IRVINGTON, NJ – There was a time when Irvington High School baseball was really good.
And Troy Bowers can tell you about it.
In his senior year, he was a star player on the 1987 team that rose up to being ranked No. 2 in the state of New Jersey.
Three decades later, Bowers is now the new head coach of the Blue Knights varsity baseball team. Bowers was named to the position for this season after serving as an assistant coach on the team for the past four years, succeeding Jamall Angoy, another former IHS star baseball player.
Though he is realistic to know that this year’s team won’t be as good as the 1987 squad, Bowers promises to get his players ready to compete each day.
Bowers, who also was an assistant coach for the IHS football team for 10 years and a current middle school basketball coach in Irvington, is excited about leading the baseball program.
“It feels great,” said Bowers, a physical education teacher at University Middle School. “I love the kids. I love giving back. I love seeing the looks on their faces when they win. I believe in making the kids our little ambassadors in our community.”
Bowers grew up in Irvington, having attended Grove Street School, Myrtle Avenue School and Chancellor Avenue School.
Showing his love for Irvington, Bowers is enthusiastic about continuing to build up the baseball program. But over the years, Bowers says it hasn’t been easy, not because of lack of players’ interest, but because of insufficient resources and not enough support from the town. Bowers said the last time the Blue Knights’ home field, Chancellor Avenue field, was reconditioned was in his senior year at IHS.
In addition, the players, though they want to play the game, come into the program without the fundamental skills because of an inadequate feeder program.
“We need the community to get behind us,” said Bowers, emphasizing that he has no doubts that he can coach the players. “The community has to believe and realize that baseball/softball is just as important as football and basketball; it can be a vehicle for our youth to assist them in paying for their education on a collegiate level. The game teaches us so many life skills and prepares our youth for life’s challenges as young productive and independent adults.”
Sure, Bowers wants his players to experience the thrill of victory on the field. But to Bowers, the most important goal is to help them build character.
“If I can teach them problem-solving skills, communication skills and interpersonal skills, and make them little ambassadors in our community, that’s my goal,” Bowers said. “If we win some games, then fine. Other than that, I’m just trying to keep them off the streets between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. every night. I know where they are.”
The Blue Knights began official practice for the season on March 3. Though he couldn’t predict the level of turnout, Bowers knows that his team will enjoy the season while being competitive, no matter how many players are on the roster. “Whatever we have, we’re going to have fun,’” he said. “I am going to make sure they are competitive.”
NOTES – Bowers was the starting pitcher in the state tournament semifinals against Westfield in his senior season. He gave up a two-run homer to the Westfield pitcher. But Bowers hit a homer off that same Westfield hurler. Unfortunately, IHS lost, 7-2. The day before the game, the players went to the prom and got home late at nigh. Jim Casalino, the head coach of the Blue Knights at the time, recalled the team being “flat” the day of the game, in a recent email to The Irvington Herald. Irvington and Westfield split their regular-season meetings that year. “Westfield shaved their heads and came into Irvington pumped up and we were on empty,” wrote Casalino, who remembered Bowers’ home run landing on the Parkway South, on the other side of the parkway…. The Blue Knights actually had a chance to be No. 1 in the state. They lost to a non-ranked Union Catholic team on the same day that the No. 1 team had lost. “We could have been the No. 1 team in the state for one week,” wrote Casalino…. Bowers went on to enjoy a solid collegiate career at Montclair State. He also played summer ball for the renowned Irvington Cardinals adult baseball team, which traveled the country and won numerous league, state, region and national titles… Bowers cited Casalino and Cardinals’ Donald “Duke” Brandon as his mentors. He also thanked Eric “Riq” Bowers, and IHS football and baseball alumnit for their guidance and teachings.