Major League Baseball’s RBI (Rebuilding Baseball in the Inner-City) program isn’t limited to just baseball and just boys.
The RBI program also includes softball - and Jersey City has a very good team at that.
For a second straight year, the Jersey City RBI softball team is headed to the RBI World Series. Last year, the group went to Los Angeles for the tourney. This year, after winning the Northeast Regional championship, the Jersey City RBI team is in Jupiter, Florida for this year’s World Series, featuring eight of the best softball teams in the nation.
Not a bad way to spend a summer vacation.
“Last year, I think the team was just happy to go,” said David Majewski, the St. Dominic Academy head coach who has headed the RBI program for the last two years. “This year, we have eight kids back from last year’s team and this team wants to win. They are so dedicated to the workouts and practices. We also have four girls who have already played in college, so that experience and leadership is incredible.”
Majewski said that winning the regional title and earning the all-expenses-paid right to play in the World Series in Florida is a unique experience for many of the Jersey City team’s players.
“I don’t think a majority of the kids ever had something like this happen to them before,” Majewski said. “Some have never traveled outside of this area before. It’s all new to them. It’s great to see their excitement about getting a chance to travel together.”
Majewski’s St. Dominic teams have traveled together, but this team features only three of Majewski’s regular Blue Devils. The roster is comprised with a smorgasbord of talented performers from all of Hudson County’s top programs and features many players who were once honored as Hudson Reporter All-Area players.
After winning the RBI Northeast Regional title in Hoboken last week, the team went in unison to Yankee Stadium to receive their championship banner on the field.
“It was very exciting,” Majewski said. “Any time you can get a chance to be on the field at Yankee Stadium is a thrill. I think when we stepped on the field, you could see the girls look around in amazement and say, `Hey, this isn’t exactly Pershing Field.’ I think they all feel like this has been the chance of a lifetime.”
Leading the way for the Jersey City RBI softball squad is pitcher Carla Arismendi, the two-time All-Area honoree from North Bergen High who has been nothing short of brilliant for the team this summer.
Arismendi has not allowed a single run in 20 innings of work for the Jersey City squad and has struck out 42 batters during that stretch.
“She’s really been outstanding,” Majewski said. “Carla’s done everything we’ve asked of her and more.”
Former two-time All-Area performer Raquel Roder, the former Hoboken High standout now playing at William Paterson University, is Arismendi’s back-up on the mound.
“Raquel is a solid No. 2 pitcher,” Majewski said. “She’s an incredible athlete.”
Roder has been the team’s starting centerfielder and has been tearing the cover off the ball. In the regional championship game, Roder had three hits and drove in five runs in a win against Boston.
“She’s also running around the entire outfield and catching everything,” Majewski said of Roder. “She’s really done a lot for this team.”
The catcher is former North Bergen standout Johanna Gonzalez, another former All-Area honoree. Gonzalez is currently playing at Felician College.
Current St. Dominic slugger Erica Rolek, another member of the Reporter All-Area collection, is the first baseman. Second base duties have been shared by Melba Medina of Hoboken and Daniella Bello of County Prep.
The slick fielding shortstop is Priscilla Camacho, a County Prep graduate who now plays at Moravian College in Pennsylvania. Current County Prep product Mackenzie Bordenabe is the third baseman.
Daliana Perez, another product of the County Prep program who is currently at Bloomfield College, is the left fielder, with Roder in center and Hoboken’s Stephanie Tuzzo in right. The designated hitter has been Jovanique Meneses of High Tech, who delivered nine hits during the regional tournament.
“Jovanique has been incredible at the plate,” Majewski said.
The reserves include Stephanie Bolger and Jamie Leale of St. Dominic Academy and Casey Perez, a Jersey City native who attends the Academy of the Holy Angels in Bergen County. Perez is lightning quick and has served as the team’s courtesy runner.
The team’s assistant coaches are Gary Frazier, Chris Majewski (David’s brother) and Toni Ann Bordenabe.
Majewski’s team boarded a plane for Florida Monday morning and the games will begin this week. Last year, the team went 1-4 in Los Angeles.
“We’re hoping for better results this time,” Majewski said. “It’s going to be better this time, because we have a bunch of girls who have experienced it before. The key will be the experience. That’s going to be the difference. But this has been an incredible amount of fun for all of us. I think the girls’ excitement and exuberance just rubs off on everything we do.”
The Jersey City team was paired in the same pool with Cleveland, Houston and Puerto Rico and will square off with those teams before entering the championship round later this week. Needless to say, Major League Baseball’s RBI program has accomplished a few things for local kids this summer. It gave kids a chance to play, it gave them a chance to travel and it provided them memories to last a lifetime.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.