Township administrator Anthony Iacono said that the Amateur American Baseball Congress (AABC), the governing body that oversees the Koufax World Series, had made sufficient concessions that will enable Secaucus to host the tournament, which features nine of the best 13-to-14-year-old baseball teams in the United States and Puerto Rico.
"Obviously, Secaucus has a reputation for hosting the best tournaments," Iacono said. "Our facilities speak for themselves. If we have a chance to step in and help the AABC in its time of need, then we're glad to do so. Getting a chance to host a tournament like this is a privilege and an honor."
Secaucus has been the host of the District 7 Little League tournament for many years. Last year, the town played host to the New Jersey State Little League championships, entertaining thousands of fans each day of the tournament. It was a rousing success.
"When it comes to baseball, Secaucus' reputation speaks for itself," Iacono said. "We have a proven track record of being a great host to baseball tournaments. It was great the way everyone chipped in last year. We should have the same cooperation again for this tournament."
The agreement to host the Sandy Koufax World Series was reached tentatively on Wednesday when the AABC agreed to shoulder all costs involving lodging for the six teams that will come to Secaucus from outside the area.
AABC New Jersey State President Joe Browne first believed that Secaucus was willing to pick up the tab for lodging. However, Iacono explained that incurring such a cost was not possible.
"Those costs were never put into the budget for this year and we're already six months into the new budget," Iacono said. "It's just not feasible. We don't have an extra $10,000 that we can dish out."
In fact, when it was first believed that Secaucus had to foot the bill for lodging, Iacono was ready to turn down the AABC's request to play the tournament in Secaucus.
"We would have liked to see Secaucus take care of the lodging expenses," Browne said. "But we can work that out."
Secaucus became an option to host the tournament when Jersey City decided to end its seven-year relationship as host. Jersey City officials cited budgetary problems, as well as a facility crunch, with the Board of Education needing to use Cochrane Stadium, the former home of the tournament, for pre-season football camp.
"Jersey City pulling out did leave us in a lurch," Browne said. "They were on, then off, then on again, until they were finally off again. They really left us with no where to go."
Except Secaucus, which was approached by the AABC officials as a possible host community for the first time just a few weeks ago.
Although Secaucus does not have a Sandy Koufax league (for 13-and-14-year-olds) of its own, thereby losing any chance to receive an automatic bid in the tournament as the host, Browne said that at least five of the players to participate with the host squad will be Secaucus residents.
"The host team will be a mixture of Hudson County kids, with at least five coming from Secaucus," Browne said. "We never expected to be looking for a place to play this close to the tournament. Right now, we're expecting it to go to Secaucus."
Some of the early round games might be played in North Bergen to alleviate field problems at Kane Stadium. Iacono said that there are many details that still have to be worked out before a final agreement can be reached. That could be done within the next few days.
But Kane Stadium has been recently refurbished, so the field is in perfect condition. Only a few adjustments would need to be made (like decreasing the distances between the bases and the distance between the pitching mound and home plate, not to mention construct a temporary outfield fence).
Browne believes that Secaucus could actually generate a profit if the attendance is good for the tournament and concession sales do well.
"But we're not looking to make money," Iacono said. "Our Babe Ruth program will run the concessions and they will hope to do good business for their program. I believe getting a chance to host this tournament is a tribute to Mayor [Dennis] Elwell and the Town Council, to recreation director Mike Gonnelli, to Frank Trombetta and his Little League staff and Al Rinaldi and his Babe Ruth staff.
Added Iacono, "Maybe this tournament will do so well that it could lead to expansion and we could bring Sandy Koufax league baseball to Secaucus. We're getting the opportunity to taste some of the success of other tournaments. Maybe this could be a new beginning. It gives us the opportunity to expand in the future."
In its 30-year history, the Sandy Koufax World Series has featured some of the current biggest names in baseball, with Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Matt Williams all getting their collective initiations to big-time baseball in the tournament.
Now, perhaps the major leaguers of tomorrow can tell people that their careers once began in Secaucus.