Root, root, root for NJ’s home team in Little League World Series
Baseball fever is gripping the Garden State.
But the excitement is not about the Yankees, Mets or Phillies. It’s centered on a group of 12-year-old boys who are in Pennsylvania representing the Garden State in the Little League World Series.
Jersey’s top team, the Elmora Troopers from Elizabeth, will take on an All-Star team from Oregon on Friday night in Williamsport.
Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said his entire city is thrilled.
“We’ve hung some banners up on our main streets, we have a watch party at Williams field, where we’re bringing in a big screen for anybody who can’t make the game," he said Thursday.
Half a dozen buses will head off to Williamsport from Elizabeth early Friday afternoon.
Bollwage said it’s inspiring for the entire state that the Troopers are one of 16 teams left, after 7,000 teams began the season.
“Ever since I was a little boy and I tinkered around in Little League baseball, everyone envisioned themselves, at some time, at the age of 12, hoping to make it to Williamsport," he said.
The Troopers are named in honor of New Jersey state trooper Thomas J. Hanratty, who played in the Elmora Youth league as a boy, and was killed in 1992 during a traffic stop.
Bollwage said members of the Troopers all have Hanratty’s badge number, 4971, on their uniform.
“4971 has become the rallying cry for the Elmora Troopers, and it’s really a great tribute to the Hanratty family," the longtime mayor said.
This is the first time a team from Union County has made it to the Little League World Series.
The Mayor said no matter what happens at the tournament, “we’ve set a date of Sept. 6 where we’re going to do a caravan of celebration going through the town and stopping at the schools and celebrating the great achievement that these kids had.”
Bollwage said the team has won a lot of tough games in the past few months.
“Not only did they come through the many, many teams to win the New Jersey state championship, but they played six games in seven days. We had to beat teams from Washington, D.C., and New York. We had to beat a team from Pennsylvania and Connecticut. It was really, really difficult," he said.
“It’s special for these kids to know the entire city as well as the state of New Jersey is behind them.”
Bollwage said Gov. Phil Murphy has been invited to the team celebration next month.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com