Montclair Baseball: Youth teams succeed on every level this fall
Courtesy Ron Gavazzi
by Andrew Garda
While traditional fall sports were going on at the high school level, baseball was still being played at the club and youth level in Montclair, and the Montclair Baseball Softball Club put together a great season.
Close to 250 kids played baseball or softball at all levels, from T-ball to high school age, for the organization, which got through the fall with no COVID-19 positive tests or cancellations.
The Montclair Jr. Mounties competed in the Middle School USABL Fall League and finished with an undefeated season, racking up a dozen wins and the North Championship. The team was led by great pitching, which gave up just 14 runs all season.
Made up of seventh and eighth graders, the Montclair Jr. Mounties program is a bridge to the Montclair High School baseball program.
“This group was a ton of fun to be around. They learned and developed from start to finish. They earned it,” said head coach Ron Gavazzi. “I am very proud of each member of the team, and it was an honor to be their coach. Together they have the utmost potential. I look forward to their future success.”
Along with the seventh and eighth graders, some of the high-school-age players got on the diamond as well.
The Errico Baseball Club Mounties won their division and finished with an overall record of 10-1.
They capped the season by defeating the Rockland Royals 2-0 in the USABL 18U Fall Championship.
The team was led in the win by MHS senior Jeremy Sacks, who threw a complete-game shutout with 14 strikeouts. The offense was led by Robert Van Wagner’s two singles, Sacks’ double, Lawton Granger’s RBI single and Jack Burke’s RBI sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. Van Wagner also scored twice.
Captain Eli Colon called a tremendous game behind the plate, mixing up pitches and keeping Sacks in a good rhythm.
With no spring season in 2020, this fall season gave Montclair High School players another chance to get on the field, though hopefully not their last, as a 2021 spring season is still a possibility.
For MBSC president Brett Winston, it was a matter of taking the precautions that worked on the high school level during this past summer’s Last Dance Tournament, which had teams from all over the state playing, and applying them to youth ball.
Some of it needed to be adapted, of course. The youngest players at the T-ball level, for example, were sorted into pods, and matched up with friends if possible.
“So, you know, little Jimmy, you got to play with little Johnny, and their parents were friends and you’d do, they were socially distancing, hanging out with each other for a while,” Winston said. “So it was between those little clusters and basically at one spot on the field at Edgemont every week. We always had that spot, and [the kids] always had the same two coaches working with them for the hour or so that they were out on the fields.”
At older levels, masks were required on the bench, the umpires weren’t behind home plate and called pitches from behind the pitcher’s mound, and fans had to remain socially distant.
It was the same in softball, though Winston said that the softball teams hadn’t even had a chance to play over the summer, unlike the baseball teams.
He said the MBSC fielded three teams with 40 players total for the program.
At the end of the day, for Winston and the coaches with the program, just getting the kids on the field safely was the biggest goal, and one he was proud they achieved.
“Just to get kids out there doing stuff,” he said. “It’s just a good change of pace, to kind of give the kids an outlet, especially right now. They’re on their computers all day long for school, they have very little interaction with their friends. It was just, it was a really good thing, probably top to bottom, pre-K kids all the way up to the high school kids, to offer that to them. Winning and losing aside, to give them back some normalcy.”