District 7 Little League All-Star tournaments get underway

Carmine Conti realizes that he’s going to be a very busy man over the next month, but in his eyes, it’s a good kind of busy.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said the long-time District 7 Little League administrator, the man who coordinates the eight different Little League All-Star tournaments that began this week with the 11-and-12-year-old tourney. “We’re looking forward to it. We’re getting great participation from all of our leagues. We’re going to have 168 games over the next month. We will all be going crazy as usual, going to different fields in different towns. But we have a great staff to oversee it all.”
Conti is following in the footsteps of his father, the late Carmine Conti, Sr., who oversaw the District 7 operations for more than 30 years. The leadership changed hands a few times ever since the elder Conti fell ill and couldn’t continue as the administrator.
After a few years, the younger Conti has taken over the role and the District 7 Little League has never been bigger or better, for both boys and girls.
Sure enough, there’s now Little League softball for the girls to compete in.
The most important of the District 7 tournaments is the 11-and-12 year old All-Stars, with the winner of the tourney moving on to earn a possible right to play in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., an event that now gathers worldwide attention thanks to the television coverage on ESPN and ABC Sports.
Ever since 1958, District 7 has been a viable participant in the tourney that eventually crowns a Little League World Series champion.
In 1966, West New York American won the District 7, Section 2 and New Jersey State Little League championships earning a trip to Williamsport. The WNY American All-Stars, who won three state titles in the 1960s, went all the way to the Little League World Series title game before losing to Westport of Houston, Texas in the championship contest.
In 1988, Roberto Clemente of Jersey City won the District 7, Section 2 and New Jersey State titles, moving on to the Eastern Regional tourney in Bristol, Conn., before falling in the first round.
In 2008, North Bergen South won the District 7 and Section 2 championships to earn a berth in the state tournament, but the squad fell short in the opening round.
So there is history that comes from the District 7 tourney.
The double elimination 11-and-12 All-Star tourney was slated to begin Friday night after press time, with Jackie Robinson of Jersey City facing off against West New York National in a battle of perennial District 7 titans. Hoboken was set to tangle with West New York American, with that doubleheader being played in West New York.
Secaucus was set to host a first round doubleheader at the great Buchmiller Park facility Sunday, with the first game slated for 1 p.m. and host Secaucus playing at 3 p.m.
The District 7 11-and-12 softball tourney was set to begin Saturday with games in Bayonne.
The District 7 9-and-10 baseball tourney also kicks off this weekend in Elizabeth on Saturday, then Monday night at Secaucus.
As you can see, Conti will be an extremely busy man over the coming weeks.
“We have eight games at four different sites in the first weekend,” Conti said.
The 11-and-12 baseball tourney will culminate with the championship game on Saturday, July 11 at Hoboken at 3 p.m. If necessary, the tourney could be decided Sunday, July 12, also at 3 p.m.
“The first thing we have to insure is that we all remember what Little League is about,” said Conti, who was a standout player for the now defunct Downtown Little League that won the District 7 title back in 1974. “We are teaching the game first and giving everyone a chance to play.”
Conti said that the competition level has picked up over the years, so that the same programs don’t dominate year after year.
“I think our leagues have worked hard in being more competitive,” Conti said. “We want to keep this program moving forward. We want our district to make things enjoyable for the kids. We want our kids to play solid baseball and I think that you’ll see that on the field with the competitiveness of the kids.”
Conti said that all the leagues in District 7 were subjected to a safety seminar prior to play this spring.
“We want to insure that our kids are 100 percent safe,” Conti said. “There’s a 15-step check list involved with safety. There’s a field survey, field dimensions. We have to insure that there’s a safe and secure concession stand. I’m proud to say that there is a lot of hard work that goes into in. We want to represent District 7 in the right way.”
District 7 programs will host four sectional tourneys after the District 7 champions are crowned.
Secaucus will host the Section 2 11-and-12 All-Star tourney with the champions of District 5, 6, 7 and 8 all coming to Buchmiller July 18 through 24.
Senior Baseball (ages 14-to-16) will host its sectional tourney July 7-11 at Franco Field in Jersey City.
The Big League state softball championships (ages 16-to-18) will also be held in Secaucus July 14 through 18 and the state baseball 10-and-11 championships Aug. 13-17 in Hoboken.
Needless to say, it should be an exciting time for hundreds of kids over the next month. We will try to feature as many of the champions as possible over the coming weeks.
EXTRA INNINGS focuses on the best stories that come from local baseball and softball leagues throughout the area, from Little League action through travel leagues.
If you have any noteworthy information to contribute to the EXTRA INNINGS, feel free to contact Jim Hague by phone at (201) 303-5792, by general mail at 1400 Washington St., Hoboken, NJ 07030, or via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com.
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Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.

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