For John McNamara and his PAL Elite Baseball Team it is not the titles that matter but the players they help to take their game to the college level.
This year the squad accomplished both their goals by bringing home theUSABL 18-U championship. McNamara said many of the players live in Howell while attending local high schools including Christian Brother's Academy, Middletown South and Freehold Township.
This is just the second year the PAL team has competed but already they have enjoyed plenty of success. Last year they finished second in the fall and the spring but also showed well in the college showcase tournaments they entered. "Last year, not only did we do very well in those tournaments we managed to get five players into college for baseball," McNamara said.
Getting to the top of the league was not easy as they waited to get all their pieces in place when the high school season ended. Saying he "never disrespects the high school game," McNamara said he could not use some of his best pitchers until their seasons had wrapped up. "Once we got through the high school season we started winning ballgames and wound up in the playoffs."
The manager credited many of his players for helping to lead them to the championship. That included Joe Rotelli who plays for Saint John Vianney, Neptune's Jason Richard and Middletown South's Mike Grossi and Sean McNamara.
Their offense helped put runs on the board and the coach said the pitching of players like Jackson Memorial's Anthony Rocco and Piero Vescio helped keep the opponents in check. He also credited Grossi with helping on the mound along with Middletown South's Mike DiOrio.
Now that they have won the title the coach said they are still working to improve outside the league season. They will be entering more showcase tournaments in states like Maryland, Georgia and Florida and will bring back 19 of the same players next year. By the time October ends McNamara said he estimated his squad would play close to 100 games.
No matter how many games they win he said they have bigger things to accomplish. "It doesn't matter how many wins and losses you have, it matters how many kids we can help get to college," he said. "That's our gauge for success."