MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ — Before Jeff Torborg caught Sandy Kaufax’s perfect game while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he earned the honor of All-State as a catcher at Westfield High School and an All-American catcher at Rutgers University.
Torborg, who during his 10-year-long career in baseball played for the California Angels and was part of Don Drysdale’s record-setting streak of 58-2/3 innings of scoreless baseball, now has another notch to add to his belt.
On Saturday, the Union County Freeholders dedicated the Jeff Torborg Youth Baseball field at Echo Lake Park in Mountainside in his honor. In addition to growing up in Westfield, Torborg is a longtime resident of Mountainside.
“When I first was told about this amazing tribute, I was literally speechless … this is a tremendous thrill for me and for my family,” said Torborg. “It is an honor to be recognized by my home county, which has been the site of events important to generations of my family.”
Two youth baseball teams, municipal officials from both Mountainside and Westfield along with members of the Torborg family attended the dedication. In addition, prominent baseball professionals Willie Randolph, Al Leiter, and Mike Lowell were in attendence.
“We welcome you home today,” said Freeholder Vice Chair Alexander Mirabella, who introduced Torborg and presented him with a resolution honoring him with his colleagues. “We are pleased to name this field in your honor, and our hope is to inspire future generations of our younger county residents to follow in your path.”
"Jeff never forgot where he came from," said UCBA President Jim Iozzi. "You can see by the people here today how loved and liked he was throughout his time here in Union County."
"I know you are all busy -- we are so overwhelmed by the response of people," said Torborg. He acknowledged seeing people from his church, as well as folks from Rutgers, and Jay Horwitz, "the most popular public relations man ever in professional baseball with the Mets," he said. He also pointed out Mike Lowell, Willie Randolph and Al Leiter and told stories of coaching them. -- "These guys are three of our favorite people our family has ever been around in baseball. --- Beautiful human beings, these guys, and for them to come out here today -- they are busy guys."
He said Union County cares about kids. -- "I don't think we can say it enough -- Union County athletics has a legacy of helping young players, young athletes succeed. And it takes a lot of people to make it work," said Torborg.
Torborg's son Greg thanked everybody behind this honor and the guests that took the time out of their busy schedules. He shared a personal heartfelt letter from Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox. "Your legacy in this game is well established. -- From an impressive coaching career, to over 600 wins as a major league manager -- including 94 victories and a manager of the year award with the White Sox. You have literally impacted thousands of young players making each one better. Leaving a ripple effect that touches baseball even to this day."
Torborg threw out the first pitch to his grandson, also named Jeff Torborg, after which the Clark Little League and Springfield Junior Baseball teams played an exhibition game during which they sported uniforms emblazoned with Torborg’s #10 uniform number.
Mayor Shelley Brindle said it was a privilege to participate in the dedication.
"While Jeff’s Major League Baseball accomplishments are well known, it is his commitment to youth sports and the impact he has had on so many young lives that will be his lasting legacy," Brindle told TAPinto Westfield. "I can think of no more fitting tribute than dedicating a field in his name, which will hopefully inspire a future Jeff Torborg that will equal his contributions on and off the field."
Throwing the pitch to his grandson while kicking off a youth exhibition game was among a long line of accomplishments in Torborg’s career that did not end as a player with Major League Baseball.
Torborg later managed five Major League Baseball teams: the Cleveland Indians, White Sox, Mets, Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins. He also served as a coach for the Yankees for 10 years then became an award-winning television and radio baseball broadcaster for CBS Radio and, on TV, Fox Sports, the release noted.
The Torborg family also donated memorial bench plaques to the field and facility, which includes a plaque memorializing his accomplishments.
To obtain a permit to play at the field, which sites off of Mill Lane in Echo Lake Park in Mountainside, bordering Westfield, call the Union County Parks Department at 908-527-4900.