While it doesn’t exactly look like like spring with the amount of snow we’ve had recently, the baseball season is officially under way.  West Orange High School baseball officially kicked off it’s season with the first practice being held on March 1. The PAL Travel Baseball program has been working hard since Jan. 1 and registration for our Mountain Top league (MTL) in house recreational program is now open! In honor of the official start of baseball, we thought we would highlight a West Orange baseball success story. 

From a youth sports perspective, success is not only measured by how long an athlete plays a sport or how far they get in the travel, scholastic, collegiate or even professional arena. Youth sports programs in West Orange look to build life-long players, who commit to our programs from the youth level through high school, on to college, and then come back to West Orange to contribute in some way. Their success is their dedication to the game they love, and to giving back to the community that gave them the ability to grow, develop, and achieve their dreams.  

One of these successes is West Orange High School (WOHS) assistant baseball coach, Robert Parisi, Jr.  Robert’s baseball career began in the MTL and PAL programs. He was a member of the Liberty Middle School team before moving on to play for WOHS. After graduating, Robert went on to play for Atlantic Cape County College and ultimately transferred to Montclair State to finish his degree while volunteering his time to coach in the PAL Travel Baseball and WOHS Baseball programs. He was recently appointed as an assistant baseball coach for his alma mater, WOHS.  

Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Head Coach Stephan Zichella of WOHS said of Robert: “Parisi is passionate about the sport of baseball and his community. He wants to give back to WOHS and the town he loves. Coach Parisi has already devoted a great deal of time into town-wide baseball at just about every level. We are fortunate to have him on staff.” Coach Rob Kost of the PAL Travel Baseball program added, “Rob is an integral part of the baseball program. He brings a great understanding and enthusiasm of the game. I appreciate sharing the same philosophy of teaching the fundamentals. He will be a great asset to the high school program. I continue to look forward working with him.” 

From the perspective of Robert Parisi, Jr. himself:

For as long as I can remember baseball was a part of my life. When I was younger, about three or four, I would come home from pre-k and would spend the rest of the day with my Grandpa Ed. While he was watching me, we would spend hours outside playing whiffle ball in the yard; he never let me win. During the spring, I spent countless nights at the PAL field in the snack bar as my Grandpa Dan cooked up some of the best hotdogs on the planet. Nothing says PAL baseball quite like a good hotdog. I would sit in the snack bar and just watch the big kids play a beautiful game on a field that did not seem like it belonged in West Orange. The PAL field was something that my young mind could not comprehend. It was pristine, with luscious green grass, bright white lines and bases, but the coolest part was the dugouts, real dugouts; it made any kid that played on the PAL field feel like he was playing in front of thousands of people at Yankee Stadium.

As soon as I was old enough to play baseball, I signed up. I played Mountain Top tee ball and coach pitch, then in third grade, I was finally old enough to play PAL baseball. Stepping on that field was a dream come true for me, playing for Wilmans and Elks back in the old in-house program was an amazing experience, going to school during the day with your friends, but later that night you were foes as we stepped onto the field. 

At the end of my PAL days I wound up going to play at Liberty Middle School for two years before finally making it into the baseball program at WOHS. As a kid playing PAL, I was envious of the high school baseball players and always dreamed of one day playing on the turf wearing “West Orange” across my chest. Every summer Coach Zichella would hold a baseball camp for kids, I would go and the high school kids would be there helping coach. Those high school players seemed like professionals to me. 

During my time playing at WOHS, I made great friends and was given fantastic opportunities to further my athletic as well as my academic goals. Playing high school baseball with kids that you have grown up with, playing PAL, and playing middle school ball against, finally coming together and representing the town we all grew up in, it is surreal. But the experience I treasure most from my time at WOHS, was during my junior year when Coach Zichella kept a bunch of players after practice and brought us down to Degnan Field to help out the 10U PAL Travel team, coached by Rob Kost and Edwin Johnson. Being able to go and help out the program that gave me so much was incredible, but also I was able to understand what it was like when I was younger at the Mountaineer Baseball Camps, how the high school players are larger than life to the younger kids. 

At that practice I realized what I was truly meant for: coaching kids. I struck up a relationship with Coach Rob, and he invited me back to several practices and games for the rest of the season. From that point on, the PAL Baseball program was my second family.

After my playing career in West Orange, I went off to Stockton University before transferring to Atlantic Cape Community College where I continued to play the game I cherished. During my first season at ACCC, I re-aggravated a shoulder injury from high school, and it forced me to hang up my spikes for good. Every day I am grateful for the lessons I learned and for the way I developed as a player, person and coach during my time at ACCC. Although I went away to school to play baseball, I kept in contact with Coach Rob and the PAL organization and whenever I was home, I was welcomed back with open arms to help develop our young athletes. 

For the spring 2018 semester I transferred home to Montclair State University so I could follow my new path in life, coaching baseball and helping kids develop into young men. I became a full time coach at the PAL and whenever I had a free moment, I would be helping out the WOHS Varsity Baseball team. There is no greater feeling as a human being than giving back to your community, and for the community that has given me so much, I am proud to be able to give the youth of West Orange the same opportunities I was given as an aspiring athlete. 

This spring a new chapter in my life begins, I am proud to be a part of the WOHS baseball program again and to take the talent the PAL program developed, and give the community a baseball program to be proud of. From my time as a player in the program, I had a goal to bring a state championship to West Orange, and while I might have come up short during my four years, the chase continues right where it left off. Anyone who has ever spent time in the Tarnoff Gym at WOHS has seen the championship banners hanging there. The baseball banner is quite bare, and 1984 NHC, the lone conference championship, has been my motivation. My goal is to put as many more years and championships on that banner. 

I have been blessed with great role models in my life, from family members, like my two grandfathers, to Coaches Zichella and Tiseo at WOHS, to Coach Velardi at ACCC and all the way to Coaches Rob Kost and Edwin Johnson at the PAL, I hope to continue your legacy and further mine by giving the youth of West Orange, what you all gave me: a chance to play the game I love and the ability to help others fall in love with the perfect game of baseball. 

West Orange Baseball is overseen by the WO Baseball Committee which consists of representatives from PAL and MTL, along with Coach Zichella and Coach Blumkin of the WOHS Baseball teams, and WOHS Principal Hayden Moore. For those interested in the West Orange Travel Baseball programs, tryouts for Spring Travel Baseball take place in November for the following spring season; tryouts take place in May for the Summer Travel Baseball team, and Fall Travel tryouts take place in August. Tryouts are open to all West Orange residents ages 5-14.  For those interested in playing in house recreational baseball, MTL Baseball registration is open through March 24 for all West Orange residents ages 5-12 beginning with T-Ball. There are no tryouts for MTL Baseball, but evaluations are required for all players ages 10-12. Evaluations will take place Saturday, March 16 (3-5 p.m.), Wednesday, March 20 (7-9 p.m.), and Sunday, March 24 (1-3 p.m.) at West Orange High School. 


Spring Baseball Mountaineers Movie Night:

The WOHS Mountaineers along with the PAL and MTL will celebrate the Opening Game Days with a FREE Family Movie Night featuring the movie, “42” on Saturday March 30 from 6-9 p.m. at the Tarnoff Cafeteria of WOHS. There will be snacks & drinks available for a small fee as well as games for kids. The PAL Travel Baseball season opens Sunday, March 31, with the WOHS Mountaineers opening on Monday, April 1; MTL will open up mid April. 

PAL Football Registration:

Coming soon in May/June for the Fall 2019 season. Open to all West Orange residents ages 8-14. Practices begin Aug. 1! Additional details and clinic information will be posted on the PAL website shortly.   

PAL Cheerleading Registration:

Coming soon in May/June for the Fall 2019 season. Open to all West Orange residents ages 8-14. Practices begin Aug. 1! Additional details and clinic information will be posted on the PAL website shortly.   

MTL Girls Softball:

Registration for the spring season for girls in K-6th is open on the MTL website. 

MTL  Spring Recreational Baseball:

Registration for the Spring season is now open on the MTL website and closes March 24.  Open to all West Orange residents ages 5-12. Registration fee is $85/person.

MTL Spring Soccer:

Registration for the Spring Soccer league is open for boys & girls grades pre-K-2nd grade (must be at least 4 years old) on the MTL website. 

MTL Spring Learn to Play Hockey Program:

Open to boys and girls ages 4-10. 8- session all held at Clary Anderson Areana. Registration is open on the MTL website. 

West Orange United Travel Soccer:

Tryouts for the 2019-2020 season will be held in the spring. Dates will be announced shortly. 

Spring Travel Lacrosse:

The West Orange Recreation Department sponsors six travel lacrosse teams for boys and girls in grades 3 through 8.  The teams offered are 3rd/4th Grade Boys, 3rd/4thGrade Girls, 5th/6th Grade Boys, 5th/6th Grade Girls, 7th/8th Grade Boys and 7th/8th Grade Girls.  The teams hold their practices and home games at the newly resurfaced WOHS Suriano Stadium.  The teams also participate in tournament play.  Participants are required to have their own stick and mouth piece.  The Recreation Department supplies goggles for new girls’ lacrosse players and offers loaner equipment for boys’ lacrosse players.  Practices begin the week of March 11. You can still register through the Community Pass of the WO Rec page. 

*To participate in West Orange youth programs, you must be a resident of West Orange. 


Interested in volunteering with PAL?  Email info@wopal.org.

Interested in volunteering with MTL? Email mountaintopleague@gmail.com(sport-specific emails are available on the MTL website.


Jennifer Buesser has lived in West Orange since 2005.  She is a long-time MTL volunteer and current trustee. Cheryl Merklinger is a life-long West Orange resident. She is a second- generation PAL volunteer and current trustee, and sits on the West Orange Board of Education.  This column is not a reflection of the West Orange Board of Eduction nor does it share the views or opinions of the West Orange Board of Ed. "We Are West Orange" highlights youth sports in town provided by the West Orange Recreation Department, West Orange PAL, and Mountain Top League, including the kids they benefit and the volunteers, like Jennifer and Cheryl who make them all possible.


For more information about MTL programs:   http://www.mountaintopleague.com/.

For more information about PAL programs: http://www.wopal.org

For information about WO Recreation Dept Programs: http://www.westorange.org/index.aspx?nid=87.

Logo designed by Andrew Mazurek, WOHS Class of 2002: http://www.andrewmazurekart.com.