ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A local youth baseball team is ready to go up against the best — in the Little League World Series.
The last time a team from New Jersey made it to the championship tournament was more than two decades ago.
On Sunday night, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner spoke with the young sluggers from Elizabeth.
It was a dream years in the making that has now come true for the 13 members of the Elmora Troopers.
“I was crying non stop. These boys have literally worked so hard for this,” parent Christina Rosado added.
“It was nothing but these big huge gleaming smiles,” parent Patty Aponte said.
Elizabeth beat Haverstraw from Rockland County 19-4 on Saturday night in the Mid Atlantic Region championship game. Now it’s on to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where it will challenge teams representing seven other regions.
Founding members of the team were inspired by the 1998 New Jersey squad, which featured a current member of the Mets.
“We watched Toms River in ’98 and Todd Frazier and all those guys and we were like why not us?” Elmora Youth League treasurer Ralph Abbate said.
Elmora is the neighborhood in Elizabeth where the team plays and is nicknamed the troopers, after New Jersey State Trooper Thomas Hanratty, an Elizabeth native and baseball player who was killed in the line of duty in 1992 in a motor vehicle accident. Current team manager Jairo Labrador said he was coached by Hanratty’s brother.
“We wear his badge number on our uniforms, 4971,” Labrador said. “We’re representing the New Jersey State Police, a lot of its heroes.”
State police will attend the first game in the series Friday against Oregon. Labrador and the players, ages 10 to 12, arrived Sunday in Williamsport, where there is an international tournament, too.
“It’s great seeing teams from around the world,” 12-year-old Sal Garcia said.
“We’re going to try to make it as far as we can from here,” 12-year-old Yadi Mateo added.
“I think they’re learning whatever they put their minds into they can accomplish,” parent Edwin Heredia said.
“Being born and raised in Elizabeth and being Hispanic, I think that is also something great, positive that we’re doing in the community,” Elmora Youth League president Manuel Medina added.
And that pride is on full display all over town.
Two bus companies are offering to take fans for free to see the big game Friday. Already at least three buses have been filled.
The team is still fundraising to help players’ families attend the tournament. To find out how you can help, please click here.