“I talked to Paddy Matera about that,” said Capello of Matera, a coach on last year’s Williamsport team, which was eliminated at the Little League Intermediate World Series in California Wednesday. “He said when you have a team that does that it paves the way. It gives belief to the kids below. Why not us? Why can’t we do it?
“And then on top of it you go into these tournaments and it’s like, ‘oh man, these guys are big, they look good. I tell my son, ‘you guys are Toms River East.’ They know what we’ve done and they know we bring to the table.“
Last year, it was Carson Frazier punching the team’s ticket to Williamsport by driving in the game-winning runs with a three-run double in the sixth inning to cap a furious comeback.
“It was great and it really got our team pumped up because we knew we were good enough to do that and it just got us to really work hard to get to this point,” said Jayce Capello of last year’s experience watching the 12-year-olds, after his 11-year-old team lost in the New Jersey final.
“It was awesome, just crazy seeing my best friends play on that level.”
The ties that bind all of this together are unbreakable, getting stronger as the years pass.
“I grew up with Todd Frazier. Our families were good friends,” Capello said. “When Jeff went in 1995 we were like ‘what the heck is this?’ And then in 1998 I was there, sitting with my father and uncle on the Japan side when Todd led the (championship game) off with a home run. I was there watching and then the next year we went back-to-back.
“The parallels are what’s really cool for me. Todd went in 1998 and I went in 1999, and we played on the same Little League team and coach (Mike) Gaynor was our coach. And my son Jayce and Carson Frazier were on the same team and I was one of the coaches, and we were in Bristol and Williamsport last year so it’s just crazy.”
Now the Toms River baseball fraternity is laser focused on what could be its latest moment on the national stage.
“I have been texting with my team. We had our 20-year reunion a few years ago, and they follow us,” Capello said. “Some were at the state games, sectional games. They are going nuts. Some of them are going to Bristol.”
“It’s about building relationships,” Mendes added. “You’re never going to forget these things. These are unbelievable opportunities. Enjoy the moment. The whole state tournament that is what we talked to the kids about. ‘You deserve to be here, you need to enjoy this moment and have some fun.’ “
And if history is any indication, memories to last a lifetime will be part of this team’s legacy.
Want to help offset travel costs?
Anyone interesting in donating to Toms River East Little League to help offset the cost of travel for families involved with the league’s two All-Star teams, including the 12-year-olds, can send checks to P.O. Box 635, Toms River N.J. 08754. Please make sure to put AS2022 on the memo of the check.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Toms River East NJ Little League at Metro Region builds on tradition