Carmine Conti Jr. has been the administrator for the District 7 Little League All-Star tournaments for the past eight years and has never experienced a year like the current one.
“Right now, we have nine District 7 Tournaments going on,” said Conti, Jr., who has taken over the role that his legendary father, Carmine Sr., held from 1968 until his death in 2002. “We have roughly 600 kids participating in the tournaments. When Dad was in charge, he had two baseball brackets and that expanded into softball. Now, it’s exploded to what we have today with nine. We had more kids than ever participating in our leagues this year.”
Conti, Jr. estimated that there were 4,000 kids throughout District 7 playing Little League baseball and softball, easily the biggest number of participants since the formation of District 7 back in 1961.
That’s enough to keep one guy on his toes throughout the months of June and July.
“I’m fortunate to have a great staff,” Conti, Jr. said. “Rich Rinalli handles all the umpiring and that takes a lot off my plate. John Hennessey, a long-time Bayonne Little League administrator, is my assistant and District 7 safety officer. Between John, Rich and I, we go straight until the end of July. It’s a little hectic, but we’re able to get it done.”
The premier tourney is the 11-and-12-year-old All-Stars, which gives a local team a chance of competing in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
That tournament, a double-elimination setup, is currently in the quarterfinal round, with teams from North Bergen, West New York, Bayonne, and Washington Park of Jersey City still competing.
That tournament will commence next Wednesday and Thursday with the championship round at the newly refurbished Secaucus Little League field. North Bergen South is the defending District 7 champion.
District 7 will be the host of two sectional and two state tournaments this year.
The Section 2 tourney for 9-and-10-year-olds will take place in Secaucus in a few weeks. That tourney brings the four best teams from Hudson, Bergen, and Essex County together to determine the team that will move on to the state tournament.
The Section 2 Junior League championships (for ages 13 to 14) will take place at Diamond No. 10 in Lincoln Park next week.
The two state championships are in softball, where the 9 to 10-year-old girls and the Big League (ages 16 to 18) will take place at Hoboken Little League field.
“It’s very good for the District to get this kind of respect,” Conti, Jr. said. “Last year, we held the Big League state championships at Caven Point. It’s good to show the state that an urban area can host a state tournament.”
Conti Jr. said that there was a concerted effort to get more volunteer umpires and in turn, more participants, over the last few years.
“We wondered why our numbers were going down,” Conti, Jr. said. “So we had a little brainstorming meeting with my brother Andrew and the others and we asked about the competing sports. It always came back to baseball and basketball, that kids still wanted to play baseball. We had to sit down with our leagues and determine how we could develop numbers.”
There were a series of umpiring clinics that brought out more volunteers to call balls and strikes and regular clinics to encourage kids to want to play.
“Once you build the foundation, the rest falls in,” said Conti, Jr., who also made sure that all of the leagues learned about children safety first and foremost.
“All of our leagues participated in the safety courses and took the time to promote safety,” Conti Jr. said. “We are one of the few Districts in the state [20 in all] that have seen the participation numbers go up and we’re proud of that.”
Just as an update, the 11-12 All-Stars will crown their champion next week; the 9-10 All-Star championship game will be played in Hoboken between Washington Park and North Bergen, and the other championships will be held later in July.
In softball, Washington Park has already claimed its first softball championship since 1968 among the 11-12-year-old All-Stars and already defeated Lodi in the first round of the Section 2 tourney in Carlstadt.
The 9-10-year-old title will be played between Bayonne and Washington Park and the senior girls (14-and-15) have already crowned College Little League as District 7 champs and will head to the state tourney in Monroe Township July 24.
You definitely need a scorecard to keep up with everything. But it’s a fun time for Conti Jr. and his organization.
We will certainly have more District 7 Little League news in the weeks to come here in EXTRA INNINGS…
EXTRA INNINGS focuses on the best stories that come from local baseball and softball leagues throughout the area, from Little League action through travel leagues.
If you have any noteworthy information to contribute to the EXTRA INNINGS, feel free to contact Jim Hague by phone at (201) 303-5792, by general mail at 1400 Washington St., Hoboken, NJ 07030, or via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com.
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Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.