Northvale Suits Up For 'Greatest Game On Dirt'

NORTHVALE, N.J. -- Get your baseball gear ready, young folks: baseball season is nearly upon us, and tryouts for Northern Valley Knights baseball will be held next Saturday morning, March 11, at Rob DeBrino's Baseball and Softball Academy, in Northvale.

The Knights are looking for some more new players, as baseball season approaches. This is Timmy Rutigliano and Matthew Renaghan, last spring.

The Knights are looking for some more new players, as baseball season approaches. This is Timmy Rutigliano and Matthew Renaghan, last spring.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mike Rutigliano

"It's definitely the greatest game on dirt," DeBrino opined.

The Northern Valley Knights have replaced individual town travel baseball in Harrington Park, Northvale, Norwood and Old Tappan. It's also a feeder program for the Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan. 

"One of the things I really like, besides it being a competitive baseball league, it's good for the kids to meet kids from other towns, and spend time with kids for several years that they'll go to high school with," said Mike Rutigliano, president of the nonprofit Northern Valley Knights Baseball Association.

He said they've had some problems with recruiting, as some sports, like soccer, have begun to have seasons throughout the year.

"Growing up, each sport was dedicated to its season," he said. "It's too many conflicts for the kids. Every sport has adopted spring, too. Spring is baseball time."

There are also more sports available to local youth than in generations past, like lacrosse. But he wouldn't make an argument for kids necessarily choosing baseball, over other sports. 

My feeling is, kids should experience all the sports and shouldn't lock themselves into a single sport at a young age. Kids are different, have different bodies, different attitudes.

Don't doubt that Rutigliano is a baseball guy, though. He played Little League in Norwood when he was a boy. And he's been involved with the Knights since his now-eighth-grade son was in kindergarten.

He likes that baseball's a team sport, and as kids learn the skills, they gain confidence.

DeBrino is more forceful on the subject: "I think that kids are crazy not to try baseball from a young age and play through high school. I think 8 or 9 is too young to decide. They'll end up regretting it."

He's also been immersed in it, in a different way. He was a standout at Old Tappan High School who went on to pitch for the Minnesota Twins for half a decade. And these days, he trains players in pitching and hitting, as well as speed and conditioning.

Here are some logistical details to keep in mind for the tryouts:

  • Kids trying out for the 8u and 9u teams should arrive at 9:30 a.m. After a 15-minute warmup, tryouts will begin and last one hour. 
  • Those trying out for the 10u and 11u teams should arrive at 10:45 a.m. They'll also have a 15-minute warmup, followed by one hour of tryouts. 
  • No parents or coaches will be allowed in the facility during tryouts.
  • Would-be players should bring mitts, helmets and bat, and wear comfortable sneakers. No cleats are allowed in the indoor facility.
  • Rob DeBrino's Baseball and Softball Academy is located at 100 Stonehurst Court, in Northvale.

The association is also looking for additional coaches -- four dads have kids who've "aged out" of the program and are now in high school -- as well as volunteers in a variety of roles, Rutigliano said.

Even web development. He sheepishly explained that updating the website hasn't been a priority and that's never been his area of expertise. If you're interested in volunteering, email Rutigliano at or click here for more information about coaching.

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