ELIZABETH, NJ - The Elmora Youth Little League Troopers made team history Friday when they became Mid-Atlantic Regional champions, but fell short in gaining the top tournament title.
The team’s wins come after an outpouring of financial and moral support which helped get them to the 9-10 Little League Eastern Regional Baseball Tournament in Rhode Island. A Gofundme campaign raised over $13,000 to help pay for the team’s travel expenses.
“It was a week of baseball for a lifetime of memories, and those kids got exactly that,” said one of the team’s coaches, Lou Aponte, making a reference to the tournament’s motto.
The Troopers won three games against New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania to secure their spot as Mid-Atlantic champs. They lost 9-4 on Saturday in the final push to become Eastern Regional champions when they went up against Massachusetts, the winning regional team for New England.
“They were bummed out because they didn’t play their best game,” Aponte said. “But it was like hey listen, that would’ve been icing on the cake. Our mission was to win the Mid-Atlantic.”
The loss doesn’t detract from the team’s stellar track record. The 10U Troopers were undefeated in their rise to state champions in late July, a first for the team in the league’s nearly 45-year history.
The Elmora Youth Little Troopers jumped up in excitement after Sal Garcia, 10, threw out the final pitch that won the team the state championship on July 31 against Waterford Township. (Video courtesy of Gail Weingardner Delgado)
“The feeling was just overwhelming,” Aponte said of the Troopers' Mid-Atlantic win. “Like you made it. I’m just kind of in awe of this team and what they’ve done. They kept winning.”
Aponte said people in Elizabeth traveled all the way to Rhode Island to cheer and support the team with banners. Word of the Troopers' success spread to former Elizabeth residents now living in Florida who decided to donate to the Gofundme campaign.
The 13 boys who play on the team are all 9 or 10-years-old, and Aponte has coached some of them since they were 5-years old and playing t-ball, he said. He plans to continue to coach and stay with the same team as they age.
Aponte, who coached the Troopers with two others, said he thinks the team could next year make it to the Little League World Series, which is open to players aged 10.
“We have our eyes on the prize,” Aponte said, adding that he thinks they can make it all the way to the final Little League World Series game in South Williamsport, Pa. one day.
Below is a full roster of the Troopers:
Derek Escobar #2; Emmanual Nunez #3; Jayden Capindica #8; Jayden Rosado #42; Jordan Rey #12; Josiah Sharpe #7; Justin Labrador #27; LJ Aponte #11; Noah Sosa #13; Sal Garcia #1; Santi Alvarez #6; Yadi Mateo #28; Jaime Tamayo #20