Senate President Stephen Sweeney
Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli
Assemblywoman Celeste Riley

State honors Bridgeton Little League

The News of Cumberland County – Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assemblywoman Celeste M. Riley honored winners of the 2012 Bridgeton Little League Championship at Tuesday evening’s city council meeting.

Sweeney and Riley presented youth athletes from minor league team Woodruff Energy and major league team Bridgeton Exchange Club with certificates of Joint Legislative Commendation recognizing the players’ success in establishing “a standard of athletic excellence and dedication for all other members of the community to follow.”

“Since its creation, baseball has brought fans and communities together in a fun, family-oriented atmosphere,” Sweeney said. “As both a baseball fan and a public servant, I am grateful of the benefits Bridgeton Little League provides to the children and families in our community.

“It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance and certainly a lot of positive energy and attitude to be successful, which is all the more reason to recognize these young athletes,” Sweeney added.

Sweeney and Riley offered not only praise to the players but appreciation to their coaches and supporters, including John Cobb, Jonathan Velazquez, Rafael Caraballo, Kevin Meeks and Brandon Dennis of Woodruff Energy, and Bill Goolsby, Maurice Johnson and Anthony Moore of the Exchange team.

“Anyone involved with a successful youth sports program appreciates the huge volunteer commitment required,” said Riley. “In addition to the coaches and officials, the volunteers that prepare the fields, sell concessions and serve in other capacities make the programs successful.

“Today we are here to honor the athletes for their success, but also to thank the families and the community members who help prepare kids for their futures through sports and teamwork,” she said.

Mayor Albert Kelly and Council President Gladys Lugardo-Hemple presented Good Sport certificates to members of the Bridgeton Little League All-Star Team, who knew they would be underdogs going into their tournament but challenged their competition with close games and, most importantly, great sportsmanship, Kelly said.

“Little League baseball is one of the most powerful anti-violence efforts we have,” Kelly said.

Sweeney noted that coaches were teaching not just how to swing a bat and throw a ball, but skills to last a lifetime. League President Carl Hemple Sr. said that helping kids stay out of trouble was also an important benefit of youth sports.

“We try to teach them sportsmanship, how to get involved in the community and how to stay out of gangs,” Hemple said.

Kelly recognized that the resurgence of Bridgeton’s Little League program has not been by accident, but instead, thanks to the dedication of Hemple and his supporters.

“…Under the guidance of Little League President Carl Hemple Sr. in 2010, Bridgeton Little League began to invest in new equipment, uniforms and improving local facilities, continuing its mission to empowering the youth of Bridgeton, New Jersey,” the Joint Legislative Commendation recognized. “…In 2012, the Bridgeton Little League continued its growth, expanding to contain 20 teams and 297 players….”

Hemple and team coaches asked each player in attendance from the championship teams to introduce himself by name, age, school and position.

The 2012 Bridgeton Exchange Club champions were Quamere Johnson, Shaqur Thomas, Elijah Weeks, Darryl Johnson, Na’Quan Thomas, Zaire Moore, John Williams, Damien Williams, Shamar McCloud, Joe Callender, Kevin Genies and Jamil Wright.

The winning Woodruff Energy minor league team featured players Juan Acevedo, Kelvin Underwood, Raymere Cruz-Myers, Tino Melendez, Trayon Bennett, Jacob Cobb, Antonio Gonzalez, Atavius McGriff, Tramir Bennett, William Floyd, Jose Castro and Andrew Meeks.

Bridgeton All-Star Good Sport certificate recipients were Elijah Weeks, Marquis Sulton, Isaih Custic, Mauricio Garcia, Tamar Nichols, Tymir Gravely, Shamir McCullugh, Khalil Sudler, Shaqur Thomas, Saheed Granderson, DeShawn Byers, Kerry Brown and Zaire Moore.

The Joint Legislative Commendation, signed by Sweeney, Riley and Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli, recognized this year as the league’s 60th year of play, following its establishment by Dr. Sidney Goldstein in 1952 as the first Little League organization in Cumberland County.

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