A little over a month ago, St. Peter’s Prep senior baseball standout T.J. Ward had the proverbial world on a string.
Ward, the 2013 Hudson Reporter Player of the Year who batted .430 with 34 hits, four homers, 28 RBI, and 31 runs scored last season, leading the Marauders to a 26-4 record and the Hudson County Tournament championship, had his future all mapped out. He was headed to Temple University on a scholarship. It was cause for celebration.
However, last week, those plans all came to a crashing halt, when Temple announced that it was eliminating seven intercollegiate sports, including baseball.
Suddenly, just like that, Ward was on the outside looking in.
“I had zero idea,” Ward said. “A friend of mine saw it on the Internet about an hour after it was announced. I called an assistant coach there and he confirmed it.”
Ward now didn’t have a scholarship at a time when most schools had already doled out their full allotment of baseball scholarship monies.
“It’s going to be rough to find some sort of offer,” said Ward, who already began the process by calling the schools that were interested in him before he committed to Temple. “I have to see what’s going to happen.”
Ward said that he had spoken with New Orleans, Hartford, Long Island University-Brooklyn, and the University of Pennsylvania after receiving his official release from the letter of intent he signed with Temple.
There is one thing working in Ward’s favor: His academic standing is impeccable and he had already received some academic scholarships.
However, Ward is still a little shell shocked about the entire situation.
“It’s crazy,” Ward said. “I’m still kind of in disbelief. I loved Temple so much. I was really excited to go there. It had everything I wanted. Now, I have to go find a new school. Once I thought I got the scholarship to Temple, everything was all set. Now, I have to do it all over again.”
There’s another sad part to the saga.
“I just bought about $300 worth of Temple gear to give to my family for Christmas,” Ward said….
Hudson County football lost a true legend last week when Gene Pagnozzi passed away at the age of 66.
Pagnozzi, a member of the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame, spent most of his life as a teacher and administrator at Memorial High School, eventually retiring as a vice-principal three years ago.
But Pagnozzi, who was an All-State lineman at North Bergen High School, one of the first Bruins ever to receive the honor, earned his reputation as a great head coach, eventually coaching at Marist for nine years, leading the Royal Knights to the school’s lone football state title in 1994.
Pagnozzi was also an assistant coach at Fordham University and was the head coach at Paramus Catholic before taking the Marist job. He helped hundreds of kids during his days as a coach, teacher and administrator and even went out of his way to help other coaches, like Lincoln’s Robert Hampton, during the Lions’ state playoff run of 2010.
“I called him Hemingway, because he had that white hair and white beard,” Hampton said. “He was a huge help developing our defense in that state championship runner-up team. He personally mentored me on schemes and personnel. When we lost to New Providence, I think he cried harder than me. He was a good man with a big heart and a great coach.”…
Believe it or not, the high school basketball season tips off this week. There’s no time in between the football and basketball seasons, but we will have previews of some of the top teams in the county next week to coincide with the opening of the boys’ and girls’ basketball seasons…
If anyone is interested in becoming a baseball or softball umpire, the Hudson County Umpires Association will begin its cadet program beginning Jan. 6 at the Jersey City Education Association headquarters on Seaview Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard. For more information, contact Mike Lynch at (201) 437-3381 or Karl Esposito at (201) 988-8412…
The Great Hagueini finally had his playoff prognostication streak snapped when Hoboken won. The Red Wings’ thrilling win pushed Hagueini’s 2013 record to 15-1, an all-time high. The crystal ball was obviously crystal clear this year, except for the final game. Somewhere in the great beyond, legendary Hoboken fan George Maguire is saying, “I told you not to pick against Hoboken.” Some thick skulls never learn…
Final Hudson Reporter H.S. Football Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (10-2). 2. Union City (8-3). 3. Hoboken (9-3). 4. Lincoln (9-2). 5. North Bergen (5-5)…--Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.