SCOREBOARD Local baseball standouts get chance to play one more game

State Coaches’ All-Star game, Underclassmen Game extends the season for some

When Ohanny Jesurum and Brian Rodriguez were growing up in their native Dominican Republic, they just wanted one thing.
“I started playing baseball when I was five,” said Rodriguez, a junior at Weehawken. “It was what we all did. I played baseball all the time.”
“I spent a lot of time in the Dominican Republic playing baseball,” said Jesurum, a graduating senior at Weehawken. “Baseball was always real important to me.”
The two teamed up this season to help the Indians win 19 games and advance all the way to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I title game, where they fell to Ridgefield. It was Weehawken’s best baseball season in a few years.
Definitely, head coach Anthony Stratton has the Weehawken program moving in the right direction. Others around baseball circles in New Jersey have also taken notice.
The proof of that took place Wednesday and Thursday, when Rodriguez and Jesurum were able to extend their seasons by one game. Both were selected to play in statewide postseason All-Star Games, both of which were set to be played at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
First, Rodriguez, who had a sensational season for the Indians, was selected with a handful of other fine locals to participate in the third annual Underclassman Games Wednesday, designed as a showcase for the top 100 players in the state with high school eligibility remaining.
Rodriguez, who batted an astounding .547 with six homers and 38 RBI, collecting 62 hits, was on the team with A.J. Candelario and Michael Christopoulos of Marist, Thomas Hojnacki of St. Peter’s Prep and West New York native Justin Willis, who plays for St. Joseph of Metuchen. In his final act representing Marist, soon-to-be St. Anthony baseball coach and athletic director Ron Hayward will be one of the coaches for the Northeast squad.
“It’s an honor to play in the game, because it helps to get my name out there,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a good opportunity for me as I try to take the next step. It feels good to represent my school and my league [the NJIC].”
Then, a day later, Jesurum was one of only three Hudson County products to be picked to play in the annual New Jersey Scholastic Baseball Coaches’ All-Star Classic for graduating seniors. It’s the 33rd annual All-Star Classic and there’s Jesurum also representing tiny Weehawken.
Jesurum is the first Weehawken product to be selected to play in the NJSBCA All-Star classic since Edgar Montilla in 2008.
“I knew it was seven years since Weehawken had a player in the game,” Jesurum said. “I think it’s a huge honor coming from a small school. I honestly thought I had a chance to make the team this year, because we did so well. But it’s always hard coming from a small school. It’s just really exciting that I made the team. It’s surprising, but I also feel special in a way. It’s all the best seniors in the state.”
Jesurum made the Northeast All-Stars, along with the St. Peter’s Prep tandem of Antonio Velardi and Dan Cooney.
“I couldn’t believe I got picked,” said Cooney, who is off to Babson College, just outside of Boston, in the fall. “It’s a great way to end the year and I get to represent the school along with Velardi. It’s a special feeling putting on that Prep jersey one more time.”
Cooney was almost destined to become a Marauder.
“My grandfather went to Prep,” Cooney said. “He’s the Class of 1945. I have two uncles who also went to Prep, so I always wanted to play baseball there. This is a great way for me to end my Prep career and I’m doing it with one of my best friends [Velardi]. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Stratton was especially proud that the game organizers recognized the efforts of his players.
“There weren’t a lot of kids from Hudson County picked, so to have two of our players go down and play there is great,” Stratton said. “We hardly get noticed and hadn’t had anyone in a long time. So to have these two guys stand out like this is a great feeling.”
Stratton spoke of Rodriguez’s reaction.
“The kid is so very humble,” Stratton said. “He doesn’t think he’s a superstar. But his name is all over the place now. I know he’s really excited to get the chance to play in the game. It’s huge for him.”
Jesurum just recently decided that he will attend Brookdale Community College in the fall, but he’s still open to suggestions from other schools.
“I didn’t get as many colleges interested in me,” Jesurum said.
And that’s a kid who merely collected 102 hits in just three years of varsity play.
“He’s an amazing hitter,” Stratton said.
And it’s amazing that Weehawken gets a chance to dance with the big boys a little this week on the grandest baseball stage in New Jersey. The Marauders of Prep also get to stick out their chests with pride for their two All-Star standouts. That’s what getting picked for an All-Star game does for you. It gives you recognition for a job well done, one final time to wear the high school uniform with pride.

Jim Hague can be reached at You can also read Jim’s blog at

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