But since the Elks Lodge was completely restored and reopened last month, youth baseball coordinator Art Strandberg decided that the headaches were over. It was simple to bring the ceremony back to the Elks, and for good measure, they decided to have the dinner as early as possible after a highly successful season.
"It had been three years since we were in the Elks, and it was great to be back," said Strandberg, who organized the awards presentation for the approximately 250 children who received either a trophy or a jacket for their accomplishments. "It was a little more formal, with the kids all in the same room and the ambiance. It was great to have the dinner there again.
Added Strandberg, "One of my goals was to have the dinner when the season was still fresh in everyone's minds. If you have it earlier, then it's great for the kids. They can enjoy their jackets more and they get to wear them to other events."
Three teams received jackets for winning championships over the summer. Skyline Realty, coached by Dennis Pedersen, was the champion of the Cal Ripken League (ages nine through 12). The Babe Ruth League (ages 13 through 15) was won by the Weehawken Education Association Reds, coached by veteran coach Joe Light.
The Weehawken 9-year-old All-Stars also received jackets for becoming the first team to ever win a Cal Ripken District 6 championship. That team was coached by Strandberg.
Both leagues also gave out individual awards of achievement.
In the Cal Ripken League, Ruben Vaquiro was named both the Most Valuable Player and Batting Champion, while Ian Gruttadauria was named as the Louis A. Ferullo Memorial Sportsmanship Award winner. Kenny Minier was named Rookie of the Year and Jose Arroyo was Most Improved.
In the Babe Ruth League, Walnel Manuel was the MVP, with Gerard Guerrini winning the Batting Champion, Juan Pineda as Most Improved, Edgar Montilla as Rookie of the Year and Alfonso Gonzales as the Ferullo Sportsmanship Award recipient, named after the late councilman and deputy mayor who devoted most of his life to the kids of Weehawken.
In fact, as a fitting tribute, the team, Ferullo's Raiders, won the Weehawken 10-to-12-year-old tournament that had six teams earning trophies. Rod Roderick was the coach of the Raiders.
Strandberg said that an awards night can't happen without the support of Mayor Richard Turner and the Township Council, who were on hand for the event.
"I've been in this town all my life and we didn't have the chances that these kids are getting," Strandberg said. "They're very fortunate and that's a credit to Mayor Turner and the council. They give us all the support we need."
Turner said that it is a no-brainer for the township to have a vibrant and alive baseball program.
"It's essential," Turner said. "You can not undervalue the expression of these kids when they get a jacket or a trophy, recognizing their accomplishments. This was the first big township activity at the new Elks and it was a great night. Everyone was in a good mood and the awards were well deserved by the players."