CEDAR GROVE, NJ — Members of the Cedar Grove High School baseball program who were denied their chance to play the 2020 spring season due to the statewide coronavirus shutdown of schools will get their chance to play as a team next week.
The Last Dance Baseball Tournament will involve 222 teams--including Cedar Grove--from all over New Jersey participating in a three-week competition that will begin with three days of pool play followed by two weeks' worth of bracket-style playoffs. Every team will be guaranteed at least three games during the pool play portion, which would begin Tuesday, July 14.
Cedar Grove had six senior baseball players on the spring roster. The Panthers received the fourth seed in the Caldwell Regional Bracket, and will play top-seeded West Essex in the first pool-play game Tuesday at The Oval in Caldwell at a time to be announced.
Baseball players who just graduated from Cedar Grove are Dan Kennedy, Brett Newcomb, Chamberlain Ricco, Nick Castiglione, John Romanazzi, Alex Faieta and Eric Turi.
As something that is taking place out of season, the tournament is not an NJSIAA event. It is being organized by Mike Murray Jr., the head baseball coach at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, with help from Millburn coach Brian Chapman and an area baseball scout, J.T. Kroeger. It is considered a high school summer tournament, not a club tournament, and teams will play under National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) rules.
According to a series of reopening directives from Governor Phil Murphy, baseball practices were allowed to begin on June 22, and games will be permitted beginning July 6. On June 22, the maximum size of outdoor gatherings was increased from 100 to 250 people, and that figure expanded to 500 people on July 6.
No coaches affiliated with their spring high school programs will be allowed to work with their teams prior to July 13, according to the NJSIAA calendar of when spring ends and summer begins. Some head coaches will be turning the reins over to someone else unaffiliated with their high school programs to run the teams during the tournament, although varsity head coaches will be permitted to coach their teams when the games actually begin.