weeks prior to his team’s visit to Cooperstown Baseball World (CBW), he went “5-for-8 in a doubleheader… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Jason Ian Viray

As 1st basemen go, Major League Baseball has seen an imposing array of talented players. Just ask Jason Ian Viray. The 5’ 97 lb. P-1B for the 2015 Bergenfield Bears knows that in order to play first base, especially at the MLB level, a player has to play at the top of his game, every game, all the time. Preparation at the lower levels requires practice and proficiency. So, it’s good to hear Jason say, “I love baseball; I want to improve my skills and talents so that one day I can play in the professional league.”

Albert Pujols: MVP Power (Courtesy of maguzz.com)

MLB’s list of highly accomplished, successful first basemen includes the likes of Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Willie McCovey, and Albert Pujols. Any and all of them serve as great role models for aspiring, young players like Jason.

Interestingly enough, Jason names Mike Trout, an outfielder, as his favorite professional player. “He is a great player; I have watched a lot of plays in the outfield, and he is the best player in baseball.” This gives us a better idea of what Jason has in mind when he sees himself developing his skills and talents for the… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Giovani Gomez

Make no mistake, when Giovani Gomez dons his uniform and takes the field, he comes to play. The 5’4” 130 lb. LF-3B-1B-P-C for the inaugural Cooperstown Bears travel team likes playing baseball “because it requires Skill, Attitude, Focus, and Effort.” Although he might not have intended it, his view of the game reflects a common term embedded within it, as well as an important truth about life.

Hard Work: A S.A.F.E. Way to Go (Courtesy of uni-watch.com)

Presumably, in baseball as in life, those four attributes help us pave the way to becoming successful. It’s not surprising, therefore, to know that Giovani names as his favorite professional players Mike Trout, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira, three players who display those attributes each time they take the field. “They are (my favorites) because they always strive to do their best and always give it their all.”

Giovani has played his best baseball to date at Cal Ripken, Hershey Park, Battle of the Bats, and Tag ‘Em tournaments. He learns from seeing “a variety of new techniques that other kids might have (which) I can learn.” He cites his best game to date as one that his team played against neighboring rival… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Carmelo Dube

It’s been said that baseball is a universal family. If anyone personifies that concept, Carmelo Dube would certainly be one of them. He plays baseball “for the love, fun and passion of the game (and) to travel to different towns and meet new people.” Wherever he goes, as long as it’s to play baseball, he feels right at home.

The Captain (Courtesy of justjared.com)

Carmelo finds himself in great company. He names his favorite professional players as Derek Jeter, Roger Maris, and Lou Gehrig. Each contributed to the game in his own way, and each played for the love of it.

The Bears’ 5’11” 131 lb. OF-C especially likes playing tournament baseball because, “I get to travel to different towns and meet new people.” Gregarious to a fault, Carmelo enjoys everything about the game. He just wants to be on the field with his teammates having a great time playing the game he loves.

It might seem unlikely for a 12 year-old, but Carmelo places as high a value on the overall experience of playing youth baseball. The best game he has played is “every game I played in.” For Carmelo, that really says it all. He likes getting trophies,… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Alejandro Penafiel

Team leaders emerge when they are needed. They rise to the occasion when no one else does or can, and they exhibit attributes such as discipline, perseverance, and teamwork. They do not get caught up in or distracted by statistics or personalities, they simply go out and perform and inspire others to do the same.

Alejandro Penafiel plays baseball for the fun of it, “for the love of the sport, and because it has taught me a lot, especially leadership and discipline.” It’s no wonder that Derek Jeter is the professional player he most idolizes. He names Jeter as his favorite professional player “because he was a very respectful team player, dedicated and always showed great sportsmanship.” Derek Jeter demonstrated his leadership every year that he played for the New York Yankees. He wore #2 with great pride and carried himself both on and off the field with dignity and grace. His unselfish, team-centered attitude provides a life lesson that anyone can apply, in the game of baseball as well as in the game of life.

The Captain also knew the value of hard work. Many times during his career he reminded us that he would never have achieved the… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Adela Morel

Adela Morel is not the first girl to play on a boys’ travel baseball team, and she will not be the last. Long before Adela played for her Bergenfield Bears at Cooperstown Baseball World (CBW), Kathryn Johnston, her hair tucked under a baseball cap, posed as a boy, tried out for and made a boys’ Little League team in Corning, New York sixty-five years ago. Playing with the nickname “Tubby” in 1950, she breached a barrier that a year later became a rock-solid rule in the Little League rule book: “Girls are not eligible under any conditions.”

Kathryn “Tubby” Johnston: Then and Now (Courtesy of tubbyjohnston.com)

Twenty-one years passed, during which many more girls played on Little League teams in defiance of the “Tubby” Rule, until lawyers for Maria Pepe challenged it in New Jersey’s Superior Court. Maria Pepe, like Kathryn Johnston and countless others before her, tried out for and made the roster for a Little League team in Hoboken, NJ. That legal challenge led, in 1973, to the Little League dropping its decades-old restriction against female players. If only Adela Morel knew what had to happen over a half-century ago, in order for her to represent her town… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Allan Jasper Viray

You would think that four years spent preparing for anything makes a person as well prepared as possible. Isn’t that why a typical high school curriculum and a standard college undergraduate program last four years each? If so, then AJ Viray has had sufficient preparation to play Little League Baseball.

That’s how long ago the Bears’ 5’2” 102 lb. P-SS began playing the game, at age 8. He has grown to like playing youth baseball because “I like the competition and it is fun.” For a 12 year-old, isn’t that the point?

AJ names Derek Jeter as his favorite professional to watch, because he is “a franchise player, and when he played he played his best.”

Derek Jeter: A Franchise Player (Courtesy of bleacherreport.com)

Judging from his accomplishments to date, AJ plays his best in the heat of competition. As he states, “I like playing travel baseball because it is more competitive than rec.” He already has Little League and Northeast Bergen All-Stars (NEBAS) in his youth baseball resume, along with 2nd place team finishes in the Paramus Tournament and in both his minor league and major league rec seasons.

His best game performance to date came when “I hit… Continue reading

Bergenfield Bears 2015: Andy DeLeon

We have often heard that leaders are not born, but they emerge when the time requires it. Andy DeLeon is one of those players who shows up and steps up when his team needs him the most. Just ask his teammates on any of several championship teams where he has contributed. You could start with his teammates from the squad that won last year’s Paramus Tournament.

Mike Trout: Team Leader, All-Star, MVP (Courtesy of mlb.com)

Andy cites the semi-final in that tournament as his best game to date, because “I threw a 4-inning shutout, hit a home run, a double, and had the game winning hit.” His teammates undoubtedly considered that a leader-type performance as well.

As team leaders go, Andy could not have chosen two better MLB players to emulate than Derek Jeter and Mike Trout. He names them as his favorite professional players “because both are great players and leaders.” Andy would surely not get much argument there.

Derek Jeter: Team Leader, All-Star, MVP, The Captain (Courtesy of iamavig.wordpress.com)

Already in his young baseball career Andy has several tournament experiences under his belt. In addition to playing in local BLL and Paramus tournaments, he has competed on teams… Continue reading

Tanner Klein, Slammers Gonzalez 2015

When, about 1,500 years ago, Chinese philosopher Confucius advised people to “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” he could not have had Tanner Klein of the Slammers youth baseball travel team in mind. Then again, knowing Tanner’s love of baseball, perhaps the great philosopher foresaw more than he let on at the time.

A quote from Chinese philosopher, Confucius (Courtesy of izquotes.com)

To be sure, the present day 5’2” 105 lb. C-P for the Slammers likes playing baseball “because I think that there is nothing better than throwing a kid out at second.” More than likely, no one will ever confuse Tanner with the great ancient philosopher; still, anyone can tell that Tanner certainly enjoys his job.

Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays (Courtesy of cbssports.com)

That fact becomes even clearer when we consider the MLB players he names as his favorites: Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton and Jackie Robinson. He names them “because they are all great players and have a passion for hitting the ball on the sweet part of the bat.”

If passion for the game translates into longevity, Tanner figures to play the game for a long… Continue reading

Julian Hammond, Slammers Gonzalez 2015

Julian Hammond does not mince words. When it comes to playing baseball he explains his reasons straightforwardly and comes right to the point. “I like playing because it’s fun and I’m successful at it.”

Any questions?

Carlos Gonzalez showing his range in the outfield (Courtesy of dodgerthoughts.com)

No one would argue Julian’s point, not unless they would also question why he names Carlos Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw as his favorite MLB players. “I like Carlos because of his talent, style, and success. I like Clayton because he’s a dominant pitcher and the best around.” Gonzalez and Kershaw would no doubt appreciate knowing that a young baseball player of Julian Hammond’s skill level and determination can comfortably refer to them on a first-name basis.

2014 NL MVP, Clayton Kershaw (Courtesy of bsports.com)

Julian has played in “numerous USSSA and Triple Crown tournaments” to go with this year’s Cooperstown All-Star Village Tournament. Needless to say, he’s had fun and been successful everywhere he’s played. He likes seeing “different talent from different states;” no doubt, those other teams enjoyed seeing Julian’s talents and skill level too.

His best game to date “was vs. the Warrior Black; I hit a home run, a triple,… Continue reading

Joshua Miller, Slammers Gonzalez 2015

When a game is on the line the clutch players always want the responsibility placed on them. Reggie Jackson, ‘Mr. October,’ hit postseason home runs – 3 in 3 at-bats on 3 pitches – when his team needed them most. Michael ‘Air’ Jordan defied gravity in more ways than his fans, his teammates, and his opponents, could imagine, when his Chicago Bulls won 5 NBA championships in 5 years. When an upstart league needed credibility against a storied NFL franchise, ‘Broadway’ Joe Namath gave it to them.

Air Jordan (Courtesy of acc.blogs.starnewsonline.com)

Mr. October (Courtesy of realclearsports.com)

When his Slammers travel team needs a sure-handed infielder at the hot corner, Joshua Miller answers the call. Like the clutch players who have gone before him, he has the skill and confidence to do the job. When asked why he likes to play baseball, he replies by saying that “being at the hot corner is my favorite position to play.”

He enjoys watching Nolan Arenado at the MLB level and learns a lot from his favorite professional player. “My favorite position is 3rd and he plays 3rd base.”

He also enjoys playing travel baseball because, “I get to play teams from any… Continue reading

Jake Matheson, Slammers Gonzalez 2015

You can always tell the people who love what they do from the people who just punch a clock. They’re the ones who show up first in the morning and leave last at night. They’re the ones who put in the extra time to do and redo the assigned task in order to get it right. They’re the ones with the fire in the belly, the will to endure hardship, and the capacity to recover from mistakes. They’re the ones with the passion. Jake Matheson is one of them.

Pirates Legend, Bill Mazeroski (Courtesy of pinterest.com)

Jake tells you without hesitation that, “Baseball is my passion (and) I love playing baseball.” Considering that both his grandfathers have spoiled him with games of catch and gifts of baseball cards since he was 2 years-old, it’s difficult to imagine how he would not have developed an unparalleled love for the game.

Keepers of the Keystone

As a player, Pete Rose arguably exhibited the greatest passion for baseball in the modern era. Rogers Hornsby, another 2nd baseman from an earlier time, gave rise to the prototypical, scrappy, undaunted, do-what-it-takes-to-win, middle infielders at that position. Besides Rose and Hornsby, 2nd basemen like Bill Mazeroski,… Continue reading

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