It shows that Kessler wanted this one. Real bad. In his best impression of New York Yankees announcer John Sterling (The-eh-eh-eh Yankees win!), Kessler tells callers that his Yankees beat the Indiana Bulls 7-4 in the title game. He gives details like who pitched when and which kid hit a home run.
It's a long message and callers might be tempted to hang up the phone before Kessler says what's really behind all this noise: that this was his first World Series title in four trips to the championship game and the organization's first since 1998.
What he doesn't mention is that his predecessor, Ron Seltzer, won six national titles in a row and eight in all and that for Kessler, the dugout was beginning to feel a little bit like a steam room.
"It was the first time that I ever made it out of my pool to Sunday's games," said the Bayside resident. "That morning before we played our first game, I told the team that we're just 14 innings away from winning it all, and we've won many doubleheaders before. We were confident going in."
They were confident because they got an advanced scouting report of their Sunday morning opponent from the Bayside Yankees Junior National team, who won the Kings Park Regional to reach the World Series and were playing the Rawlings Nationals in the finals of the 'B' bracket at the same time that Kessler's team was playing the Hi-Boy-Drive-In in the 'A' bracket final.
"We were getting updates like every inning," Kessler said. "We were getting a scouting report during the game and a scouting report after the game on Saturday night."
Kessler and the Rawlings Nationals, winner of the Springsboro, Ohio Regional advanced to the semifinals of the round robin tournament Sunday morning, where Rubiel Mercado pitched a gem, striking out nine batters and scattering four hits on 88 pitches for the Yankees. The performance was startling considering that just the night before, the Hoboken resident had pitched four innings of shutout relief against the Crownsville Giants in the first game of the series.
"There was no doubt he would win the game. They didn't come close to hitting the ball," said pitcher Andrew Lontos, a junior at Archbishop Molloy. "You just knew he would get the job done."
"He was seriously considered for the MVP of the tournament," Kessler added. "But they gave it to a kid who played everyday instead."
That kid was shortstop Joseph Menendez, who in six games produced eight hits, eight RBIs and two home runs - one against the vaunted Indiana Bulls in the championship game. The Bulls were in the finals for the fifth time in seven seasons, but the psychological edge belonged to the Yankees, who clobbered the Bulls 19-10 earlier in the series and had lost just one game when they were no-hit by the Brentwood Bulldogs, 5-1.
Bayside's run was scored on an error. Menendez's three-run homer in the third inning against the Bulls put the Yankees up 4-0 after second basemen Sean Carberry hit a solo homer over the 303-foot wall in left field in the first inning.
"It was an exciting and dramatic moment being in the championship game, but we weren't surprised to be there," said Menendez, who made four trips to the World Series with the Brooklyn Bonnies, but never won it. "We just had to make sure that our defense wasn't shaky."
In the fourth inning, his concern became a reality when the Yankees committed two errors that led to three runs for the Bulls. An RBI-single tied the game at 4 and the Yankees, once riding high, had suddenly lost their confidence.
"We all came back to the dugout after that inning and the coaches told us to just relax," said outfielder Connor Thorp. "They told us to take it easy and concentrate on hitting the ball, and that's what we did. We knew we could do it."
Bayside perked up in the sixth inning, scoring three runs on an opposite field hit by Effrey Valdez that plated David Reider - who pinch-ran for Chris Garcia - who was walked. Alex Pinto singled to left to drive in Rubiel Mercado to make 6-4, and Valdez scored on a wild pitch to make it 7-4.
"I told Mike Mundy, the Bulls coach, that there was not a team in the series that I was more afraid of then the Bulls," Kessler said. "Every inning it was like we were standing on pins and needles because we knew they had the bats to come back."
Kessler can relax now. He got his World Series ring, as his answering machine so eloquently describes.
Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2004 Community News Group
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