Friday, April 29, 2011

Random Thoughts

Random thoughts on the final weekday of April and a day that saw many get up early to watch the Royal Wedding which in itself is rather strange and perplexing.

Those who attended last night’s Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce Dinner Gala at Eagle Ridge Golf Course were promised by the Master of Ceremonies that it would be a fast-moving program that would get everyone home in time for the Giants first-round pick in the NFL Draft. I know because I was the MC and I lived up to my promise….actually the program ended in record time. The evening saw the eloquent Dr. Jon Larson of Ocean County College honored as the Distinguished Citizen of the Year while JCP&L and New Jersey Natural Gas were saluted as organizations of the year. In addition the event served as a changing of the guard with Rich Krug replacing Ken Fitzpatrick as chairman of the Chamber and a new group of officers and directors took their oaths of office.
Attorneys Stephan Leone and Harvey York were co-chairman of the dinner committee and had plenty of help, especially from Director of Operations Jean Hryniw and new Chamber President Maureen Stankowitz.

Toms River South and Jackson Memorial played four times last baseball season and it would not be a shock if that happened again this spring. The Indians and Jaguars received the top two seeds in the Ocean County Tournament and will be on a collision course to meet in the finals which they did last year. South won that game and 3 of the 4 meetings in 2010. However the Jaguars topped the Indians earlier this month in a Class A South battle and the teams play again Monday night at Ken Frank Stadium where a Jackson win would put them in great shape to claim the division title. The teams are a combined 17-2 and clearly the best in the area.

Central Regional’s Marc Calleo (cal-e’-oh) will be saluted Monday as the WOBM/Gateway Toyota Student of the Week but he gets some early radio props for his pitching performance Thursday. He threw a one-hitter to lead the Golden Eagles past Pinelands as they remained a game behind Class B South-leading Manchester.

Congratulations to Jess Kavanagh of Point Pleasant Boro, who successfully defended her title at the Ocean County Girls Golf Tournament yesterday at Westlake Golf & Country Club in Jackson. The Panther junior finished five shots ahead of Lacey’s Alexa Leahy who did lead the Lions to the team championship in just their third varsity season. Kavanagh will have a chance next year to become the first three-time winner of the event.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Voting & Judging

School budgets fared much better in Ocean County this year than last although once again some of the larger districts saw their spending plans voted down during Wednesday’s School Elections. Voters in 20 of the 28 districts approved their budgets which was a marked improvement over 2010 when only 11 got the thumbs-up from voters. At least to me one of the bigger surprises was the budget passing in the Toms River Regional School District. It was the first election since the resignation of longtime superintendent Michael J. Ritacco and many expected the backlash of that controversy to be reflected in the voting booth but by a margin of less than 500 votes the budget was approved. At the same time Toms River voters elected Ben Giovine, Loreen Torrone and Alex Pavliv to the Board of Education…the trio ran under the “Clean Slate” banner in an election which saw three longtime incumbents not to seek re-election.

Among other districts to pass their budgets were Southern Regional, Lacey, Pinelands Regional, Barnegat and Point Pleasant. The eight districts that saw voters reject their spending plans were Berkeley, Brick, Central Regional, Jackson, Lakewood, Manchester, Plumstead and Seaside Park. 21% of registered voters cast ballots Wednesday, which is a bit less than last year but still more than would usually vote during the school elections. Part of the interest might be due to special elections to exceed municipal caps in Brick and Jackson which had mixed results with Brick voters approving the waiver and those in Jackson soundly rejecting the plan.

Switching gears I had the distinct honor of serving as a judge once again for the finals of The Crab’s Claw Inn’s Karaoke Contest which featured four winners of previous weekly competitions. This was the third year that the Lavallette restaurant and bar held the contest and I’ve judged all three although my contract will have to be re-negotiated in the future. Anyway all four of the finalists had their own “fan clubs” and it made picking a winner based on vocal ability, stage presence and crowd support a difficult task. The winner was a popular choice as Judy Mekles of Lavallette wowed the crowd with a stirring rendition of Cher’s “Believe.” Mekles, who is the nurse at Island Heights Elementary School finished third in the 2009 contest and had already decided this would be her final attempt at the top prize of $1000 and it proved to be successful.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

School Elections

New Jersey’s Annual School Elections are today with districts deciding the fate of school budgets and in some cases selecting representatives to their local Board of Education. Last year nearly 25% of registered voters in Ocean County cast ballots which was much higher than in previous years. The interest was in part sparked by the bleak economic state of affairs in New Jersey and Governor Christie’s battle with the New Jersey Education Association. Only 11 of 28 school districts in the county passed their budgets which was considerably less than 2009 when 23 spending plans were approved. What really stood out was that most of the larger districts overwhelmingly rejected their budgets with only Toms River, Southern Regional and Stafford able to overcome that trend and get voter approval. It certainly seemed that the bigger turnout was made up by those who clearly were heading to the polls to vote no.

There is no reason to expect a different outcome today but at the very least you would hope that voters are somewhat informed as they step into the booth. The bottom line is many will take out their frustrations today because it’s the only time they get a say in how their taxes are spent and in these times its hard to blame those who simply reject anything they feel will cost them more money. However if they have done some research they may find their district has taken the current state of affairs into consideration and is presenting pretty much a bare-bones budget. Many include administrative wage freezes, personnel cutbacks, significant cuts to programs and extracurricular activities and more. For this reason there will be districts that are presenting budgets that don’t call for any tax increase or ones that are quite small…although again any increase to some is simply not acceptable.

However until our state is able to find another way to fund education besides property taxes this is the system we are stuck with. If you feel your districts has done their homework and is presenting a fair budget then it deserves your support…even if you don’t have school-aged children. If you have children in school and don’t support the local budget then you will have nobody to blame if your kids have to walk further to and from school and they are home early because the extracurricular program they used to be involved in has been cut.

As for those running for the Board of Education they deserve some credit right off the bat for giving their time and effort to a volunteer position that often comes with little reward. Here’s hoping the ones doing it for the right reasons prevail today.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday This & That

Most public schools are re-opening today after what’s commonly referred to as “spring recess” and it’s now pretty much about a 7-8 week sprint to the finish line.
espite all that harsh weather in the early part of winter many districts only had to use a few snow days so they are getting out in pretty much the middle of June.
Tomorrow of course is the annual school elections and I will use this time Wednesday to talk about voting on the budget and candidates for the local school board.

The Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce will honor Ocean County College President Dr. John Larson during Thursday night’s 48th Annual Gala at Eagle Ridge Golf Club’s View Restaurant. Also being saluted will be JCP&L and New Jersey Natural Gas and I will serve as Master of Ceremonies for event as Millennium Radio is a major sponsor. For last minute ticket information you can call the Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce at (732) 349-0220.

The Manchester Township Educational Foundation is holding their 3rd Annual Golf Outing on Monday, May 16th at Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Lakewood. Sponsored by EyesFirst Vision Center, all proceeds will help the foundation enhance educational opportunities for students in the Manchester School District. For golf and sponsorship information you can call Jeffrey DeSimone at (732) 856-8331.

The Beachwood Soccer Club is holding a gift auction on Friday, May 14th at Toms River Intermediate School South. The bi-annual event is always a great night with great prizes and gifts to be won. Tickets are available by calling Dawn at (732) 473-0915.

Yankee fans at last night’s BlueClaws game got a special treat….General Manager Brian Cashman and assistant Gene Michael were among those in attendance at FirstEnergy Park. They were on hand to see some of the Yanks top prospects who are playing for the Charleston River Dogs, who are in Lakewood through Friday night.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Post Holiday Thoughts

I know the weather is always a fallback item when we have nothing to talk about but can you ever remember such a dramatic turnaround like we experienced this weekend? Saturday morning it was not only raining and very windy but it was quite chilly with temperatures in the 50’s and in certain places the wind chill made it feel much colder. I was at an event for the radio station at which people were wearing gloves and others wish they did. Then comes Easter Sunday and a glorious day in which temperatures reached the mid 80’s under perfect sunshine.
As expected we did get some thundershowers later but they held off until the evening and were not nearly as bad as we might have expected. The nicest thing about it all was families were able to enjoy a wonderful Easter Sunday together and it was a great day for outdoor activities, including annual promenades on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights and Point Pleasant Beach.

The weather we have experienced for most of the last few weeks is a reminder of how those who participate in spring sports really get the short end of the stick.
You really have to feel bad for those who play high school baseball, softball and lacrosse and especially golf and tennis. It seems like much of their season is played when it’s either cold or wet and just when the weather gets nice the season is over.

A week ago at this time Madison Square Garden was alive and buzzing with the Knicks and Rangers in the playoffs. Today both teams are done for the season and when it comes to sporting events the Garden will be dark for months to come.

After a long road trip the Lakewood BlueClaws return home and tonight begin their second home stand of the season. The Charleston RiverDogs, the Single-A affiliate of the Yankees are in for five games and will be followed by the Savannah Sand Gnats, who are a Mets affiliate.

This is National Karaoke Week and Wednesday night The Crabs Claw Inn will hold the finals of their annual Karaoke Contest which started in March. For the third straight year I will have the “honor” of being one of the judges and helping decide who gets the $1000 first prize. The finals are scheduled for 8pm at the popular restaurant and bar in Lavallette.

(There was no Hometown View on Friday, April 22)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Only 56 Years Ago

I am always interested in pieces that show how times have changed so getting an email titled “That’s only 56 years ago…comments made in the year 1955” really caught my eye. After all it’s just a year before I was born. Here are some of them and my oh my what a difference five decades makes:

• I’ll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are it’s going to be impossible to buy a week’s groceries for $10.00
• Have you seen the new cars coming out next year? It won’t be long before $1000 will only buy a used one.
• Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging 7 cents just to mail a letter?
• If they raise the minimum wage to $1.00 n hour nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store.
• I’m afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying “damn” in Gone with the Wind, it seems every new movie has either “hell” or “damn” in it.
• Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $50,000 a year? It wouldn’t surprise me if someday they’ll be making more than the President.
• It won’t be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work.
• The drive-in restaurant is convenient in nice weather but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on.
• If they think I’ll pay 75 cents for a haircut, forget it.
• I never thought I’d see the day all our kitchen appliances would be electric.
They are even making electric typewriters now.
• If cigarettes keep going up on price, I’m going to quit…20 cents a pack is ridiculous.
• I’m afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business.
• When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost 25 cents a gallon. Guess we’d be better off leaving the car in the garage.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A LIttle This & That

I received quite a bit of feedback about yesterday’s segment on what I thought was growing problem today with sports….the win-or-else attitude that many display even for little ones playing youth sports. The general consensus is that the ESPN generation has lost touch with the real world, especially parents who have very inflated opinions of their own child’s athletic ability and talent.

With that said these are good times for Central Regional baseball standout Patrick Sheldrick. Yesterday I received a release announcing he had signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Nyack College in New York…the same day Sheldrick singled in the game-winning run in the 10th inning as the Golden Eagles edged Toms River North. He is expected to get a chance to play in the outfield as a freshman for the Division II Warriors, who are suffering through a 1-13 season.
Sheldrick and his Golden Eagle teammates have a big Class B South game today when they host Manchester.

Monmouth University will hold a press conference at noon tomorrow to introduce its new women’s basketball coach. Longtime Asbury Park Press sportswriter Tony Graham says that speculation has centered on Ali Jacques, who just finished her third season at Northwestern where she is the Associated Head Coach. Jacques began her coaching career at Rider University and is a native of Hunterdon County. The Hawks have been looking for a coach since the sudden resignation of Stephanie Gaitley last month.

A reminder that a week from today is when some of us will cast our ballots in the annual rite of passage known as School Elections. That’s where we vote on local budgets and it some cases select Board of Education members. Polls must be open between 5-9pm but most districts have extended hours, usually starting in the early afternoon. I will have more on this next week.

Just seems very strange that this Sunday is Easter. For as late as it is, it just doesn’t feel like it…whatever that means.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Show Me The Money

One of the biggest complaints you’ll get from people about sports today is that it’s all about winning…and they’re not just talking about professional sports where winning should be the priority. Pretty much the same is now true of big-time college sports programs where success attracts high-caliber talent, TV revenue, sponsor support and ticket sales to fill large stadiums and arenas…bottom line money.

However you need look no further than you own town or school to know winning is what it’s all about. When our children first started playing recreation soccer, youth basketball or even tee-ball as 5 and 6 year-olds we celebrated the smallest signs of achievement. Making that first basket or scoring that first goal while we were videotaping the game is one of those Kodak moments we say will last a lifetime. We insist the priority at that age is for them to learn the basic fundamentals and rules, how to get along with others and most of all have FUN.
That my friends often goes out the window pretty quickly, especially for parents who believe their son or daughter has more talent than the others on the team.

Soon just playing the game is not good enough and the coach who stresses that everyone participates equally regardless of the score comes under fire from his own team parents. They want to win and if that means “little Johnny” plays the entire game because he’s the best player while others get two minutes…then so be it. After all the kids are now 8 years old…this is no longer baby stuff.

Before long the better players gravitate to select or travel teams and the goals become even bigger. Pursuing local, state and even national championships…practicing and playing 12 months a year…seeking better coaching and training….fundraising….and of course winning, winning, and winning. Those tapes you used to make which often brought laughter and even tears are now used as tools to show the kids what they are doing wrong.

Eventually it’s off to high school sports where the parents have now become experts from years and years of watching. They have no problem second-guessing just about every move the coaches’ make and can’t understand why the team does not win a state championship. They also feel their child is certainly good enough to earn a college scholarship and have a hard time accepting the fact that the offers
from Division One schools are not pouring in. This is the circle and cycle of sports today and it’s often not very pretty.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Break Is Here

You’ll probably notice a change in traffic patterns this week as most schools are closed for spring recess. Easter is very late this year so when students return next week most will only have about 7-8 weeks of school left before they are done for the year.

The Knicks really let a golden opportunity slip away last night to win the opener of their NBA Playoff series against the Celtics and it may cost them a realistic chance to win the series. Carmelo Anthony had a nightmare of a second half and then took a poor shot in the final seconds of a two-point loss in Boston.

All you need to know about the state of the Mets is that D.J. Carrasco and Dillon Gee were two of their starting pitchers this weekend.

Hopefully it’s a good sign for the summer that the weather cleared in time for the annual Easter Egg Hunt in Seaside Heights on Sunday. There were no reports of overbearing and obnoxious parents bullying their way onto the beach in an attempt to find eggs for their kids. My wife and I were talking about the time we took our then 3-year old son and watched as a father collected about 20 eggs by digging like he was looking for gold. There is always someone looking to spoil it for others.

Former Southern Regional standout Glenn Carson made a game-high 5 tackles in Saturday’s Blue-White game which ended spring practice for the Penn State football team. Unfortunately the game was played in a driving rain storm and it was
stopped early in the second half because of the conditions. Carson, a sophomore, played middle linebacker for the Blue team which won the rain-shortened contest 10-0.

Belated condolences to Hall of Fame football coach Al Saner on the death of his wife Janice last week. A near 40-year resident of Point Pleasant, she leaves behind her two sons, three grandchildren and husband Al for whom the football field at Point Boro High School is named.

We also send our deepest sympathy to Shore Sports Network broadcaster Ed Sarluca as his mother Catherine passed away Friday. Was able to attend her viewing Sunday and “Luch” kept a close eye on me as her coffin included a New York Yankees item that he was afraid I might steal. At 91 she had a great run.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Stuff

Like many of you think the DVR is one of man’s greatest inventions and allows us to easily watch recorded TV shows at our convenience. We probably record anywhere from 10-12 shows on a weekly basis and they watch them in bunches when we have time. The fact that you can actually record two shows at the same time also comes in handy. Anyway the prime-time TV season is starting to wind down and count me among the few who have not watched one minute of American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. However my personal list of the best shows currently on includes “The Good Wife,” “Parenthood,” “The Chicago Code,” “Harry’s Law,” “Off the Map,” “Blue Bloods,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Californication,”
“Grey’s Anatomy,” “House” and of course “Modern Family” which is hysterical.

If you’re a Mets fan the best news I can give you is there’s only 149 games left to play. After losing both ends of a doubleheader to visiting Colorado Thursday the
not-so Amazin’s are 4-9 and have bumbled and stumbled their way to 8 losses in their last 9 games. At this rate they should be out of the playoff race around July 4th or maybe even earlier.

Toms River’s Frazier Brothers are both off to slow starts while playing in the Triple A International League. Todd is batting .207 for the Louisville Bats with 2 homers and 5 RBI’s through eight games. The 25 year old is seeing action in both the infield and outfield but it’s his hitting which will hopefully earn him a call-up by the Cincinnati Reds at some point this season. Older brother Jeff is hitting .226 with 2 RBI’s through 7 games for the Syracuse Chiefs after having a strong spring before being sent down by the Washington Nationals. Both Frazier’s were All-State players at Toms River South before going on to have tremendous careers at Rutgers.

The Lakewood BlueClaws concluded a 3-4 opening home stand with a 3-0 loss to Greensboro last night and now take to the road for the next nine games which is unfortunate considering most schools are closed next week for spring recess. The BlueClaws return to FirstEnergy Park on April 25th.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Women Over 40

We all have days in which creativity goes out the window and it basically comes down to just getting certain tasks done…that would sum up today’s segment. I’m reaching back into the Hometown View archives for a piece I did more than eight years ago which really was the work of “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney.
It is titled “Women over 40” and it’s why Rooney and yours truly value older women so much more than we used too:

• An older woman will never wake you in the middle of the night to ask, “what are you thinking?” She doesn’t care what you think.
• If an older woman doesn’t want to watch the game, she doesn’t sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do…and it’s usually more interesting.
• An older woman knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, and what she wants and from whom. Few women past the age of 40 give a damn what you might think about her or what she’s doing.
• An older woman usually has had her fill of “meaningful relationships” and “commitment.” The last thing she wants in her life is another dopey, clingy, whiny dependant lover.
• Older women are forthright and honest, they’ll tell you right off the bat you’re a jerk if you are acting like one. You don’t ever have to worry where you stand with her.
• Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it’s like to be underappreciated.
• An older woman can look good wearing bright red lipstick. This is not true of younger women or drag queens.
• Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 40. They already know.
• Older women are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the movies or in the middle of a fancy restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it they won’t hesitate to shoot you or run over you if they think they can get away with it.

Conclusion…..women over 40 are sophisticated, smart and often very sexy. Sure hope my wife is listening.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Good Hospital Experience

I have always felt that hospitals get a lot of unfair criticism for the simple reason that you are almost always there for a bad reason. When you think about it the only time you go to a hospital for something joyful is the birth of a baby as just about every other time your stay or visit there is associated with sickness, illness or injury. So the bottom line is you go to a hospital in pretty much a bad mood and it doesn’t take much for your mood to get even worse when things don’t go like you want them to.

With that said when you are waiting in a hospital it seems like time never moves
and you keep looking at your watch or a clock wondering what’s wrong. It’s not the best place for those that have don’t have patience and while it can become frustrating what we rarely ever see is the big picture…there is simply a lot happening at the same time and we really have no idea what’s going on. Take Tuesday at Community Medical Center where my father was scheduled to undergo colon resection surgery after a rather large mass was found during a colonoscopy by Dr. Paul DeMartino last week. We had already met with Dr. Howard Berger who would be performing the surgery and he was optimistic that the mass was not cancerous and the operation would go just fine. Of course there is nothing routine about surgery for a soon-to-be 83 year old that has other medical issues as well but all in all we felt pretty good heading into yesterday’s procedure.

The surgery was scheduled for 2pm and Dr. Berger wanted my father there by 10am to get him prepped, ready and relaxed. However before too long we got an indication that things were behind schedule for a variety of reasons, including unexpected emergencies which do occur in hospitals. My father was very understanding, probably more so than my brother, sister and myself and he had more reason to complain because he had not had anything to eat or drink since Monday.

Anyway the 2pm surgery did not take place until 6pm and by the time Dr. Berger came out to see us the waiting room was pretty much empty. However the news was all good as everything went as well as we could expect and by 10pm Dad was getting great care in the Surgical Stepdown Unit. Speaking of care…we must have come in contact with a dozen nurses and others during the day and every one of them was just tremendous. I would do a disservice by singling them out but it’s obvious they are the glue that keeps it all together. It was a long and good day for us at Community Medical Center…oh and by the way for $1.50 you can’t beat the French Fries.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's Too Hot...

What is it with us? We moan and groan all winter long about snow and cold and ice and then the first warm day hits and we’re complaining about heat. Yes it was a bit of a shock Monday as temperatures soared over inland areas but it was great to roll down the windows in your car and open the windows in your home. So what if it was a bit warm….can’t you flash back to a few short months ago when we were digging out from two feet of snow? Don’t you remember that promise you made about not complaining about the heat? Frankly you either forgot or just need something else to be miserable about. Don’t fret because the heat wave was short-lived….at least for now.

It has to be a parent’s worst nightmare…the death of a child. However one can’t even imagine the pain that comes when it’s discovered that death was a suicide.
That’s the pain being felt by a Point Pleasant family as officials have ruled that a 19-year old woman intentionally drove her car onto the tracks and into the path of an oncoming train Saturday night in Spring Lake. Published reports say the 2010 Point Pleasant Borough graduate was having a rough freshman year at Rutgers and a recent breakup made things even more difficult. It is the latest of several suicides that have involved teenagers and trains on the North Jersey Coast Line in southern Monmouth County and it’s become a frightening epidemic.

Things are moving along very well for the Dick Gabriel Memorial Golf Outing on June 6th at Toms River Country Club. Friends and family have organized the benefit in memory of the longtime Island Heights resident, who lost his battle with cancer last spring. Dick and I were classmates at Central Regional High School where he was an outstanding baseball player and his death left friends and family wanting to do something to perpetuate his memory as proceeds from the golf outing will go towards a scholarship fund in his name. Openings to play golf are limited and the day-long event will also feature a dinner and gift auction which I will emcee. For information you can visit

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tiger Comes Close

He didn’t win but you have to admit having Tiger Woods in contention on the final day of the Master’s sure made things interesting. It was the wildest Sunday ever at Augusta National with eight players having or sharing the lead at one point but the bottom line is that Tiger’s charge early in the day is what electrified the gallery and many of us watching at home. 26-year old Charl Scwartzel of South Africa emerged from a crowded pack to birdie the final four holes and he was the unlikely winner of the “green jacket.” Just as unlikely was the complete and utter collapse of Irishman Rory McIlroy who took a four-shot lead into Sunday before falling apart at the seams and shooting a round of 80. It was simply a tremendous afternoon of gut wrenching golf and great theatre.

Talk about weird movies. We watched “Black Swan” over the weekend...that’s the film for which Natalie Portman won a Best Actress Oscar just last month. She is very good, although my wife and I were wondering if she did any of the dancing scenes. I know many movie reviewers thought it was brilliant and masterful and all of that good stuff but frankly it’s one of those movies that I’ll never have any reason to watch again.

There are still businesses that operate the old-fashioned way and one of them has to be Pettis Clock Shop in Toms River. We have a clock that hangs outside in the summer because it also displays the temperature and the hands were getting stuck.
So I brought it in to the shop on Route 166 in Toms River Saturday expecting to leave it and pick it up at a later date. Instead for $10.00 I got to watch Orville Pettis delicately and meticulously work his magic, heard about his days working on aircraft at McGuire Air Force Base and a history lesson on the clock shop which has been in the same location for more than 40 years. Now that was a bargain…and the clock works just fine.

No it’s not your imagination. You drive by a place in the morning and gas is $3.49 a gallon. You go by at lunch and its $3.55. Just imagine what it will be after dinner.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Baseball Season Starts

The Lakewood BlueClaws season and home opener was typical in that it was played on a cool if not cold evening where hot chocolate certainly out sold Italian Ices and hats and gloves were more appropriate than shorts and tee shirts. What was different was the BlueClaws won, something that had not done before in their 11-year history as they shutout the Kannapolis Intimidators 2-0. There was the pomp and circumstances that goes with Opening Night and while it was chilly it did not seem to bother the diehards who treat the opener like a holiday. It was nice to watch the interaction between fans and BlueClaws staff, especially the ushers who greeted fans like old friends which I guess in some case they have become over the years. Kids were scrambling to get autographs of players who one day may join the three dozen former BlueClaws who have made it to the major leagues.
All in all a night of fun and promise which is what opening day is supposed to be.

Have to admit that I was surprised to learn that Paul Brush is re-entering the world of politics in his home town of Toms River. Brush announced Thursday that he will run in the Democratic primary this June as he seeks the party nomination for Mayor of Ocean County’s largest town. He previously served as Mayor from 2004-2007 and during his tenure championed the cause of changing the name of the Township from Dover to Toms River. Along with the Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce that effort was successful and Brush would have the distinction of being the last mayor in Dover history and the first in Toms River.
Barring any surprises Brush would face off with current mayor Thomas Kelaher in November it what would certainly be a high-profile race.

The Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey are holding their 11th Annual Caring Classic Golf Outing on Monday, May 9th at Eagle Ridge Golf Club. The organization is a vital one and each month more than 1,000 volunteers give of their time to help elderly neighbors remain independent. Fundraising helps toward training, insurance and background checks for all the volunteers who perform tasks from driving to doctor appointments to food shopping while easing the burdens of family Caregivers. I will emcee the Awards program after dinner and for information on the golf outing you can call (732) 849-2719. Senator Robert Singer is the Honorary Chairperson of this year’s event.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Homeruns For Heroes

The Lakewood BlueClaws open their 11th season tonight at FirstEnergy Park against Kannapolis in the first of 140 games the team will play during the South Atlantic League’s regular season. The two-time defending league champions will start 22-year old Californian Mario Hollands, a 10th round pick in last June’s draft after graduating from the University of California-Santa Barbara. Meanwhile the opposing pitcher will be better known to many of those in attendance as Ryan Buch is a former Monmouth University standout who was an 8th round pick of the White Sox in 2009. The 23-year old right-hander was 7-4 last season in the minors and lost in Lakewood on the final day of the regular season.

I always attend the home opener and tonight will also represent WOBM as part of the “Home Run for Heroes” program we are involved in along with the OceanFirst
Foundation and the BlueClaws. The program awards money to nine local military-based charities every time the BlueClaws hit a home run during one of their 70 home games and in 2010 the OceanFirst Foundation awarded $30,000.

Tonight the charities will be introduced and will randomly be given an inning which will determine just how much money they receive…each time a player homers in that inning it will go to the designated charity.

During the 2010 High School Baseball season Toms River South beat Jackson Memorial in three of the four meetings between the teams with the last two coming in the finals of the Ocean County and Shore Conference Tournaments. It capped a tremendous season for the Indians who also claimed the Class A South title and went 26-4 under legendary coach Ken Frank. The Jaguars meanwhile were 25-7 and did win a state sectional title but it was those losses to the Indians and their graduated ace pitcher Andrew Magee that really hurt. Yesterday they alleviated some of that pain with a 10-4 win over South in what will probably be the first of several meetings again this spring. Senior outfielder Matt Meleo led the Jags with three hits and three RBI’s while Andy Lopez added a two-run homer. Jackson is off to a 2-0 start as is Toms River North and Manchester who both won Wednesday as well.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

BlueClaws Warm Up

Whether it’s Little League or the Major Leagues playing baseball in April in this part of the country is challenging to say the least although it might be harder for those in the stands then on the field. As we suffer through another spring that feels much closer to winter than summer baseball is back and last night some hearty souls braved falling temperatures and strong winds to get their first look at the 2011 edition of the Lakewood BlueClaws.

The Phillies “Class A” team beat Monmouth University 3-0 in an exhibition game at FirstEnergy Park that allowed the newest BlueClaws a first opportunity to get comfortable in what will be their home for the next six months. It was a also a chance for the Hawks to match their skills against guys who get paid to play which is where several of them could be headed at some point in the future. One of the few offensive highlights in a game dominated by pitching came in the 4th inning when BlueClaws DH Anthony Hewitt belted a monstrous 2-run homer over the wall in left-center off freshman Stephen Frey, who was impressive over five innings in his first start for the Hawks.
Monmouth (13-12 overall) is right back in action today when they visit Lafayette
while the BlueClaws get ready for their season-opener Thursday against Kannapolis at FirstEnergy Park.

Had a good time broadcasting last night’s game on our Shore Sports Network along with Matt Harmon and BlueClaws broadcasters Greg Giombarrese and Sean Houston. Matt and I interviewed new Monmouth basketball coach King Rice during the 4th inning…he had the honor of throwing out last night’s first pitch.
Rice has hit the ground running and is clearly excited about his first head coaching opportunity.

On a totally unrelated note there will be two separate Zumba fundraising events this Saturday. Zumba is a Latin-inspired cardio workout that is set to music and has become very popular as a way to stay fit while having fun. April is Autism Awareness Month and because of that the Autism Awareness Club of Central Regional will host a fundraiser in the Boys gym Saturday from 6-7:30pm. The 90-minute “Zumbathon” will find local instructors donating their time and energy.
Admission is just $10 with all the money going to the cause of fighting Autism.

The Toms River High School North baseball program is also hosting a Zumba fundraising event on Saturday at 10am in the school’s gold cafeteria. The donation is $15 for adults and $10 for students with all proceeds going to support the Mariners baseball program.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Remembering John Adler

(pictured: Kevin Williams, Jane Kunka, United Water and BPW member; Jon Runyan, John Adler,Ken Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Toms River/Ocean County Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy Business & Professional Women of Southern Ocean County website)

Like many others I was stunned and saddened to learn about the passing of former Congressman John Adler Monday at the age of 51. I first met him in 2008 when he was campaigning for the 3rd District seat that had been held for many years by Jim Saxton.

Adler, a Democrat was running against Chris Myers and I emceed a candidates forum for the Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce (pictured above). Right off the bat I was impressed by him and despite coming to a Republican stronghold in Ocean County he was clearly comfortable and promised to represent the area if elected. He was and in just two years did as promised, opening an office in Toms River and serving his constituents. Adler might have been a Democrat but he often disagreed with President Obama and his own party which probably did not sit well with party leaders. I spoke with him on the phone a couple of times and he was always pleasant and insisted that I not hesitate to reach him if I or the Chamber of Commerce had any concerns. He appeared at a candidate’s forum we hosted this past fall when running against Jon Runyan and as he usual handled himself quite well. Adler lost a hard-fought election and returned to private life as an attorney before being hospitalized three weeks ago with an infection around his heart which would ultimately claim his life. When he campaigned he often spoke about his father, who owned a dry cleaning business in South Jersey and died of heart problems while Adler was in high school. Now the Harvard College and Law School graduate leaves behind four sons and his wife Shelly.

On a totally unrelated note…what a shame such a great NCAA Basketball Tournament ended with one of the ugliest games you will ever see. Sure Connecticut and Butler played great defense but the offense and shooting was just dreadful, especially from the Bulldogs. Butler made just 12 of 64 shots…that’s a record-low 18.8% as they lost 53-41. Part of the problem is they play these basketball games in huge football stadiums and it’s almost unfair to the players. Despite last night’s game it was a wonderful tournament, filled with great finishes and tremendous performances. Starting with the Big East Tournament the Huskies won 11 games over 27 days and are deserving champions.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Parents Weekend

Had a really nice time visiting our daughter Alex at Penn State as it was Parents Weekend for her sorority, Kappa Delta. We got to meet all her sorority sisters and many of their parents and shared stories and laughs especially during a Saturday evening social at a fraternity house. Making the weekend even more special was the fact that my son was there for a reunion with about 80 of his frat brothers from Delta Chi so getting to see both of them was a real treat. The weekend culminated with a brunch Sunday hosted by the sorority at which Alex received an award for her personality and positive attitude…that must come from her mother.

Among her “sisters” and best friends is Stephanie Ruddy, who is from Toms River and we had a nice time with her parents and younger brother who were up for the weekend. In one of those “you’ve got to be kidding me stories” my wife got to re-connect with one of her college roommates whose daughter and ours have become good friends through KD. They had not seen one another in more than 30 years since they graduated from what was then Trenton State and is now The College of New Jersey. The entire weekend was a reminder that this time is going fast and getting to spend some of it with your children truly is priceless.

So how unlikely at the beginning of the season was a Connecticut-Butler showdown for college basketball’s National Championship? Well U.Conn did not receive a single vote in the pre-season coaches poll and was picked to finish 8th in the Big East and everyone assumed the glass slipper had fallen off the Bulldogs after their best player headed to the NBA. Yet here they are playing tonight and while it’s tough to pick against Kemba Walker and the Huskies I like Butler. Of course that does not mean much because I was knocked out of all the pools I was in by the second round.

The weather forecast does not looking promising for tomorrow night’s scheduled exhibition game between the Lakewood BlueClaws and Monmouth University at FirstEnergy Park. The 6pm contest is supposed to be the first opportunity for fans to see the 2011 edition of the BlueClaws, who open the season Thursday night against Kannapolis. The BlueClaws-Monmouth game is scheduled to be broadcast on our Shore Sports Network with Greg Giombarresse, Matt Harmon and I calling the action. Listen on WOBM AM 1160 and 1310 and online at and

Friday, April 1, 2011

Not An April Fool's

Today is April 1st and unlike in past years I am not going to do a segment and then at the end say “April Fools.” The one I did last year about leaving to take a job broadcasting Penn State football games was so convincing that as recently as two months ago someone asked me how my new job was going.

What is not a joke is the weather and the fact that today is supposed to be opening day of the spring sports season for New Jersey high schools. Yes there is a full schedule of baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis and golf games and matches and it’s doubtful any of them will be played. I could only imagine the amount of aspirin high school Athletic Directors will consume today as the first day of the season is loaded with postponements and re-scheduled games.

What started out as a great week for the Monmouth University basketball program did not exactly end that way. A day after introducing King Rice as their new men’s coach the Hawks are now unexpectedly searching for a new women’s coach. Stephanie Gaitley was granted a release from her contract so she could accept the head coaching position at Fordham University. Gaitley was 57-37 in her three seasons in West Long Branch and clearly had the Hawks heading in the right direction. Monmouth was 23-10 this season and reached the finals of the Northeast Conference Tournament and qualified for the Women’s NIT. Prior to coming to Monmouth Gaitely served as head coach at LIU, St. Joseph’s and Richmond.

There is no better way to celebrate the start of the Major League Baseball season then by reliving some of the sport’s greatest quotes:

“Who is Babe Ruth and what does she do?” (George Bernard Shaw)
“I watch a lot of baseball on radio: (Gerald Ford)
“If a horse won’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it” (Dick Allen on artificial turf)
“Never root for a team whose uniforms have elastic
stretch waistbands” (Susan Sarandon)
“A hot dog at the game beats roast beef at the Ritz” (Humphrey Bogart)
“When they start the game they don’t say “Work
Ball!” They say “Play Ball!” (Willie Stargell)
“How could he lose a ball in the sun? He’s from Mexico (Harry Caray)
“90% of this game is half mental.” (Yogi Berra)