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Monday, February 24, 2020

As the dust settled on a two-month long season, Teaneck Baseball Organization 8U team secured the elusive Paramus Tournament Championship. The road was difficult as TBO played the entire 12-game schedule and 3-playoff games to cement their place as the first champion of the long summer tournament. TBO won 14 games and lost just one over the entire summer and was dominant from start to finish, even against the powerhouse opponents that traditionally roll over teams that don’t play together for the entire spring and summer.

The keys to success for Teaneck were simple and stressed often by managers Norm Blumenthal and David Ruditzky. Practices were built to focus on these tenets: 1. Pitch great, but more importantly throw strikes. At this age level you make the other team beat you. Don’t beat yourself by walking players. 2. Field your position—easier said than done but every practice included infield/outfield practice, how to properly field grounders and fly balls and how to throw to the appropriate cutoff man. Three times this season the team threw out players on the bases from relay throws from outfield to cutoff to base. 3. Hit Hit Hit—seems obvious, but many players and teams are taught to wait out pitchers and “work” a walk. Coaches worked with the players on being aggressive at the plate and putting balls in play; learning how to read pitches and tell if it’s a ball or a strike. If a strike, we hit and hit hard. The players applied this learning in games and the results were apparent not only in the standings but in the run differential and runs against statistics. TBO outscored opponents by a rate of 114 to 20 over the regular season. The 20 “runs allowed” was best in the league and a real tribute to the pitching of Jack Ruditzky, Liev Wolin, Shalom Spraragen, and Joshua Markovitz and the total team defense.

TBO received a bye in the first round of the playoffs earned by their #1 ranking in the regular season. In the quarterfinals, TBO hosted Glen Rock (#8), a team they beat twice before in the regular season. After some opening inning nerves were brushed off, Ruditzky cruised through three innings and Wolin two of shutout pitching. On offense it was a true “team” effort as every player got on base and 10 of 11 scored runs in the 12-0 victory in 5 innings. Jordy Sheinfeld, Shay Fields, Eli Altman, and David Grunstein all had multi-hit games. Aggressive base running kept pressure on and was a key in the team’s success. TBO was in the semifinals!

The semifinals were a battle for Teaneck bragging rights as it was TBO vs Teaneck Southern Blue. In their earlier match up, it was a close game with TBO actually down 3-1 in the 5th inning when the floodgates opened and TBO pulled away 15-3. It was known that in the playoffs Teaneck Southern would bring their “A’ game and TBO would need to do that as well. Unfortunately, that did not happen. In the first inning of a sloppy game TBO made four uncharacteristic errors that thankfully turned into only one run for the opponent. Seven errors overall by TBO allowed five runs. Teaneck bats refused to let one bad day in the field overcome what they have accomplished so far this year. Players knew there are three components to their game and needed to out-hit them and gut out a win. Multiple hits were delivered by Sam Wartelsky and Altman, each scoring scored 3 and 2 times, respectively. Wolin shrugged off a tough day at the plate and used his aggression on the mound to close out the final three innings helped out by two plays at 3rd by Altman, a line drive snagged at short by Ruditzky, and, most impressively, off a shot to the outfield Weinstein to Ruditzky to Markovitz to tag out the runner attempting to stretch a single into a double. TBO held on for a 9-5 victory. After the game in another one of his epic post-game speeches Coach Norm proclaimed to the players, “Do you know how I know we are a good team? Tonight we stunk and still beat a very good team by 4.” The team had made the finals; it was a season to remember already.

With one off day before the finals, the coaches decided to have one final practice to stay on schedule and stay sharp for the upcoming championship game. Practice began with the coaches telling the players how proud they were of them and that there were only two teams in the entire league still practicing and that TBO was one of them. Enjoy every moment of the journey, they advised.

The finals was set to be against powerhouse Paramus, and even though TBO was to be the home team for the game it was to be held at the Paramus home field. In the final coaching move for that day Coach David sent an email to the parents imposing an 8:00p.m. curfew on the players knowing how the team performed better when the players were well rested. Parents rejoiced.

The Finals brought excitement, and crowds came to cheer on both teams as families, friends, and league representatives were all on hand. Jack Ruditzky looked at coaches Norm and David during the pre-game routine and confidently stated, “Tonight we make Teaneck History.” The coaches smiled and stressed to the team to enjoy the moment, remove all nerves, and to a man were told to go out and “want to make plays.” The kids were energized by the fans and wanted to show them what they had learned from a summer of games and practices.

Starting pitcher Ruditzky was “on fire,” perhaps with his finest pitching performance of the season in the game that mattered most. Ruditzky struck out 7 batters over 3 innings when he had to be removed due to max-inning limitations. On offense TBO jumped out to a lead in the first. Ruditzky walked and with one out Altman hit a double scoring Ruditzky. With 2 outs, Sheinfeld singled home Altman. Spraragen and Gavriel Weinstein walked loading the bases and Judah Vogel walked to make it a 3-0 lead. Wolin hit a hard ball to third which was fielded nicely to force the runner at 2nd and to end the inning. In the third, TBO manufactured what turned out to be a crucial insurance run. With 2 outs, Fields singled and Sheinfeld singled as well. Coach David, with his aggressive style, waved Fields to go from 1st to 3rd on the hit. Paramus made a great throw to 3rd and would easily tag out the runner. But in a move practiced by the team, Coach quickly sent Fields back toward 2nd to get into a rundown rather than being tagged out at 3rd. A solid fielding Paramus team executed the rundown almost to perfection, almost. The crowd “oohed and aahed” as Fields ran back and forth 3 times at the instruction of the coach, almost being tagged out twice. On the 4th relay the ball got away from the 2nd baseman and Fields not only got to 3rd, but scored on the play. This run proved to be critical. Wolin came it to pitch and got through the 4th inning quickly, but with one out in the 5th uncharacteristically loaded the bases on three walks. A groundball past the 3rd baseman brought in 2 runs. A popup to Wolin ended the 5th and TBO was clinging to a 4-2 lead. The 6th began with a strikeout followed by a single and a walk. A hard hit ball to shortstop was fielded nicely by Ruditzky who raced over to 2nd to force the second out of the inning, conceding a run and retaining a 4-3 lead. A strikeout looking ended the game and amazing season for TBO. As coaches and teammates rushed the field excited over the unprecedented feat, the players immediately knew to lineup and congratulate the other team on a game and season well played.

Tournament officials applauded both teams on an outstanding season and a very impressive game played at the 8U level that was suspenseful and solid baseball throughout. A team trophy was given to TBO that may be taller than half the players on the team and will be on display at the Teaneck clubhouse for years to come. Players received individual trophies, a signed team ball, and some ice cream to savor the victory with.

Thank you to Coach Norm Blumenthal for volunteering his nights, weekends, and bringing his love for baseball and dedication to the kids on a nightly basis. This victory was years in the making and no one deserved it more.

Thank you to Coach David Ruditzky for his tireless efforts in teaching the kids baseball, running practices, and all his hard work.

Thank you to coaches Yudy Sheinfeld and Avi Vogel in assisting and working with all the players in practice and at games.

Thank you to the players and families for allowing their boys to have an unforgettable summer of baseball.

Team Members:

Eli Altman

Noam Eckman

Shay Fields

David Grunstein

Rami Knapp

Joshua Markovitz

Jack Ruditzky

Jordy Sheinfeld

Shalom Spraragen

Judah Vogel

Sam Wartelsky

Gavriel Weinstein

Liev Wolin

Managers:

Norm Blumenthal

David Ruditzky

Coaches:

Yudy Sheinfeld

Avi Vogel