Saturday, January 28, 2023

As I hang up my sportswriter-as-hobby hat for the winter, I want to thank all of you that came along for the ride with the Teaneck TBO 10U team as we completed a perfect 10-0 season and won the Northeast Bergen All-Stars (NEBAS) championship! I wrote these articles for the boys and loved their weekly excitement at seeing their names in print—but an added bonus was the excitement of the community and words of encouragement we received along the way! Thank you to The Jewish Link and sports editor Steve Gutlove who generously published the articles each week and encouraged me to write this season’s retrospective. I’ll leave the details of each game to the weekly articles, and hope to give you a more personal perspective on our journey. While the season is complete, the memories and relationships that we built as a team will last forever!

In the grand scheme of things, I really like to think of competitive sports as an avenue to teach our children values that they can carry with them throughout their lives. I truly hope that the boys carry on these values that they learned throughout the season as I know I will: teamwork,passion, heart, setting and achieving goals and gratitude.

Teamwork, Passion, and Heart

The passion for baseball runs high in our community as we had a record number of players try out for the Fall 10U team—25 truly skilled players—more than double the number trying out for the travel team in any previous season. Our coaching team selected a 14-player roster, a well-balanced and highly skilled group, with great depth in pitching, fielding and hitting that we thought would make the difference as we faced the top teams: Gideon Apter, Caleb Block, Ezra Block, Benjamin Chetrit, Nathan Demby, Aiden Merkin, Avi Pasternak, Elan Rabbani, Noam Rabbani, David Siev, Nate Tenzer, David Wilbur, Gavi Yaros and Shai Zaretsky. As community members read the stories of their victories, I would often get the question “Wow, are they really that good?” to which I could emphatically say, “Yes!” I’ll let the 10-0 championship season where we outscored opponents 151-31 speak for itself. For a group of third and fourth graders who had never played together as a team, it was truly amazing to see them come together throughout the season and support each other.

Our coaching team also proved to be a special one, and we each had our special roles throughout the season. Head Coach Shlomo Yaros led the charge with his command of our weekly practices and leading our team lineup and in-game decisions. Benjo Wilbur, the most experienced of our team, was our rules expert and third base coach who ensured that we ran the bases aggressively and that rules were followed meticulously. Yigael Chetrit, game and practice operations leader, ensured that games were scheduled, fields and referees were confirmed, and the lights were on at Clubhouse for our evening practices and games. Noam Block was our hitting specialist as he improved each batter’s swing mechanics and enthusiastically cheered on each “great swing!” in every at bat. In some small way, beyond serving as WhatsApp over-communicator and GameChanger stat-keeper (team BA.410, OBP.653, OPS 1.257), I like to think that my role was to help us build a team culture centered around supporting each other, having fun, playing with passion and refusing to lose. I also had the privilege of delivering the speeches before and after each practice and game, and can only hope that 5% of what I said inspired the boys to bring just a little more focus, a little more skill and a little more belief that they could accomplish whatever they set their minds to.

In building a culture, we had an amazing group of parents, siblings, grandparents and friends who supported the team through its journey. We had a long list of memories that everyone contributed to—post-game doughnut and ice-cream truck victory celebrations; cheers from the bench and the stands; the “TBO 10U Playoff Hype Mix” played by DJ Merkin; full team scrimmages; and team trips to the batting cages when practices were rained out. Speaking of rain, I will never forget the experience of coaches, parents and players joining together to roll out the tarp in hopes that it would help us host the championship game on our field. (It didn’t.) We built something special for these boys to remember. No one—players or coaches—phoned it in this season. We all led with our hearts and with passion and really put in so much work to make this a special season.

Setting and Achieving Goals

As we assembled for our first practice at Votee Park, I walked the team over to the side of the TBO Clubhouse building and looked up at the banners of past TBO championship winning travel teams. We agreed that this was our goal—to win a championship and get our names on “The Wall.” Through the first couple of games, a 9-6 victory over River Vale and a 17-7 victory over Tenafly, we learned about our team’s strengths and weaknesses, and better understood the roles that each team member would need to play to reach that goal. Assuming a complete six inning game, our pitching rotation would be Avi Pasternak, David Siev and closer David Wilbur. We had also set our starting lineup, hoping for the opportunity to get every player in at some point every game. What we didn’t anticipate was that we would rarely play a complete six inning game, as the mercy rule took effect when a team had a 10-run lead after four innings.

The team would continue to consecutive four-inning victories over Fort Lee (29-8) and River Edge (a 26-0 no-hitter). While a 4-0 start to the season was great, it was our 12-5 victory over previously undefeated Carlstadt that made us add “undefeated” to our list of goals. The team continued to a 10-0 1-hit victory over Ridgewood and a 23-0 no-hit victory over Washington Township to bring us to our final regular season game against crosstown rival Teaneck Southern. Under the lights at Votee Park, we convincingly defeated Teaneck Southern 11-1 in another four-inning affair to complete the regular season 8-0 and head to the playoffs as the #1 seed.

In the opening round of the playoffs, we defeated a much-improved Fort Lee team 10-1 to set the stage for the championship game vs. River Vale. In the championship game we entered the bottom of the final inning down 3-2, and this is where our teamwork, passion, and heart shined the brightest. One of my favorite moments of the season was when team leader David Wilbur said to his teammates “We can’t win if we don’t cheer!”—and then the rally began! After tying the game, the chant of “Teaneck T-B-OOOOOOO” to the tune of “Seven Nation Army” rang from the team bench. Wilbur came to the plate with Zaretsky on third base, and with a full count, hit the game winning shot to the center field fence! Our team had set its goals—a championship and an undefeated season—and we had achieved it all!


Finally, as the team celebrated the championship, I will always remember watching the boys turn to their parents, grandparents and siblings to show their gratitude for their support throughout the season. I also want to express our gratitude to Chickies for their generous sponsorship of our team championship dinner this Sunday!

Most importantly, I would like to thank my amazing wife Jackie and my children Daniella, Sarah and Nathan. Your unending love and support made it all possible and I am so grateful for you each and every day. Your patience through this amazing (and a little crazy) three months of practices, games, articles, WhatsApp messages, GameChanger reminders and marathon baseball and BCFL coaching Sundays is so genuinely appreciated! I love you all so much!

By Coach Jason Demby


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