BLOOMFIELD, NJ—Bob Mayer's tenure in the Bloomfield school system dates back some 50 years. He grew up in the town, graduated from Bloomfield High, where he was a member of the wrestling team, then returned after college, to begin a career in education, and coaching.
Mayer coached the girls soccer program from its inception, in 1988, for 15 years. And he's been associated with the softball program at BHS for nearly 40 years, including 31 seasons as head coach. Mayer has won over 500 games as the team's head coach and has led the Bengals to multiple Essex County and state sectional championships.
Like so many in his job, Mayer waits and hopes that there will be a high school softball season this spring. And while he waits, Mayer enjoys reminsicing about some great teams he's coached since the early days of the George HW Bush administration.
"I've been very fortunate," said Mayer, by phone from his home this week. "The players were outstanding. They've provided a lot to our fans, and me, as a coach."
For 18 straight seasons with Mayer as head coach, (1991-2008) the Bengals won 17 or more games, including 13 seasons of 20 victories, or more. Bloomfield had 10 20-win seasons in an 11-year span (1991-2001) with the lone non 20-win season, during that run, a 19-victory campaign, in 1997.
Bloomfield's first championship under Mayer came in 1994, when the Bengals finished 28-4 and won a state sectional championship. A year later, Bloomfield was 27-3 and won an Essex County title. The following year, it finished 22-6, with an appearance in the county final. The Bengals later won back-to-back county titles in 1999 and 2000 and won sectional titles in 1999 and 2003.
So when Mayer was asked which team may have stood out, that was hard to answer.
"Our 1994 team was tremendous," said Mayer. "In 2007, we were ranked first in the state, for a while. Those kids really excelled. Our '95 team won a county title. Those kids in 1999 and 2000 really put it together in winning county titles and our '99 team won the section. It's good to look back and see how well those kids played."
Bloomfield has had some tremendous pitchers. Kristen Gengaro paced the Bengals from 1994-1996 and went on to play at Yale University before embarking on a very successful career. In 1994, Sue Miller was named first team, All-State, the first Bengal to achieve that accolade in Mayer's tenure. Jodi Baumgardner was also a standout, with Gengaro, in 1996. Mayer also recalled Maureen Moore as a base-stealing phenom. A 1994 graduate, Moore stole 44 of 45 bases and had 101 stolen bases for her high school career. She later played at Providence College.
In 2007, Cara Swerdlow struck out nearly 300 batters and walked just 27 in 173 innings of work, as Bloomfield finished 26-3 and won a league title. Swerdlow also hit .423 in '07 and went on to a marvelous collegiate career at Susquehanna University. She is now enshrined in that school's Hall of Fame.
Joining Swerdlow as standout players in 2007 were Nicolina Veneziano and Ashley Martinez. Veneziano and Martinez would return in 2008 and lead the Bengals to a state sectional final. Both played collegiate softball.
There have been many more tremendous players who played for the Bengals.
"That's why it's difficult to narrow it down," said Mayer. "I just hope this year's team can get the chance to play before the season ends."