Little League Championship Schedule
During the last week of July, baseball teams and families from around New Jersey will be gathering in Ocean County for the Joe Graziano NJ State Little League Championship and the NJ State Junior Little League Championship, both presented by TD Bank. Little League is marking its 75th anniversary, and in keeping with this milestone, District 18 host, Berkeley Little League, is working to make it a week to remember for families as well as the players.
The weeklong celebration of the Best Beaches, Boardwalks and Baseball in the state, which begins Tuesday, July 22 and concludes Sunday, July 27, has been gathering momentum, with a number of special events and appearances planned for the state championships.
Tuesday, July 22, is check-in day for the participating teams that will represent the state’s four sections. The Final Four will be honored at the Joe Graziano NJ State Little League Championship banquet at the Berkeley Little League Volunteer Community Center. Former Major League pitcher Mark Leiter will give the keynote address at the banquet, which is sponsored by Perlmart Family ShopRites and The Cove Waterfront Grill of Bayville. The Oceanaires, a vocal group with a barbershop quartet style, will provide musical entertainment.
Leiter, who pitched for eight MLB teams, including the Yankees and the Phillies, in a career spanning 1990 to 2001, pitched at Bayville’s Central Regional High School and at Ramapo College in Mahwah before being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1983. His son, Mark Leiter Jr., currently pitches for the Lakewood BlueClaws. His brother, Al, a baseball analyst for MLB Network and color commentator on the YES Network, won World Series pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays and the then-Florida Marlins. Mark Leiter owns a pitching and hitting clinic in Toms River.
On Wednesday, July 23, the celebration of baseball and the Jersey Shore — which still is recovering from Hurricane Sandy — continues with Opening Day festivities. Families will have a taste of the boardwalk right next to the baseball complex, as three blocks of Red Bank Avenue will be converted into a Midway, with vendors and special displays. Community Medical Center will be on hand with its Fire Safety House, and Buster, the Lakewood BlueClaws’ mascot, will be in attendance. The New Jersey Mobile Hall of Fame, sponsored by Community Medical Center, a division of Barnabas Health, will be on the premises. The Kayla Caffrey of Idol Time Singing Academy will perform the national anthem at the Opening Ceremonies for the two tournaments. The Idol Time Competition Team will provide pre game entertainment with covers of popular tunes. Two Little League and two Junior League games will be played on Wednesday.
On Thursday, July 24, the Junior League Section Champions — who will be playing their tournament on Leiter Field, named for the Leiter family — will be honored at a championship division barbecue. A scheduled rain day, the Berkeley Little League complex will turn into Laser Tag Central. A laser tag tournament, that’s open to everyone, will take place. This evening is Little League Legacy Night with a celebration of Little League’s 75th Anniversary planned for The Cove Waterfront Grill, which sits on scenic Barnegat Bay in Bayville.
Friday, July 25, the fun continues with Little League Day at Blackbeard’s Cave in Bayville, with all-day ride bracelets for the amusement park. Round 2 of the tournaments feature two games each in Little League and the Junior League.
Saturday, July 26, opens with baseball, as the elimination games are played, and then it’s off to the boardwalk, as Seaside Heights opens its arms to embrace all New Jersey Little Leaguers & their families.
Sunday, July 27, is the championship games in both the Little League and Junior League brackets. The Lakewood Blue Claws have invited the finalists to be honored that evening at the game at First Energy Park game in the evening. If necessary, it will be winner-take-all games on Monday, July 28.
Ocean County has a proud history in the Little League World Series, with Lakewood Little League in 1975 and Toms River East American Little League in 1998 bringing home titles, giving the county two of the state’s four Little League World Champions (Little Big League of Hammonton in 1949 and Wayne Little League in 1970 are the other two).
In addition to TD Bank, Community Medical Center, ShopRite and The Cove, sponsors include Modell’s; Dairy Queen of Bayville; Blackbeard’s Cave; the Hershey Motel of Seaside Heights; the Seaside Heights BID and the Ocean County Tourism Advisory Council. Media partners are Townsquare Media’s Shore Sports Network and the Asbury Park Press.