High School Baseball Development League allows teams to play together during the summer; 64 teams from 4 counties involved this year

Union-Essex seniors champs included Gov. Livingston in American Division and Columbia in National, while the juniors champs were Westfield in both the American and National divisions

2013 - WESTFIELD BASEBALL TOPS LINDEN IN STATES, 05-26 006With the slow dissolving of American Legion baseball in New Jersey caused by the competition of so many other leagues that are now available to players of all different skill levels, high school head coaches Chris Roof, Dan Mondelli and assistant Ralph Yezza decided that it was time for a change.

What they wanted for some time and brought to fruition this summer is called a High School Development League.

In essence, they want to develop the players that they will be bringing back next spring, Roof and Yezza at Governor Livingston and Mondelli at Holmdel.

“Pitchers get to work on their pitches and fundamentals that they might not be able to during the course of the high school season,” said Roof, who has been the head coach at GL since 2004. “Some of the kids on the freshman team that we didn’t get a chance to see in the spring we saw this summer.

“That’s all part of developing the players we’re going to be using for our next season.”

The league this summer, which concluded this week with the final championship games, consisted of 64 teams. There were leagues – including senior and junior divisions – in Bergen County, Morris County and one that combined Union and Essex counties that also included a team from Somerset County – Watchung Hills – and a team from Hudson County – St. Peter’s Prep.

“To have 64 teams in year one is amazing,” Roof said. “We’ll be looking to branch out into different counties if we can.”

Roof, a 1992 GL grad who went on to star at Montclair State and then begin his head coaching career at Millburn after he was an assistant at GL for the head coach he played for, Bill Howard, sees this league as an opportunity for not the individual, but the high school team to play together, gain experience and then use that experience for the next high school season.

“I grew up on legion, but for my program I wanted something low key and competitive,” Roof said.

In addition to basic high school rules, teams were allowed to bat 10 if they wanted and in the field there was unlimited defensive substitution.

“For example, you could sub the second baseman for the shortstop or have players come off the bench and take the field, which allows us to see them play as many different positions as possible,” Roof said.

Roof emphasized that the most important thing is that the coaches are all high school coaches.

“It has to run through the high school coach, with no parents running it at all,” Roof said. “We deal strictly with the high school coach so that coach can get a look at the players and the team he will have the next spring season.”

Mondelli, a 1982 GL grad who was a longtime assistant at Elizabeth under Ray Korn before taking his first head coaching position at Linden, became increasingly frustrated with the way kids were being pulled in many different directions during the summer.

“Every sport can have their high school team together during the summer except baseball,” Mondelli said. “Legion was a good thing back then when you had your four or five best guys playing it because they had nowhere else to go.

“The legion baseball brand is not developmental. There was nothing out there for the high school team, only the individual.

“Now we finally have a league without such rules. Nobody gets cut.”

The High School Development League scheduled its games for Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, with Wednesday being a rain date.

“That allows kids to play travel ball on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays,” Mondelli said. “Our league means that, finally, for the first time a high school coach can take his team and be able to develop it.”

Roof explained that some teams had an 18-game schedule some a 14-game slate depending on the league they were in. A point system included three for a win, two for a tie and one for a loss.

“Playing the games was the big thing,” Roof said. “Teams tried their very best to play all of their games.”

“This allowed us to work with our full infield and develop and do whatever we could do,” said Mondelli, whose Holmdel team participated in the separate Middlesex-Monmouth league that is run by Spotswood head coach Glenn Fredricks. “We worked on such things as running from first to third and pickoff plays. You have your coaches there to cohesively put this stuff together.”

Mondelli said that the Middlesex-Monmouth league, which also has seniors and juniors divisions and has its champions go on to play in the AABC (American Amateur Baseball Congress) 17-and-under Don Mattingly World Series, consists of 75-80 teams.

“We modeled our league after what Glenn did in Middlesex and Monmouth counties,” Mondelli said. “We got the idea from him.

“Now our kids have the opportunity to play with their high school team and develop over the summer.”

The High School Development League began June 10 and played out for six weeks, including one more added to make up for rainouts.

Jon Morrisette, the head coach at Paramus, helped run the Bergen County league, while Joe Cardinale, the head coach at Montville, did the same for the Morris County entry.

The assigning of umpires was done by Jack Venezia for Union-Essex and Steve Leonardo for Bergen and Morris.

“I thought it was very well run for year one,” Roof said. “It’s really worked well. Teams did well and there was good communication between the coaching staffs and the kids.”

Here’s a look at leagues and their playoff matchups and champions:

 

MORRIS COUNTY:

One division of 8 seniors teams:

Jefferson won at Hanover Park 5-2 in the championship game.

 

BERGEN COUNTY:

Two divisions of 8 seniors teams and one division of 8 juniors teams:

SENIORS

NATIONAL DIVISION

Semifinal, Monday, July 22

3-Wayne Valley won at 2-Pascack Valley

1-Paramus defeated Wayne Valley in Tuesday, July 23 title game

at Paramus.

AMERICAN DIVISION

Semifinals, Monday, July 22

4-Westwood won at 1-Ridgefield

2-Waldwick defeated 3-Park Ridge at Waldwick

Waldwick defeated Westwood in title game Friday, July 26 at Waldwick

JUNIOR DIVISION

Semifinals, Monday, July 22

4-Paramus Catholic at 1-Ramsey

3-Emerson at 2-River Dell

River Dell won title game Tuesday, July 23

 

UNION-ESSEX COUNTIES:

Two divisions of 8 seniors teams and two divisions of 8 juniors teams:

SENIORS

AMERICAN DIVISION

Semifinals played Wednesday, July 17

Gov. Livingston 7, Plainfield 0 at GL

Scotch Plains 9, Brearley 2 at Scotch Plains

Final played Thursday, July 18

Gov. Livingston 13, Scotch Plains 2 at GL

Other teams in division: Summit, New Providence, Dayton, Oratory.

NATIONAL DIVISION

Semifinals played Monday, July 22

4-Columbia won at 1-Bloomfield

2-St. Peter’s Prep won at 3-Watchung Hills

Final played Tuesday, July 23

Columbia won at St. Peter’s Prep 4-2

Other teams in division: Millburn, Nutley, Westfield, Elizabeth.

JUNIORS

AMERICAN DIVISION (7 teams total for 8th graders who will

be incoming freshmen)

Semifinals played Monday, July 22

1-Gov. Livingston defeated 4-Summit at GL

3-Westfield defeated 2-Dayton at Dayton

Final played Tuesday, July 23

Westfield defeated Gov. Livingston 6-5 at GL

NATIONAL DIVISION (older group, JV level kids, 10 teams)

Semifinals played Monday, July 22

1-Gov. Livingston defeated 4-Watchung Hills at GL

2-Westfield defeated 3-Montville White at Westfield

Final played Tuesday, July 23

Westfield defeated Gov. Livingston 9-5 at GL

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