IRVINGTON, NJ – From 1994 to 2010, the Irvington Cardinals adult baseball team was a force in the summertime.
The Cardinals captured several league, state and international tournaments, compiling a staggering overall record of 422-138-4
To Troy Bowers, a 1987 Irvington High School graduate and standout baseball player who played in every summer for the Cardinals, it was a thrill to have people notice the name “Irvington” on the players’ jerseys wherever they competed in these tournaments.
The Cardinals disbanded after the 2010 season. But the players will get a chance to reminisce about those glory days while catching up with longtime friends during a four-day reunion, Aug. 16-18.
The reunion includes several activities. On Friday, Aug. 16, a “Happy Hour” meet and greet with a cash bar will be held at the Hilton Newark Airport starting at 5:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Aug. 17, an “Old Timers Softball Game” and barbecue will take place at Orange Park behind Irvington High School from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Later that night, the Reunion Dinner will be held at Bella Italia Restaurant, located at 535 Central Ave. in Orange, from 7 to 11 p.m.
The reunion will conclude with a Cardinals Golf Outing on Sunday, Aug. 18 at a course to be determined from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Among their numerous titles, the Cardinals won the Newark City League tournament titles in 1994 and 1995, the New Jersey State Baseball League in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 and the Raritan Valley – NABA in 2002, 2003 and 2005. They also won the Raritan Valley NABA – North Division for four straight years, 2002 to 2005.
The Cardinals won the 2002 state championship and 2005 World Series championship in Phoenix, Ariz. in the Raritan Valley – NABA. They also won the Dominican Republic tournament title in 1995 and 1999 while taking second place in 1996 and third place in 1997 in that tournament. They captured the Blue Ridge Classic in Roanoke, Va. in 2001, the NABA Atlantic City national tournament in 2003 and the Hall of Fame tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 2004 and 2005.
Whenever the Cardinals traveled, they paid the expenses out of their own pocket, which shows their love of the game.
Bowers, who stepped down as the IHS head baseball coach at the end of the season this spring and will become the head coach of the IHS golf team that will be re-started next spring, is looking forward to the reunion, noting that family generations have even played for the Cardinals.
“We’re going to have players that we haven’t seen in 10 years, 15 years, 20 years,” Bowers said. “We had players whose children played with us. That was special.”
Bowers especially took pride in representing the Cardinals wherever they played.
“The Irvington Cardinals have represented Irvington on an international level and they knew where we were from,” Bowers said. “I’m proud to represent Irvington. That’s why I’ve been here for so long. Irvington is my home. I was happy to play with my high school teammates. We have four teammates on that team. We were the nucleus of that team. One of our players’ fathers, Duke Brandon, Michael Brandon’s father, was our coach the whole time. We were all Irvingtonians. You might not have heard about Irvington baseball, but Irvington baseball has a history known throughout the world.”
The Cardinals disbanded due to lack of interest from younger people, according to Bowers, who admits to being disheartened by that dynamic and the lack of support in Irvington. “We weren’t getting enough of the younger players to take over the reins,” Bowers said.
However, there are signs that Irvington baseball could be revived. Bowers noted that IHS athletic director Dr. John Taylor started a middle school program that will serve as a feeder program for IHS baseball.
“Hopefully, we can get some interest in it and keep the kids involved and we need parent involvement,” Bowers said. “We need town support.”
For more information about the reunion, contact Bowers at 908-468-9644 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.