Carmine Conti Jr. fondly recalls the days when his father, downtown Jersey City legend Carmine Sr. was the heart and soul of Little League baseball in Hudson County.
“My father had an impact on a lot of kids,” said the younger Conti of his father, the Hudson County Hall of Famer and long-time District 7 Little League administrator who passed away in 2002. “He loved to see kids make it through the ranks and become successful.”
The younger Conti even played Little League baseball under his father’s watchful eye in the storied Downtown Little League back in the 1970s, at a time when Downtown was the dominant Little League program in the county.
So after Carmine Sr. passed away, there was a void missing at the top of the District 7 administration.
“Our family put in a lot of years to District 7, building up the District,” Conti, Jr. said. “When I came back, I saw a lot of the familiar faces, the good people. I wanted to be able to continue the legacy started by my father.”
So now the younger Conti holds the position his father once held.
And these days, it’s a tougher task to handle. There are not just one or two tournaments to oversee. District 7 Little League is a flourishing, ever expanding organization, covering kids from all over Hudson County and also now including Elizabeth.
“We have 15 charters covering 12 leagues,” Conti, Jr. said. “In our district, we have 123 games between baseball and softball. We have over 3,000 kids playing baseball and softball in the district. We have the largest softball program in the state right now. I’m very proud of it.”
The All-Star tournaments are all going strong right now.
The most popular being the 11-and-12-year-old All-Star tourney, the one where a local team could actually make it to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. in August.
It’s happened before. West New York sent teams to the Little League World Series in 1966 and 1967. Roberto Clemente Little League of Jersey City won the state title in 1988.
In recent years, North Bergen South won the District 7 title in 2008 and went to the state tournament in Bergenfield. Last year, West New York American won the District 7 championship and went to the state tourney in Mercerville.
So Hudson County and District 7 have enjoyed great success over the ages in the Little League tourney.
The 11-and-12-year-old bracket is down to eight teams currently, all participating in a double-elimination tourney, with the two finalists facing off at Hoboken Thursday, July 14 at 7 p.m.
Currently Hoboken and defending champion West New York American are alive in the winner’s bracket, along with Elmora and Elizabethport of Elizabeth. North Bergen South, Washington Park, Roberto Clemente and North Bergen North are all competing in the loser’s bracket.
The winner of the District 7 tourney will move on to the Section 2 championships which will be held in Hoboken beginning July 18. The winners of District 5, 6, 7 and 8 will all converge in the Mile Square City for the right to go to the state tournament, held this year in Monroe beginning July 28.
The 9-and-10-year-old All-Star championship game will be held this weekend in Secaucus.
There are also Junior Baseball (ages 13 and 14), Senior Baseball (ages 14 through 16) and Big League (ages 17 and 18) championships on tap.
The Jackie Robinson Little League Big League team won the District 7 title and will now head on to the state tourney.
There are also softball tournaments galore. The 11-and-12-year-old District 7 softball championship was captured by Roberto Clemente of Jersey City and that team moves on to the Section 2 tourney in South Hackensack.
The Senior League and Big League state softball tournaments will be held in Bayonne beginning July 19.
Needless to say, it’s a hectic time for Conti and his staff.
“We’re running seven different sites every single night,” said Conti, who Tuesday night was traveling to three different locations himself. “It’s a crazy time of the year and the worst time, but the best time as well. We’re in the heart and soul of the tournament.”
With the heart and soul of the tourney running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
“I’m just happy to be able to keep it all going,” Conti Jr. said. “It’s very rewarding.”
Make sure to check out all the Little League tournament action going on throughout the county. You’ll get a chance to see tomorrow’s local baseball stars today.
EXTRA INNINGS 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 phone at (201) 303-5792, by general mail at 1400 Washington Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, or via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com.
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