Category: Baseball

Entire Edison community mourns the loss of much-beloved youth sports leader “Mr. G”

The “G” might as well have stood for Giant, because that’s what he was to thousands of kids who grew up playing youth sports in Edison for the better part of three decades.

Forget Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. Last Thursday, January 13th, 2022 might as well have been “The Day The Music Died” for anyone who played baseball or football as a child in the 1970s, 1980s, and most of the 1990s.

That’s when the man they all know as “Mr G” – William Giampolo – passed away at the age of 82.

Mr. G coached the Edison Falcons and Jets of local youth football fame. He led the Edison Boys Baseball League from 1973 to 1998, a quarter-century run that saw great growth, including an achievement that stands to this day, the development of the baseball complex along Suttons Lane near the Highland Park border.

Everyone who pulls up their stirrups this Spring – whether for the high school Eagles or Hawks, or the youngest slammin’ tee-ball player – owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. G, whether they ever met him or not.

He was instrumental in the Edison Youth Sports Council, back when long-time six-term mayor Tony Yelencsics ran things.

The line is sure to be out the door Friday at Runyon-Costello Funeral Home in Metuchen, where services will be held from 4-8 pm, and again Saturday from 9:30 to 10 am. People in line who might never otherwise have met each other will trade stories about Mr. G., realizing their shared expereinces, even if they were 20 years apart.

To find out more, and read the full obituary, click here.

Brian Calantoni, current President of the Edison Boys Baseball League, wrote to Central Jersey Sports Radio about Mr. G:

“It is with sadness and regret that we announce the passing of a legend. Mr. William J. Giampolo has passed away. Mr. Giampolo was president of Edison Boys Baseball League for many years. Mr. G was the type of man every man aspires to be. A family man, a businessman, a man of the community. Cared about morals, rules, and traditions and passing them down. He’s the reason why most of us coach and volunteer. He was our coach and our leader from a young age and he was there for many generations. Thanks to him we have a place to play, he secured B Field at Suttons Lane for EBBL. He was the one who was on the youth sports council dealing with Mayor Yelencsics. Everything was for the kids. Everything we have at Edison Boys Baseball is because of him. He was a Godlike figure growing up. Coaching baseball, coaching football, president of the league… The man who got the most respect in town, and that never changed! Mr. G paved the way for all of us. He made the blueprint on how to run a youth organization and we followed. He is the reason that us kids volunteered when we get older. The reason why we had such a great experience was because of him and his ideas and his leadership. But the truth thanks, goes out to his family. To his wife, to his children, to his grandchildren. Thank you for lending him to us and for allowing him to make a difference in all of our lives. He is a man that will be emulated but never duplicated. The world lost a great human being but he will be remembered forever. Thank you Mr. G for everything you did for us. Condolences to the family. Mr. G was “Dependable”, the most “Dependable” man ever! We love you!!!!

Click below to hear Coach Calantoni talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio about the legacy of Mr. G:

coronavirus

Latest NJ Department of Health recommendations likely won’t shut down high school sports this winter

It’s one line in a two-page document released on New Year’s Eve by the state Department of Health.

The document is an update for K-12 schools, regarding isolation and quarantine “timeframes and recommendations for very high COVID-19 activity levels.”

After highlighting the key points about the current surge of COVID cases, and CDC guidance, it adds a number of its own recommendations, reinforcing older ones, and introducing two new ones.

The third item – highlighted in bold, because it’s new – suggests that K-12 schools with high COVID activity “limit participation in extracurricular activities to those students and staff with up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination.”

Currently, COVID activity in New Jersey is at “very high” levels in all 21 counties.

If followed, it would essentially kick anyone who is unvaccinated off a basketball, bowling, diving, fencing, ice hockey, skiing, swimming, track and field, or wrestling team this winter.

And while that seemingly could potentially shut down a whole lot of teams, it’s not likely.

Central Jersey Sports Radio reached out to a handful of boys’ and girls’ basketball coaches Thursday to see what their teams’ vaccination status was. It’s a mixed bag. Some are mostly vaccinated, some half or a little bit less.

But by and large, in the midst of those conversations, the overwhelming concern on the minds of coaches and athletic directors alike appears to be more along the lines of: “How do we make this normal for the kids? And how do we reschedule these games we missed?”

Of the 20 girls and boys basketball teams in Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten rankings that came out on Monday, eleven had been shutdown over the Christmas break.

“Nobody knows what to schedule or not and nobody wants to get popped for playing too many games,” said one coach. The NJSIAA allows schools to play a maximum three games per week, and not on three consecutive days, with one four-game week permitted.

Last year, in a shortened season, that rule was relaxed to allow two four-game weeks after the double whammy of COVID and frequent snowfall cancelled games left and right. And, of course, there’s only been one major snowfall this season, and it’s only the first week of January.

The NJSIAA has not announced any similar relaxation or other ways to mitigate what could be another one-two punch, and it’s not known if any plans to that end are in the works.

But there’s one thing the NJSIAA is not doing: mandating athletic departments to follow the recommendations from the Department of Health. And, of course, they are only recommendations.

NJSIAA Spokesman Mike Cherenson provided Central Jersey Sports Radio with a brief communication the association sent to its member schools the day the DOH released the new recommendations. It alerted schools to the recommendation, as well as a second new one that suggested “COVID-19 screening testing of students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, twice weekly for participation in all extracurricular activities.”

It’s unclear how many districts are doing just that, especially with a tests in high demand since before the holidays.

But the NJSIAA went on to say in its communication to member schools that the final decisions are up to each district. That’s been its line of thinking going back to last year, when a few districts opted out of fall sports, most notably Carteret and Piscataway in our coverage area.

It goes on to say: “Please note that these new recommendations from the State do not change NJSIAA policy with regard to participation in interscholastic sports: participation continues to be a local decision, to be made by schools in consultation with their local health officials. Neither the Governor nor state health officials have asked the NJSIAA to change this policy.”

As you count down to the New Year, here are the Top Ten stories of 2021 on Central Jersey Sports Radio

Top Ten lists are king. Ever since the first David Letterman Top Ten on the original “Late Night” on NBC, they’ve been funny, entertaining, and – when it comes to sports – a great source for debate.

There’s not much debate to be had here, though. We’ve compiled the Top Ten stories of 2021 – our first full calendar year of operation on Central Jersey Sports Radio – with the most read and listened to stories on our website. Read by you, the fans!

All these stories are about the teams, schools, student-athletes, and great plays that made 2021 special. Some are combined when written about the same subject. Click on each heading to read and listen to the original stories. Enjoy!

10) No. 5 Old Bridge routs South Brunswick as Hunter, Haughney star

Old Bridge players take the field for pre-game warmups at South Brunswick on September 17, 2021.

Sometimes, it’s not a game-winning hit, touchdown or basket that makes a good story. Sometimes, it’s just a old-fashioned football game. For whatever reason, that was the case with our tenth-most read story of 2021, a win for Old Bridge football over South Brunswick from early this season. Lawrence Hunter III was the Autoland Player of the Game, and Owen Haughney figured prominently in the win as well. Listen to postgame reaction from Hunter and head coach Anthony Lanzafama with CJSR’s Tim Catalfamo.

9) Old Bridge finally wins a close one, in a big spot

Seniors on the Old Bridge baseball team pose before their 2021 Senior Night.

Another Old Bridge story, this time baseball. The Knights were having a rough season, but still in the state tournament. With a 7-17 mark, they had lost ten games by three runs or less, and four by one or two runs. That is, until the opening round of the playoffs, where 12th-seeded Old Bridge knocked off 5th-seed South Brunswick, behind solid performances from two sophomores: Justin Herbstman and Thomas Papeo.

8) “Walk ’em off Spotswood!” Lewandowski’s double off the wall lets Chargers keep Commanders’ Cup trophy another year

Spotswood holds the Bill Thompson Memorial Commander’s Cup Trophy after a 6-5 walk-off win over East Brunswick on May 19, 2021. It was the Chargers’ fourth straight win in the series.

Spotswood High School – my alma mater, for full disclosure, Class of 1996 – has always had that underdog mentality. Baseball coach Glenny Fredricks just brings it to another level, and he has a bunch of scrappy guys to prove it. There’s no fear in this small Group 2 school going up against a Group 4 like East Brunswick year after year after year, for what they call the “Commanders’ Cup.” In 2021, Spotswood won their fourth straight in the series, thanks to a walk-off off the wall by Tyler Lewandowski.

7) National recruit Davison Igbinosun of Union says Farmers are “heartbroken” over playoff cancellation, vows to keep fighting

Union senior CB Davison Igbinosun (source: Twitter)

COVID didn’t nearly have the effect on the 2021 high school football season that it did in 2020. Sure, games were cancelled, but not in an amount even closely approaching what happened the season prior. That did nothing to comfort Union, which had one of its most talented teams in school history, and was the odds-on favorite to win North 2 Group 5, and maybe even go all the way to win the North 5 regional championship. Then, COVID hit a few members of the team, the Superintendent shut down the season, and four-star national recruit Davison Igbinosun and his teammates became vocal to try and save their season. It didn’t work, but we helped give him and his teammates a voice, and Igbinosun represented them with class and dignity.

Click here for additional coverage with Union head coach Lou Grasso, Jr.

6) Loaded North Brunswick aiming high behind Garbolino and Co.

North Brunswick junior QB Frankie Garbolino

Coming off a 7-1 season, with an experienced junior quarterback and a talented ensemble cast returning, North Brunswick entered the 2021 football season with high hopes. They might have been achieved if not for a once-in-a-lifetime-talented Hillsborough squad, which they met twice – once in the regular season finale and once in the playoffs. Hear Frankie Garbolino and head coach Mike Cipot talk about the 2021 team, in our most-listened to preview story of ’21.

5) Somerville’s dynamic duo – Cookie and AJ – taking divergent paths after H.S., with big hopes for the future

From left to right, Somerville RB Cookie Desiderio, head coach Dallas Whitaker, and DE A.J. Pena pose with their commemorative footballs honoring their CJSR Player of the Year picks, and Somerville’s Team of the Year award for 2020.

They were two of the most dominant football players in the Big Central – maybe even the state – in the COVID-shortened 2020 season: runningback Cookie Desiderio and defensive end A.J. Pena of Somerville. The “Cookie Monster” scored almost every time he touched the ball (every 5.8 carries, in reality, but who’s counting) and A.J. loved “making quarterbacks cry,” which he did 12 times in seven games. They were named CJSR’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, but in the strange world of extra college eligibility and the FCS season being moved to the Spring – neither got the D1 offers they deserved.

4) Who’s the strongest team in the Big Central? Here are the league’s SI ratings heading into 2021

Phillipsburg was the “strongest” team in the Big Central heading into 2021, according to the NJSIAA’s Strength Index.

Yes, sometimes even true numbers, purely mathematical, can stir debate. And such has been the case since the NJSIAA revamped its playoff formula in 2018, initially using the Born Bower Index, and since 2019 using its own formula, loosely based on the BPI. It uses the OSI, or Opponent Strength Index, but needs the strength value of each individual team to calculate. So, we simply compiled the numbers for all the Big Central and published them. Not everyone may be a fan of our extensive knowledge of the system – it can be a dull read at times – but we do have many fans of this kind of thing, apparently. And we’re sure a good number of them are coaches, too, from both inside and outside the conference, as we’ll frequently get calls and texts asking “Where do you see us ending up?”

3) Listen to Bobby Ulmer talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about his walk-off grand-slam

Bobby Ulmer, Jr., live on the CJSR postgame, talking about his dramatic walk-off grand slam.

Kids dream of this kind of stuff, acting it out in their backyards. Bases loaded, two outs, last inning, two strikes, grand slam to win the game. Bobby Ulmer, Jr., of Middlesex lived it. His walk-off grand slam in the Group 1 semifinals sent Middlesex to the state title game, where they would win again in walk-off fashion, albeit in 13 innings on a seeing-eye single by Mark Geist. Ulmer’s moonshot in the team’s last home game of the year was as dramatic as they come.

Bonus coverage: Middlesex gains Group 1 final on Ulmer’s dramatic, walk-off grand slam

2) Big Central releases All-Division Teams

It doesn’t always have to be a Top Ten list that inspires debate, or at least inspires people to go to your website. Simply honoring student-athletes is a big draw. So a list recognizing all the outstanding football players in the Big Central Conference in 2021 – all-division teams chosen by the league’s head coaches featuring 384 players in toto – brought readers out in droves.

1) He brings the water bottles, and the excitement. And he wants to help bring Greg Schiano and Rutgers a national championship

Edison senior Raymond Taub wants to be a team manager for Greg Schiano at Rutgers.

This may be one of our most favorite stories – if not, favorite interviews – ever. I can’t really tell you how we first came to know about Raymond Taub – that’s an entertaining story just for a few of us to know – but suffice it to say, he’s an awesome kid. He’s the autistic, well-loved-by-everyone manager of the football team, keeps meticulous pitch counts for the baseball team, and is the Eagles’ biggest fan. He also may be the biggest Rutgers fan out there, and his Senior Night “goal” was to become a manager with the Scarlet Knight football team and “help Greg Schiano win a national championship.” He’s a little busy right now, but someone bookmark this story for him when he gets back from Jacksonville in 2022, will ya?

Will we make it to the end of H.S. Basketball season? Newest proposal in Trenton might save the day

It’s been great to be back. High school football in the fall of 2020 had minimal fins, but there were still bands, and it had a good atmosphere. And by Spring, with baseball outdoors, everything felt normal.

But high school basketball is not the same without fans, which is what was the case for a good part of last season, until parents were allowed back in, with limited capacities.

This year, it’s been much more fun. Our first games of the year on Central Jersey Sports Radio saw a very talented Rutgers Prep girls team that is a favorite to contend for the last-ever Tournament of Champions title play in front of a few hundred fans at Franklin, then Bound Brook hosting Somerville from right down the road in a gym where, even though it was about 80-percent full, my broadcast partner Justin Sontupe and I could hardly hear each other.

Yes, it’s been great to be back. But how long will it last?

Talking to coaches and athletic directors, and reading the news, there’s a very tentative vibe around high school hoops right now. Some teams have been shut down. Timothy Christian may be out for a bit. St. Joseph-Metuchen had more than a half-dozen players out for COVID-related issues (that’s the now-famous “hedge” when a player may not have COVID, but was in the general vicinity of someone who did, or may be suspected of having it). There are many others who’ve had a player or two out here and there.

Some worry we may not even get to finish this season. What if too many teams have it? How will it affect the county and NJSIAA Tournaments, where there’s little wiggle room for rescheduling when games are every other day?

The NHL has paused with COVID cases running rampant. The pros won’t be in the Olympics, either. And Rutgers basketball is going to have a lengthy shutdown, too, costing the Scarlet Knights at least a couple of games, if they can’t be rescheduled.

The optimist might say that if everyone is vaxxed and only has mild symptoms, once they get through it, maybe they won’t be affected the rest of the year. And that’s possible.

But a piece of legislation in Trenton could be the savior of the basketball season.

Maybe you’ve read about the “test and stay” or “test and return” program the state is working on for schools. Of course, the impetus here is to not interrupt students’ education, but it could benefit high school sports this winter as well.

The idea is that for unvaccinated students who are close contacts with someone confirmed to have COVID in schools, they must quarantine for up to two weeks, with no option to “test” out of it. Even if they test negative, they can’t shorten that quarantine period.

But whether its Omicron or Delta, as cases skyrocket in New Jersey and across the country, that’s putting a lot of kids back into remote learning, although it’s really “self-learning.” In my home district in Hillsborough, teachers aren’t doing lessons on line. Rather, they have to learn for themselves and complete the work on their own. That’s even worse than when districts were in hybrid mode at the end of 2020 and for the vast majority of 2020-21.

“Test and stay” would allow students exposed to a COVID case to take a series of rapid tests over several days before arriving at school, with no need for quarantine, as long as they have no symptoms. If they’re clean, they’re in. If they test positive, they get back in the car and go home.

President Biden has advocated for such programs, already in use in states like California, Illinois, and Massachusetts. The CDC has now recommended such a policy. Democratic State Senator Troy Singleton of Burlington wrote the Murphy administration a letter urging it to adopt the practice. And on Monday, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli confirmed the state is working with school nurses in some districts to get “test and stay” programs running as early as January, when students come back from break.

It seems to be a common sense approach, as some parents are more reluctant to get their children vaccinated – especially younger ones – than they were to get themselves vaccinated.

The entire Rutgers basketball team was fully vaccinated, and so was the coaching staff. Yet here they are in a COVID shutdown as it runs through the Scarlet Knights like a fast break. So whatever facts you decide to listen to, there’s proof positive in right in Piscataway that vaccinations are not foolproof.

Even the jabbed can get it and spread it.

Testing is the common sense move. It still may not be foolproof, but if a student has no symptoms, and COVID can’t be detected by a test, that’s really the safest way to conduct the business of education and make sure no one gets left sitting at home with their books, or their basketball.

Fledgling New Brunswick women’s football team provides opportunities for camaraderie and empowerment, and they’re seeking new players

The following is sponsored content.

You probably didn’t know it, but there’s a women’s football team – 11-on-11, full contact – right under your nose.

Or at least there will be come April, when the New Brunswick-based Tri-State Warriors take the field at the city’s Memorial Stadium.

Yes, it’s regular football alright. The Women’s Football Alliance launched in 2009, and there have been a few teams in New Jersey, but they’ve all gone away.

Enter Rich Harrigan and his best buddy from their college days, Lybrant “LB” Robinson, a former standout defensive end at Delaware State who was drafted in 1989 by Washington.

Scroll down to hear Harrigan talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about the team, and their upcoming open tryouts.

The two are franchise co-owners; Harrigan serves as head coach and offensive coordinator, while Robinson is the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. Harrigan has coached with various teams in the league for years.

Over the next few weeks, the team is holding open tryouts. Women must be at least 18 years of age, but Harrigan stresses no experience is necessary. Click on the graphic below to go to the tryout page:

Tri-State Warriors’ co-owner and head coach Rich Harrigan talks with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about the team, his background, end empowering women to play football just like the guys.

Barrons have great success on the field and off, exceeding their fundraising goals with Fundraising University

The following is paid content from Central Jersey Sports Radio founding sponsor Fundraising University New Jersey.

The Woodbridge Barrons have only lost two regular season games in the last three seasons under head coach Joe LaSala.

Even when the coronavirus pandemic threatened the high school football season in 2020, they were still able to have a successful season.

There have been great players, and there has been sound coaching. Behind it all has been top-notch fundraising, but LaSala has had very little to do with it.

With COVID keeping fans from games and restricting contact, a traditional door-to-door or other in-person fundraiser just wouldn’t be feasible. And that’s when he remembered seeing several posts on social media about Fundraising University’ “Fund-U-Now” program.

READ MORE: In 2020, Fundraising University supported the Big Central Conference with a $500 “Unsung Hero Scholarship Award”

In the first year, Woodbridge exceeded its goals with a quick “Fund-U-Now” fundraiser that required very little work from the coach, and minimal amount of time from the players. They even got to compete against each other for bonuses, and the money was in LaSala’s hands before the ink was dry on the check.

The fundraiser done in a flash, they could get back to doing what Woodbridge does so well: winning football games.

Click below to hear Joe LaSala explain how Fundraising University works, and why the Barrons are now working on their third fundraiser with the company:

For more information on Fundraising University, visit their website by clicking here. You can find New Jersey franchisee John Tuohy on Twitter, and follow him at @NJFundU. Or call John at 732-772-3354.

Tell John Tuohy you heard about Fundraising University through Central Jersey Sports Radio and receive extra incentives for your players who win fundraising competitions among their teammates!

Weekend GMC charity soccer festival to support pediatric cancer, children and families in need

Girls’ soccer teams from throughout the Greater Middlesex Conference will take the field this weekend to support a number of local charitable organizations.

The 20201 “Soccer for a Cause Charity Festival” will feature 14 girls’ teams from the Blue and White Divisions, totaling 300 players.

The event will be held this Saturday, October 9th – with a rain date of Sunday, October 10th – at Metuchen High School.

Fans are asked to bring nonperishable food items to benefit REPLENISH, Nourishing Neighboors, an regional food bank serving Middlesex County previously known as MCFOODS.

Metuchen Athletic Director John Cathcart and girls’ soccer coach Mike Knoth helped organize the event, which also will benefit Go4theGoal and the Marisa Tufaro Foundation.

Go4theGoal aims to improve the lives of children across the country who are battling cancer, providing monetary support, developing unique hospital programs, and funding research.

The Marisa Tufaro Foundation assists pediatric patients and children throughout the Middlesex County area, and is run by former longtime Home News Tribune sportswriter Greg Tufaro.

Scroll down to see the full schedule of games.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Metuchen girls’ soccer coach and event organizer Mike Knoth:

Schedule of Games (Saturday, October 9)

10:00 AM

  • South Plainfield vs. Woodbridge – Turf Field
  • Spotswood vs. Edison – Varsity Field
  • Middlesex vs. Sayreville – JV Field
  • JFK vs. New Brunswick – Front Field

1:00 PM

  • St. Thomas Aquinas vs. Colonia – Turf Field
  • Metuchen vs. North Brunswick – Varsity Field
  • Carteret vs. Perth Amboy – JV Field

Somerville caps sweep of rankings with top spot in Week 3 Big Central Media Poll

Somerville is the No. 1 team in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten, and the highest ranked Big Central team in the New Jersey Strength Index ratings.

And while it wasn’t unanimous, the Pioneers also have taken top billing in the Week 3 Big Central Media Poll.

Somerville earned the spot partly by virtue of being 3-1, with dominating performances in all three of its wins, but also because previously top-ranked North Brunswick was upset Friday by unranked Sayreville.

The ‘Ville got four of the six first-place votes, while Woodbridge finished third, despite getting the other two votes. In between was Union, which was idle this past week.

Below is the Week 3 Big Central Media Poll:

“Mr. Old Bridge,” Ron Mazzola, does a little bit of everything for Knights, Chargers, GMC

He’s been at it a while, seen a lot, and does a little of everything.

Ron Mazzola is most well-known to the average fan as being the PA voice of Old Bridge football. His first game was by accident, a rescheduled game due to rain that ended up being played at Edison, and the main announcer, Gus Persch, was unavailable.

The Knights beat No. 2 Hillsborough that day 49-0. The rest, as they say, is history.

But even before that, Mazzola was busy behind the scenes, not long after he graduated Madison Central High School in 1978, having played baseball and basketball for coaches Walt Peto and John Somogyi.

He was involved in many youth sports and did PA on frequent Madison and Cedar Ridge night soccer games.

He’s done video for Old Bridge teams, helped run the GMC wrestling tournament and gymnastics championships.

He even helped run the first “unofficial” Big East wrestling tournament in 1996 at the behest of then-Rutgers coach John Sacchi.

In the midst of it all, after having worked at various now-gone sporting goods stores like Herman’s, Gervin’s and Route 18 Sports, he opened his own business – Prestige Imaging – which still thrives to this day, despite a downturn during the pandemic, and provides the Greater Middlesex Conference with all its postseason awards.

They even helped create the new Old Bridge uniforms after the Madison-Cedar Ridge merger. (He’s still got the rejected color combo jerseys -“retro” jersey day, anyone?)

I sat down recently with Ron to talk about his involvement with local sports.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko’s interview with “Mr. Old Bridge,” Ron Mazzola:

NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire looks back on unique first year at the helm, with hopes for a “normal” second

Taking over a new job can be daunting enough, but throw a pandemic on top of it, and you’ve got a real challenge on your hands.

But that was the hand Colleen Maguire was dealt in 2020, when she took over as the Executive Director of the NJSIAA.

And yet, the state’s high school athletics association was able to provide a year in which some sports had state championships, and everyone was allowed to play, if they so chose.

Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko caught up with Maguire as the high school football season got set to kick into high gear this week, to talk about the year gone by, what 2021 will look like, NJSIAA finances, participation and more.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko’s interview with NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire: