It’s been a busy season from spring through summer to our fall sports programs! This Saturday, the West Orange High School football team will take on Montclair the first round of the Section 1, Group 5 playoffs. We thought we would highlight one of the WOHS players who has come up through our youth sports programs. This week we have the perspective of West Orange High School (WOHS) freshmen, Matthew Bove. Matthew is an honors student, currently participating in the Institute for Math & Science program at WOHS. Matthew played baseball in the PAL Travel Baseball program and Football program. He is currently a freshman playing for the WOHS football team and is looking forward to representing West Orange on the baseball team this spring. Matthew volunteers at the WO Rec department during the summer and the WOHS-PAL Summer Baseball Camp and PAL Winter Clinic, providing guidance to the younger players, some just learning baseball for the first time. He was also a volunteer in the WO Rec. Flag football program this fall.
On a personal note, the PAL coaching staff and myself, have watched Matthew develop over the course of several years from a child to a young man in the PAL program. Matthew puts in the time and effort to improve himself into the talented all around athlete he is. But what makes Matthew stand out is his character - his respect and responsibility for himself and his teammates. You can always count on Matthew to be the first one to say thank you or give you a wave hello. In some of the most difficult of times, it was Matthew who checked in on myself and the team at the field. Coach Rob Parisi Jr. said of Matthew: “Matt is one of the most naturally talented baseball players I’ve had the ability to be around. His work ethic is unmatched, and he is continuously trying to get better. I cannot wait to see how far this young man goes, the sky is the limit for him.” When Matthew was called up to start in the Varsity game against Columbia, the baseball team came out in full force to support him. Matthew was awarded the prestigious Vincent Albanese Award for baseball, which is presented to one PAL player in their final season before moving on to high school, who has played consecutive years with the PAL, and who best demonstrates the principals of the PAL. Having coached Matt since he was 10 years old, Coach Rob Kost said, “Matt has all the tools you for in a player. He puts in the time and effort on and off the field. Matt is a special talent. I am going to miss the leadership he brought to the table every day but look forward to watching where his career takes him. He will always be a part of the PAL family.”
From the perspective of Matthew Bove:
My sports experience has been a crazy ride. There were ups and downs with the teams, teammates, different sports and commitment. It all started off with tee ball which trickled down into coach pitch, Mountain Top League, travel baseball, then PAL travel which I’m in right now. Then came along soccer which I kept with me for a while, I then played basketball for a little bit. And around that time, I started playing flag football, which I in fact really liked, so I then moved on to tackle football with PAL. After that I then, moved to a little bit of street hockey which ended pretty quickly, and then also lacrosse which ended even quicker. I was trying to find the correct sport to play, and what I found pretty cool, was that the two sports I stuck to, and the two sports I like the most are both involved with PAL. It might be because of the great coaching, or the family community that has been made over the last couple years, or even the drive and dedication all people have which I have in common with everyone else. I’m not exactly sure what it is about PAL, all I know is that the years I’ve been with the organization, has been some of the greatest years of my life.
My very first memory of playing sports is tee Ball with the Mountain Top league, I must have been about 3 or 4 years old. I just remember swinging the bat, hitting the ball off the tee and running around the bases. None of us had a lot of skill, but we had fun. I had a similar experience with soccer through the Mountain Top League. I liked kicking the ball around and making friends, but not nearly as much as baseball.
I also played flag football, basketball, street hockey and lacrosse all through my elementary years. I think the reason why I did all those sports was to keep busy and to find out what sport I was really in to. I wasn’t sure because I liked them all. But then I was introduced to PAL baseball when they took over the travel baseball program. It was much more serious which I liked. Their coaching style was more like my Dad’s. They were harder on us which helped me become a better more serious player. It was also much more of a commitment so I didn’t have time to do all of the other sports. I had to make a choice, but the choice was obvious. Baseball was the sport that I loved.
At first it was a little weird because I started playing with PAL later than most of the team, so they all knew each other and the Coaches pretty well.
I will never forget the summer I broke my leg and I couldn’t play the last championship game that season. I was so mad. We got 2nd place and during the award ceremony Coach Rob called my name to get a trophy. I was so surprised and so thankful to be included. That’s when I started to really feel like part of the team. As soon as my leg was better I started working hard on my game and improving which gave me more confidence.
I also played football for PAL starting in 6th grade. Most of the players had been playing for PAL since they were in 3rd grade, so the first year was hard for me because I had never played tackle football. I wasn’t sure about it, but I stuck with it and I’m so glad I did. The football coaches in my first year (Coach Joe, Coach Andrew and Coach Mark) were really hard on us. They definitely made me tougher. The first year I didn’t get much playing time. I had to prove myself. I did get to play in the B team games which were fun. The 2nd year I got to work with Coach Craig and Coach Russ and got much more playing time. I had became a much stronger player and I felt I was of value to the team. My last year I got to start every game and I never came off the field. Definitely the best year. As much as I like football, I always look forward to going back to baseball and fortunately, there are three seasons of baseball.
A couple of years ago they invited my Dad to become one of the baseball coaches for our team. And last year they added Coach Rob Parisi. We are so lucky to have such an amazing coaching staff. They make baseball fun, and work us hard at the same time. I never feel like they pick favorites. They hold us all to the same standard and won't let any of us make excuses.
I am also played baseball for Liberty Middle school as well as for PAL. It’s a lot of baseball, but I’m really enjoyed the experience. We play Roosevelt Middle school which means we play against our PAL teammates from the other side of town. I may or may not have accidentally hit them with a pitch once or twice.
PAL has given me a few opportunities to help out with the younger teams which I am enjoying very much. I have had such great examples of coaches, I hope I am as caring and motivating as they have been to me.
I am so grateful to Coach Rob for putting this team together and keeping us together. We are like family. I feel like I’ve made lifelong friends never to be separated.
West Orange Baseball is overseen by the WO Baseball Committee which consists of representatives from PAL, 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 Baseball programs, tryouts for Spring Travel Baseball take place the week of November November 12thfor 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. Those interested in playing in house baseball, MTL opens registration in March for the spring season, open to West Orange residents ages 5-12 beginning with T-Ball. Evaluations for players ages 10-12 take place in March as well.
Spring 2019 Travel Baseball Tryouts:
Tryouts will take place Monday through Thursday, November 12 – November 15, at the West Orange High School Baseball Field. Ages 6-10: 6-7:30pm; Ages 11-14: 7:30-9pm. Please come prepared with your baseball equipment. Players must attend 2 tryouts to be considered for one of the teams. Check the PAL website for forms and age cut off dates.
PAL Football & Cheerleading Banquet:
Friday, November 30th from 6-9pm at the West Orange High School Tarnoff Cafeteria for all players and families. Tickets will be on sale at the PAL.
Mountain Top League Girls Softball Pitching Clinic:
Begins November 2nd. See the MTL website to register!
2018-2019 Winter Basketball:
Open to boys and girls grades 4-8. Registeration is available on the MTL website..
Interested in volunteering with PAL? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in volunteering with MTL? Email email@example.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.
We Are West Orange highlights youth sports in town, including the kids they benefit and the volunteers 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 Dep’t Programs: http://www.westorange.org/index.aspx?nid=87.
Logo designed by Andrew Mazurek, WOHS Class of 2002: http://www.andrewmazurekart.com.