The Anthony LaRezza Invitational at IHA, set for April 8 and 9, brings back a lot of memories from when Anthony kept the place hopping with his humor and candor

We’re only a week into the 2017 softball season, but some interesting tournaments are set for this weekend, and hopefully the weather will cooperate.

Among those are the Anthony LaRezza Invitational Softball Tournament, at Immaculate Heart Academy in Washington Township, on April 8 and 9. This is the second year that the tourney will bear the name of IHA’s late head softball coach. The event, of course, has been long-standing, and Anthony was a big part of the two days. When he wasn’t coaching, he’d be running around between the snack stand and the field, and in between greeting hundreds of fans and handing out softballs to the MVP’s of the other games.

The man never missed a beat. One year, as I walked into the IHA complex, a man, who said he was a certified umpire, handed me a softball, said to give to Anthony, and to make sure that ball was thrown out of play, because it was worn.

When I gave Anthony the message and the ball, he smiled with that wheels-turning smirk, looked at me, and said, about the certified ump, “who is he, Nestor Chylak?”, referring to the legendary MLB umpire.

Anthony, sitting in the rain and watching a Bergen County Tournament game at IHA a few years back. (Click on all photos for a larger image).

LaRezza often enjoyed talking about the Chicken and the Pig, and sacrifice needed by players to form a great team.

When Stef Thomas (third from left) won her 113th career game, which set a state record, back in 2014, Anthony was there, at IHA, leading the post-game celebration.

Stef, with her sisters, after winning a state-record 113th career game in 2014. At right is youngest sister Cat, who is now a freshman at IHA.

Of course, no IHA tourney was complete without a visit from Nestor Chylak.

And for years, we’d constantly kid about Nestor and get a few laughs.

In 2010, after his team lost to Livingston, 1-0, in the tournament, an obviously annoyed LaRezza gave what he and I later called “The Memorial Day Speech.” Anthony was talking to a close friend, behind the backstop while another tournament game was going on. He proceeded to say to his friend, “We’re not any good this year. These kids don’t care. They’ll go 22-6, and their season will be done around Memorial Day. Good, go down the shore, enjoy. Memorial Day weekend is just seven weeks away.”

The emotions obviously ran high last year, when the tournament was played without Anthony. Newark Academy coach Sergio Rodriguez, a dear friend of Anthony’s, gave a good speech to the IHA players after the tournament concluded in 2016. It seemed to help the team focus on the season, and IHA went on to win a state title.

He said it while a few key IHA players, who were sitting nearby, would get the point. And he kept repeating the same line, about Memorial Day.

You had to see it to believe it, and it was hard to keep a straight face, as he’d glance over once in a while to see if I was hearing him. Great stuff.

So, this year, the IHA community will come together to remember a great guy, while seeing two days of good softball. The snack stand alone makes it worthwhile, trust me.

Here’s the schedule. It will be good to see some Essex County schools there, including West Essex, Cedar Grove and Newark Academy.

 

SATURDAY, April 8

                9:00 AM: IHA VS. MONTGOMERY

                                  11:00 AM: WEST ESSEX VS. ROBBINSVILLE

                                          1:00 PM: ROBBINSVILLE VS. WEST MILFORD

                                  3:00 PM: SADDLE BROOK VS. CRANFORD

 

  SUNDAY, April 9

                                    9:00 AM: IHA VS. JOHNSON REGIONAL

                                                11:00 AM: ST. JOHN VIANNEY VS. CEDAR GROVE

                                           1:00 PM: CEDAR GROVE VS. ST JOSEPH (CT)

                                                3:00 PM: NEWARK ACADEMY VS. JEFFERSON

 

 

 

 

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By mike051893

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