If you mentioned youth baseball in Union City in the early 1990s, the first name that came to mind was Cassens, who was so desired and wanted as a player that it led to inter-city warfare between Union City and West New York.
But Cassens has followed in the footsteps of his father, Rich Cassens Sr., and has become a youth baseball coach in his hometown.
"I've been coaching kids for about 10 years now," the younger Cassens said.
It's amazing to think that he could be coaching kids for a decade, when the perception is that Richie Cassens is still a kid himself.
"I'm 29 now," he said with a laugh.
Who said time doesn't fly?
Cassens has spent his time recently coaching the Union City team playing in the 15-year-old Babe Ruth tournament, a team that captured the District 6 title two weeks ago and is now competing for a state title at the state tourney being held in Bridgewater.
Union City currently has a 2-0 record in the state tournament, which features the state's eight District champions and puts them in pool play against each other. Union City's game against host Bridgewater was rained out Tuesday night.
This same team is also headed to the Triple Crown Nationals, a tournament that will be held this weekend in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"I had a good sense that this team was going to be pretty good," Cassens said. "They've practically been together since Little League. They constantly play together. They have good leadership skills and want to work hard."
The team is also very talented as well.
"We have good speed at the top of the lineup," Cassens said. "The defense has been terrific. They make all the plays."
Leading the way for the Union City All-Stars is right-handed pitcher Yuendry Ventura, who is a "power pitcher that throws strikes," according to Cassens.
"Yuendry throws from different arm positions and mixes up his pitches well," Cassens said. "He has a good fastball and slider."
The team's No. 2 pitcher is righty Cesar Storm, who also throws hard and mixes up his pitches.
Union City's resident left-hander is Joey Fernandez.
"He's more of a junk ball pitcher, but he gets the job done," Cassens said.
The team's catcher is Reyvis Rivas, who Cassens feels has a very bright future.
"You're going to hear a lot about this kid," Cassens said. "He has great leadership skills and a good work ethic. He's learned a lot this summer. I like the way he plays."
First base duties are shared by Derek Dehaseth and Danny Lopez. The second baseman has a very familiar name. He's Ray Cassens.
"He's my little brother," Richie Cassens said. "He's the team's sparkplug and leader. He's very versatile and can play anywhere."
The shortstop is Willy Taverez, who got a chance to play varsity baseball for Emerson last spring. Taverez has great range at short and has a cannon for an arm.
Ventura plays third base and when Ventura is on the mound, Lopez moves over to the hot corner.
The outfield is manned by Feliberto Gonzalo in left, multi-talented athlete Stephen Calvo in centerfield and Kevin Hewawitharana and Antonio Borgos sharing the right field responsibilities.
Cassens loves the name of his right fielder.
"It sounds like 'He will hit with a runner,'" Cassens said of Hewawitharana.
If that's the case, he has a perfect name for the hit-and-run.
Regardless of what takes place over the next few weeks, Cassens is proud of the way his team has performed.
"It's really unbelievable," Cassens said. "We've been able to put Union City back on the baseball map a little bit. Usually, West New York and Pershing Field dominate things. We've been cellar dwellers. But these kids have come every day and worked hard. It's a great accomplishment and it's the best team I've ever coached. We really have a great ball club."
Here's to hoping that the Union City team can continue to win, both on the state and national levels.
The EXTRA INNINGS weekly feature focuses on the best stories that come from local baseball and softball leagues throughout the area.
If you have any noteworthy information to contribute to the EXTRA INNINGS, feel free to contact Jim Hague by voice mail at (201) 798-7800, Ext. 751, by general mail at 1400 Washington Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, or via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com.
Please include a telephone contact name and number, in order to secure further information for a possible story... - Jim Hague