Friends take the diamond for Frankie

2nd annual tourney played over two weekends

BY KENNY WALTER Staff Writer

Oceanport’s Ira Tilton works the mound for the Devils during the annual Frankie and Friends Baseball Tournament at Valenzano Park, Frank Caltabilota Field, West Long Branch, April 24. CHRIS KELLY Oceanport’s Ira Tilton works the mound for the Devils during the annual Frankie and Friends Baseball Tournament at Valenzano Park, Frank Caltabilota Field, West Long Branch, April 24. CHRIS KELLY WEST LONG BRANCH — For the second straight spring, friends of a beloved son, friend and baseball player who tragically passed away more than 10 years ago took over Valenzano Park for the weekend.

The second annual Frankie and Friends Baseball Tournament took place on Saturday, April 24, as scheduled but was rained out on Sunday, and the second day of games was rescheduled for Saturday, May 1. The tournament pays tribute to Frank Caltabilota Jr., who died in a dormitory fire at Seton Hall University on Jan. 19, 2000.

Organized by friend and former teammate Andrew Meisner, the Frankie and Friends Invitational Baseball Tournament saw teams from across Monmouth County, including the West Long Branch Blue Devils, Long Branch Thunder, Jackson Red and Middletown Brewers, come together to play the game that Frankie adored.

Meisner explained how the teams are selected.

“Each of these teams have been in existence and participate in various summer leagues throughout the area,” Meisner said. “The common thread between these teams is that Frankie used to play on my team back in high school.

“Throughout high school, our team played against some of the players on each of these teams,” he added. “Frankie actually played with four players currently on my team [the Devils] and currently on the Monmouth County Thunder.”

Meisner said the teams have players participating from two counties.

“While these teams have ‘hometowns,’ they usually include players throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties,” he said.

Meisner and Caltabilota met during freshman year at Shore Regional High School. As members of the school’s baseball and football teams, the two became fast friends.

When not playing sports during the school year, the two would spend their summer days playing as teammates in a summer baseball league.

Meisner said before the tournament that 50- 100 people were expected to attend the twoday event. Last year’s tournament raised $4,500 that went toward a scholarship fund in Caltabilota’s name, he said.

“Last year we really established what the tournament is for,” he said. “Everyone was very quick to help out, and it was a great success.”

This year Meisner said they will be selecting a Most Valuable Player for the tournament.

“This year we are presenting a tournament MVP trophy to someone who best exemplifies Frankie’s traits as a person and player,” he said. “Frankie played with a lot of enthusiasm, great sportsmanship and a competitive edge.

“The first MVP of the tournament will express those traits, and it would be great to focus on that,” he added.

Meisner praised the many people involved in organizing and running the tournament.

“I’d like to focus on the reaction and involvement of the non-baseball players,” he said, “the volunteers, friends, umpires and everyone else who helped organize the tournament.

“I have never had to beg anyone to volunteer or sponsor, and I think that speaks volumes as to how much people remember and love Frankie.”