The National Adult Baseball Association was begun in San Diego in 1986. The Raritan Valley, N.J. league began play in the Summer of 1992. That was an abbreviated season. It started late and ended in disarray. In 1993, with the arrival of league president, Rick Helman, Raritan Valley enjoyed its first full season. That year, Dean Messina's Woodbridge Pirates posted a perfect 17-0 record, defeating the Middlesex Bears 3-2 in a twelve-inning battle for the ages to take the league's first title. In 1994, Helman passed the baton to current league president, Matt Dosch. That season saw the Carteret Mustangs win the first of three titles. The other two came in 1997 and 1998. In between, Jay Braun's Mariner team, who also hailed from Carteret, took the flag in 1995 and 1996. In their fourth attempt at a title the Middlesex Bears finally took it all home in 1999. The year 2000 saw expansion as we separated into two leagues, an AA and an A league. The Old Bridge Cubs took the first A League title with a 10-0 shutout over the Liberty Athletics. In AA, the Middlesex Bears edged the New Brunswick Mets 13-12. They would later lose that trophy in a controversial challenge game against the North Essex Cardinals who took first place in the A League, but forfeited their first-round playoff game.
Things settled down in 2001, and the RVNABA played its two championship games at Newark Bears and Eagles Stadium. The Middlesex Bears retook their title by edging the first place Stirling Hawks 10-9. The Bridgewater Blue Jays took the second A League crown downing the Madison Brewers 28-6.
In 2002, new additions to the league garnered both Championship Titles. The Irvington Cardinals and Fords Pirates took home the AA and A League trophies respectively. Then for the first time the RVNABA champs travelled to Trenton to take on the Tri-State NABA champs at Trenton Thunder Stadium. Both returned home victorious.
Irvington repeated as league champions in 2003, with a come from behind 8-7 victory over the NJ Clippers at Lakewood's Blue Claws Stadium. The Carteret Twins, meanwhile, brought a championship trophy back to Carteret after a five year absence as they shut out the South Amboy Yankees 7-0 behind the pitching of TJ Hepworth.
Third time proved to be a charm for Bill Hynes' Sayreville Giants as they defeated the Irvington Cardinals in the AA Championship Game @ FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood. After championship losses in 2000 and 2002, the Giants beat the Cards 6-1 to earn their first title. In the A League, the newcomer Somerset Sundevils trounced the East Brunswick Dodgers at FirstEnergy to become league champions. The Sundevils would prove to be a one-hit wonder as 2004 was their only season.
In 2005, the Raritan Valley NABA voted to go to a best of three championship series. Both the A and AA leagues would go the full three games. Joe Lambert, who managed the Sundevils to their 2004 title, found himself playing for the South Amboy Yankees. Under manager Bill Policastro, those Yankees won their first title, outlasting the South Plainfield White Sox two games to one. Yankee hurler Chris Bott fired a no-hitter in Game One. The 1-0 gem was a NABA post season first. The AA saw the Irvington Cardinals rise to the top once again as they stole back the series from the NJ Clippers. As he did in 2003, Julio Velasquez used the long ball to turn around the deciding game. The Cardinals entered the bottom of the ninth trailing the Clippers by four runs, but Velasquez followed up a run scoring error with a walk-off grand slam.
2006 witnessed the return of the Sayreville Giants to the Championship series. But they faced a new adversary when the Paterson Phillies defeated Irvington 1-0 to take the North Division Crown. It was the Cardinals first absence from the 'ship' since they joined the league in 2002. The Phillies engineered a two game sweep employing the nine run sixth inning in both games as they coasted 10-6 and 16-4 .
In A Ball the Elizabeth Orioles played host to the Edison Astros in their championship series. And Joe Lambert was there again - this time with the O's. Edison took game one 1-0 as Greg Slavicek won this pitchers' duel at Blueclaws Stadium. Elizabeth evened the series to set up a game three showdown. And the Astros appeared headed to victory before the Orioles mounted their comeback from an 8-1 deficit to win 10-9 and secure their first Championship (and Lambert's unprecedented third A League Championship)
In 2007, the league voted to change the playoff format and a best of three series was adopted for each round. This proved fortuitous for the Middlesex Reds who capped an average regular season with a storybook playoff run, knocking off the first and second place teams in the A League West to earn their way to the Championship Series where they defeated the East Brunswick Dodgers in three games.
In the AA the Phillies defended their North Division title but surrendered the League Championship to the South's NJ Clippers in two games. It was the Clippers' third trip to the 'ship and their first title.
For the AA, the 2008 campaign produced the first championship rematch in consecutive years in more than a decade. Unlike the 1995-96 championships between Carteret's Mariners and Mustangs, which were swept by the Mariners, this rematch had the Paterson Phillies avenging their 2007 loss to the NJ Clippers. Paterson took the series in three games, losing game one before sweeping 2 games the following weekend. Our A League crowned a new Champion when the South River Bombers swept a pair from the Morris Brewers. The first game was a twelve inning, 4-3 gem at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood.
2009 was a season characterized by numerous rainouts and so, the longest on record. In the end, the NJ Bears who were primarily comprised of players from the defunct NJ Clippers with a handful of Middlesex Bears and some new talent, met up with the Paterson Phillies who were in their fourth consecutive championship series. The series saw the Phils win an 18 inning game two, to even the series. But in game three, Gus Guida's three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth turned a 9-7 deficit into the Bears' fourth League Championship. In A ball, the South Amboy Pitbulls swept the Middlesex Pirates 7-4 and 5-3 for their first championship.
The Sayreville Giants and NY/NJ White Sox filled the void when neither the Bears nor the Phillies returned in 2010. The White Sox who were reclassified as Northerners took first place and won the division crown, but fell in a two game set to the South's Sayreville Giants by scores of 4-2 and 6-5. It was the Giants' second Championship as they swept all three post season series. In A ball the Edison Cubs breezed through the early season and looked like they might improve on their 19-1 2009 record. The end of the season left room for doubt and they got by the Nemesis in three games in round one, before sweeping the next two rounds en route to their first Spring Championship. They had earned a Fall Ball Flag in 2009. They defeated the West's Red Sox 4-0 in game 1 at FirstEnergy Park. Game two also went to the Cubs but it took them thirteen innings to edge the Sox 5-4 at Torpey Athletic Complex.
2011 brought some challenges. Declining from 27 to 24 teams to start the season, the league took a hit when three veteran teams unexpectedly withdrew in mid-season. The Morris Brewers, Irvington Cardinals and NY/NJ White Sox all folded in the month of June. The A League weathered the loss of one team but the AA schedule was decimated and the playoff format had the South division Senators playing in the North division. Those Senators beat the Shockers in round one before losing 2 of 3 to the Phillies, who returned to the Championship after taking 2010 off. However the Phillies suffered a devastating blow just hours before their game 3 with the Senators when their teammate Rey Garcia was killed in a traffic accident. It was a somber squad that faced off against the defending champion Giants the following week. The Giants took that game one by an 8-1 score, and completed a sweep with a 5-0 shutout two weeks later. In A Ball, the South Amboy Pitbulls, who also took off the 2010 season, returned to the Championship Series, this time representing the East division. They got by a tough Monmouth County Twins team and an equally tough Amboy Angel squad to meet the Colt 45’s at Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park for game one of the Championship. The ‘Bulls swept that series 5-1, and 6-4. In Fall Ball, Tim Ritchie’s Bulldogs, in their first year, took the title from the defending champion Kearny White Sox by a 5-1 score on November 20 at William Warren Park.
If 2011 was the beginning of the end, 2012 was the end of the end …of the RVNABA, as it had been known. For the second time after winning an A League Championship, the Pitbulls failed to make the climb into AA, opting again to sit out the season. Our two most southern teams spun off to create the Jersey Shore NABA, and the AA endured an entire season with just five squads – and only a 16 game schedule – the fewest since 1993. At the end the last teams standing were Bill Hynes’ defending champion Giants and the NJ Cubs managed by former Giant Matt Gizzi. It took three games, but the Giants won their third straight title. After losing game one 9-7, on Saturday Sept 15, the Giants swept a doubleheader the next day. The A League, on the other hand, came within two makeup games of all ten teams completing a 21-game schedule. The Shockers ran away with the West posting an 18-2 record and advanced through the playoffs to square off against the Amboy Angels. The Angels, who finished in second, two games behind the Monmouth Twins, swept the Edison Cubs and the Twins en route to the Championship series, which they also swept by scores of 11-1 and 14-1. The new Jersey Shore NABA combined with the RVNABA to put a Fall Ball season together. The Championship featured the Monmouth County Thunder challenging the first place Harrison Blue Jays (formerly the Kearny White Sox), who were making their fifth straight appearance. The Blue Jays emerged victorious with a 4-0 shutout.
2013 – RVNABA gives way to NewJersey ABL. History unwritten…
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