Youth baseball thrives wherever kids play the game in the right way for the right reasons. Just ask Jose Morel, head coach for the Bergenfield Bears youth travel team. Jose believes in helping young ball players to “grow as a unit, to cultivate and grow as a group.” Human development priorities figure greatly into his coaching philosophy, and the 2015 collection of Bergenfield Little League (BLL) All-Stars could not have had better luck in having him as their head coach.
Coach Jose, who hails from the Dominican Republic but grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, has lived in Bergenfield “for about 10 years” and wanted to get involved in youth baseball as a coach from the day he stopped playing. “I like teaching the kids and seeing them learn and grow. There’s no greater joy than seeing a 10u kid hit a ball for the first time.” Which parents do not want their child’s coach to have a philosophy like that?
With Carolina, his wife, he has two children, 15 year-old Andrew and 12 year-old Adela. Both have played in the BLL; Adela plays on the All-Star team that’s making the trip to Cooperstown Baseball World (CBW), and Andrew plays freshman ball at Don Bosco High School.
With a nostalgic smile, Coach Jose tells of his son’s “first hit, at 3½ years-old, when he accidentally hit his sister in the head with a bat!” As a player for Don Bosco, known for its scholar-athletes in several sports, he stands to get many more hits before he finishes his scholastic career. Presently a project manager for Columbia University, Coach Jose will return to the classroom for a Masters Degree in Public Administration. “I’ll miss coaching for a time, but I’ll be back on the field by the time my nephew, now 2 years-old, is ready to play Little League.”
Coach Jose’s observations about coaching and youth sports, in Bergenfield and elsewhere in the county, are timely. As he puts it, “With less interest in youth sports generally, kids are less active and show more interest in a hand-held lifestyle, versus working hard to become an athlete.” Despite those realities, Bergenfield players and parents responded quickly and effectively when a youth baseball opportunity presented itself.
Cooperstown Baseball World (CBW), the oldest of the Cooperstown youth baseball tournaments, needed a team to round out its field for week #5. Debra Reed, CBW owner and a Bergenfield native, contacted Joe Stapleton, her former baby sitter, to see if her home town could send a team. Again, Coach Jose: “We had 3 days to decide; but, dedicated parents and coaches got together and made it happen. By the weekend we had our website up and running.”
Clearly, interest in youth baseball remains strong in Bergenfield. The speedy formation of and fundraising for the Bergenfield Bears CBW travel team amply substantiates that point. Coach Jose and his assistants, Greg Beckles, John Gallagher and Ray Suero stepped up on short notice to identify the players and form them into a cohesive team.
What followed is now Bergenfield youth baseball history. Half the Bears’ roster had played with and against each other since they were 8 years-old. With no time to practice as a unit, the Bears took to the competitive CBW field with only the enthusiasm and love for the game of its coaches, supporting parents and 14-player roster.
This tournament book extols the dedication, commitment and vision of all those who banded together to make history in The Friendly Town. As many of the following stories indicate, the 2015 Bears, although hastily formed and with insufficient time to prepare, became the first-ever travel team from Bergenfield to compete in a Cooperstown tournament.
These then are the stories of the players on that Bergenfield All-Star team. These are the players whose efforts on the field in upstate New York will resonate with younger players and player prospects back home.
In closing, Coach Jose calls attention to the changing landscape of youth baseball. “Good players need to have developmental challenges. As it is now, my pitching aces at age 10 might not be my pitching aces at age 12.” Coach recognizes that young people need to have a renewed faith in, commitment to and experience with youth baseball, and all the life lessons that youth sports teach. The Bergenfield Bears Tournament Book for 2015 is a lasting testament to that vision.