Hudson opens its doors to baseball tourneys
Koufax World Series culmination of month-long welcome mat to area
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the idea of hosting a big-time baseball tournament in Hudson County would have been a complete joke.
Baseball officials from all over the place would have turned up their collective noses with scorn at the simple thought. Traffic woes. Parking problems. Lousy playing facilities. Hey, it's Hudson County. No one actually wants to come to Hudson County. Everyone's waiting in line to get out.
It was readily thought that statewide baseball tournaments had to be played in the country, where the fields were green, the air was clean and the parking was plentiful. Or at least the suburbs, where everything is simply better than it is in the urban areas of downtrodden and disgusting Hudson County, right?
For the past month, Hudson County has been opening its collective doors to statewide baseball tournaments. It's been a constant parade of tournaments and events that have been so expertly run and so well planned out that baseball officials are considering return trips to the area in the future.
Practically every municipality in the county was getting a chance to act as a host to a tournament.
North Bergen hosted the Cal Ripken, Jr. 12-year-old state championships. Secaucus went one step further and played the role of gracious host last week for the Little League 12-year-old state championships, the first time ever that a Hudson County town earned the right to host the Little League state tourney.
Last month, Hoboken was the host to the Connie Mack state championship, which brought the best 16-to-18-year-old baseball players to the Mile Square City. Weehawken was the host for the 15-year-old Babe Ruth state championships.
And this week, the granddaddy of them all, the Sandy Koufax World Series, featuring the best 13-to-14-year-old players in the entire nation and Puerto Rico, makes another appearance at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City. It marks the seventh straight year that Jersey City has hosted the Amateur American Baseball Congress-sanctioned international tournament.
The Sandy Koufax World Series will kick off with opening ceremonies Thursday night, with the tournament continuing throughout the weekend. Already, the Jersey City COBRA Yankees have earned the right to play in the tournament, not only by being the host team, but by also winning the Sandy Koufax state championship last weekend.
Because of that, tournament officials are looking to see if another New Jersey team can enter the World Series.
More than likely, that team could very well be West New York, which means that two Hudson County teams will be vying for the Sandy Koufax World Series crown among the nine-team field.
That would be an accomplishment in itself. In 1997, the last time that Jersey City and West New York both had teams in the Sandy Koufax World Series, record crowds flocked to Cochrane Stadium. Even Comcast came to broadcast watch the game that saw Jersey City and West New York battle long into the night, a game won by Jersey City, 3-2, in 10 innings. AABC officials have stated that the Jersey City-West New York thriller was perhaps the most exciting game ever played in the Sandy Koufax World Series.
With that in mind and the possibility of yet another Jersey City-West New York showdown, it looks as if the Koufax World Series will be another exciting baseball event for everyone to see.
However, think about the accomplishments listed above. Five different Hudson County towns had to roll out their respective red carpets and dust off their respective welcome mats to greet the entire state - and in some cases, the entire nation - all for the good of the sport of baseball.
And all five statewide and national tournaments have taken place within the span of three weeks, within the last month or so.
Each town had to have countless volunteers who were willing to give of their time to insure that each tournament ran smoothly. The North Bergen Recreation Department, headed by good baseball people like Peter Perez and Digger O'Dell, had to make sure everything was top shelf for the Cal Ripken tourney. It's safe to say that Guy McCann, the president of the North Bergen Volunteer Baseball League, which acted as the host, was all over the place with last-minute preparations.
Chris Verdon, Chuck Barone and the people of Weehawken made sure that the Babe Ruth tournament ran without a hitch. The tourney, which ran for the unthinkable 10 days, was such a success that the state Babe Ruth officials want Weehawken to act as the host again in the near future. The Weehawken people continued with their brilliant hospitality, long after their team was eliminated from the tournament. That alone deserves credit.
It's safe to say that Charlie Rozzi and the people at Hoboken's fine recreation department made sure that the Connie Mack tourney was a success, although Hoboken suffered a tough defeat to the hands of West New York in the state finale. Rozzi and his baseball people always run a top-shelf baseball program. What Rozzi and his contingent do is almost taken for granted, because the event program so well run and has been for so long.
Frank Trombetta, Dave Rehbein and the people at Secaucus Little League definitely had one of the toughest tasks at hand, trying to accommodate four teams, thousands of fans and major media outlets, for the state Little League championships last week. Believe me, hosting the state Little League tourney is no small task, with all of the requirements that the state Little League place upon the hosts.
However, everyone involved with the tournament raved at the way the entire event was run and gave major praise to the people of Secaucus for pulling it off without a glitch.
Now, it's Kevin Lyons, Ed "The Faa" Ford and new recreation director Bob Hurley's turn to do the same in Jersey City, to run a top-flight tournament that can make everyone proud.
Jersey City has a lot of experience now, when it comes to the Koufax World Series, so it should run very smoothly.
But five big-time baseball bonanzas right within the humble confines of Hudson County. It was once downright unthinkable, beyond imagination.
Obviously, not anymore.
To all of those who acted as gracious hosts to these youth baseball tournaments over the past month, from the chief organizer down to the last ticket taker and hamburger flipper, take a bow. You did a job well done.