It’s a feat when one local team is fortunate enough to head to Major League Baseball’s RBI World Series.
It’s another thing altogether when two teams earn the right.
And then, it becomes even more remarkable when the two teams come from the same organization.
That’s what will take place later this month, when two teams from the Jackie Robinson Little League in Jersey City will participate in the annual RBI World Series, a tournament geared toward youngsters from the inner cities.
The Jackie Robinson 15-and-under All-Stars and the older group (18-and-under) will head to Minneapolis in two weeks to compete for their respective national titles.
The 15-and-under team, coached by Dickinson assistant coach Jason Aguiar, earned the right to go to the World Series last week by defeating Passaic, 11-3, in the Northeast Regional final in Springfield, Connecticut.
“Our team has the players we have to watch for the next couple of years,” Aguiar said. “I knew that we had the leadership to win and advance to the World Series. It’s a great experience for these kids. This is the first time any of them have been showcased. They will definitely have success when they get older.”
Leading the team is Julian Gonzalez, who plays baseball for Bayonne High. Gonzalez played varsity for the Bees last season as a freshman.
“He’s our best all-around player,” Aguiar said. “He’s an outfielder and a pitcher. He did everything for us. He’s our go-to guy.”
Gonzalez pitched the title game, allowing just one hit.
Quincy Mitchell, a Jersey City native now playing for Union High School, is another pitcher. Mitchell is a left-hander.
“He’s a crafty lefty,” Aguiar said. “He has a good changeup. He also knows to trust his defense. He is our leadoff hitter and sets the tone for us offensively. We put him in motion and let him go. When he’s on base, he has a good shot of scoring.”
Anthony Klick, also from Bayonne, is another right-handed pitcher who also plays first base.
The pitching staff also features Rhoddy Hernandez of St. Peter’s Prep and Alan Sanchez of Hudson Catholic.
The catcher is Joseph Boyle, a Jersey City eighth grader who handled all the catching duties during the five games of the Northeast Regional.
“He does a good job keeping the pitchers composed,” Aguiar said.
Klick is the first baseman, with Sanchez at second and Hernandez at shortstop. The third baseman is Orlando Pena, who is the team’s best hitter.
“He’s leading the team in hits and RBI,” Aguiar said. “He hit a grand slam against Newark. He’s easily the best player on the team.”
The left fielder is Devin Gomez, who will enter Hudson Catholic in the fall.
Mitchell is the centerfielder with Randy Cruz, another Hudson Catholic freshman, and Robert Estrada of Ferris manning right field. The team also features outfielders Ryan Rzepinski and Matthew Scepkowski.
“This team earned the right to represent the Northeast,” Aguiar said.
The older Jackie Robinson team is coached by former Marist and St. Anthony head coach Ron Hayward, who has taken teams to the RBI World Series in the past.
“I stopped coaching in the RBI for three years, but wanted to come back this year so my son [Elliott] could get a chance to go,” Hayward said. “These kids all know the plan. They’ve been with me for a long time.”
The Jackie Robinson RBI All-Stars went up on Paterson, 7-1, in the championship game, then surrendered the lead.
“That’s when their resiliency kicked in,” Hayward said. “They stayed calm and relaxed and started hitting the ball.”
Jersey City won, 10-7, in eight innings.
“It’s really rewarding for these kids,” Hayward said. “These are my boys, my group. They’ve been with me since they were eight or nine years old. I’m like a big uncle to them, so it’s all fun.”
North Bergen standout Justice Ramirez is the team’s ace pitcher. Ramirez missed most of the high school season due to injury.
“He’s going to do whatever it takes to win,” Hayward said of Ramirez, who will be a senior at North Bergen beginning next month.
The catchers are Carlos Castillo of Marist and Miguel Reyes of Memorial. Jaden Martinez of Bayonne plays first base, with Ramirez and Elijah Olacio of Jersey City at second and shortstop.
Ferris standout Jahi Williams is the third baseman, along with his brother, Jafari.
Snyder’s sensational Bernard Shivers is the left fielder, with Elliott Hayward in center and Julian Moosh of Bayonne in right. Dwayne Sims of Marist is a reserve outfielder, as is Antonio Canales, who also pitches.
“It’s rewarding for the kids,” Hayward said.
And gives them a chance to see another part of the nation, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
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