Newark Academy softball coach Sergio Rodriguez had just coached his team to a hard-fought, 5-3 win over Bloomfield High on April 17. And while Rodriguez was happy with the victory, he was just as interested in honoring the man who coached the team his Minutemen had just defeated.
Bloomfield coach Bob Mayer will be inducted into his alma mater’s Hall of Fame on April 22. And while there’s a lot of well-timed fun among the coaches in Essex County softball, there’s also a level of reverence which goes to a certain coach, and Mayer is one of them.
A few years back, Rodriguez’s daughter, Damariz Mercado, played her high school softball at Bloomfield. Now a standout at Rowan University, Mercado’s skills got a boost from Mayer’s tutelage, according to Rodriguez.
“As far as I’m concerned, Bob Mayer made Damariz a better player,” said Rodriguez. “I’ve been a coach for over 20 years, but when I watched Damariz play high school softball, I was a fan who never questioned Bob’s coaching. Damariz could have gone 4-for-4, or 0-for-4, and Bob handled it the same way. He always strived to see his kids play better.”
As far as the kind of man Mayer is, that was easy for Rodriguez.
“He’s never coached for the stipend,” said Rodriguez. “He coaches because he loves it. That man will be at summer league games, or cheering on former players, or going to a game just to watch a game. I hope people realize how special Bob is. He coaches for the right reasons.”
Mayer has always been a Bloomfield Bengal. He graduated BHS, went to college, then returned to be an educator in the town some 42 years ago.
Mayer’s accomplishments on the softball diamond speaks volumes. Last year, he became the third coach in Essex County high school softball history to win 500 games. In 2015, he was inducted into the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He’s guided Bloomfield to multiple Essex County Tournament championships, as well as conference crowns and state sectional titles.
When he was named to the state’s Hall of Fame two years ago, one of the legendary coaches in New Jersey provided the following comment.
“If anyone is deserving of a Hall of Fame induction, it is Coach Mayer. I have had the pleasure of knowing Coach Mayer for 20 years. He always got the most out of his players. Whenever you played anyone of his teams, you knew going into that game that they were going to be well-coached, well-disciplined and play hard. Some tremendous players have come out of his programs, and I’m sure they would be the first to tell you that they wouldn’t have been the player or person if it weren’t for Coach Mayer. Congratulations to him and all the people he has influenced.”
Those words came from the late Anthony LaRezza.
The winningest coach in Essex County softball history is Caldwell’s Mike Teshkoyan, who has well over 600 wins. Teshkoyan’s Chiefs and Mayer’s Bengals have clashed many times over the past 28 years. This year, Caldwell and Bloomfield will be among the teams competing for a Super Essex Conference championship in the Liberty Division.
“Bob runs a class program and it’s been my pleasure to compete against his well-coached teams,” said Teshkoyan. “We’ve been battling each other for nearly 30 years, and both our teams respect and play hard against each other, each time we meet. I congratulate him on the Hall of Fame and wish him nothing but the best. ”
Another long-time rival for Mayer has been Livingston’s coach, Jason Daily, He, too, couldn’t have been happier when learning of Mayer’s upcoming induction.
“Bob is a class act,” said Daily. “He is an absolute gentleman, patient and kind, constantly teaching his players, and always working with them to make them better.”
Belleville coach Chris Cantarella also lauded Mayer. Belleville and Bloomfield have long shared an intense rivalry, dating back to the early 1980’s.
“It has been an absolute pleasure to coach against Mr. Mayer,” said Cantarella. “He is a gentleman and extremely professional. His teams are well coached and he always has them prepared, from how to field, or hit, to how to slide or even the way a bunt will roll down the line. His girls play the game the right way, and that is a credit to him in the way that he coaches. Mr. Mayer, congratulations on your honor, but you were a Hall of Famer well before this.”
The ‘Mr. Mayer’ analogy doesn’t come from just Cantarella. Earlier I had written that Mayer became the third coach in Essex County history to win 500 games. Well, the fourth to 500 came just a few days after Mayer did it last year. And it was accomplished my Mount St. Dominic’s Lorenzo Sozio.
As a youngster growing up in Bloomfield in the early 1980’s, one of Sozio’s physical education teachers was Mayer.
And to this day, Sozio famously refers to Bob as Mr. Mayer. Two years ago, Sozio had these comments on his friend being inducted into the NJSIAA Hall of Fame.
“Coach Mayer being inducted into the NJ Scholastic Coaches Hall of Fame does not come as a surprise to me,” said Sozio. “He has been a fixture on the diamond at Bloomfield High for many years. When you talk Essex County softball, Coach Mayer’s name and the tradition at Bloomfield have to be part of the conversation with all the success he has had. Mount St. Dominic Academy has had some great contests over the years with Bloomfield in conference play, as well as in the Essex County Tournament. He is one of the hardest working coaches on and off the field that I have seen in Essex County.”
Accolades galore, for a man who Cantarella accurately portrayed as a Hall of Famer long before an induction ceremony.
Great job, Bob.