BERNARDS TWP. – Ridge High School’s baseball season is over and the school year is over, but the program has a great tradition that brings together Red Devils past and present to celebrate their love for the game.
On the afternoon of Saturday, June 18, the players and coaches of the 2022 Ridge Baseball Team came together with alumni from several different decades to play this year’s edition of the Memorial Alumni Game at Pete Hall Field. .
Due to Covid-related reasons, the alumni have gone two consecutive years without hosting the game which usually takes place after the baseball team’s season ends. After Ridge wrapped up a 24-4 spring season that saw the Red Devils win the Somerset County Tournament and finish in the semi-finals of the North Jersey Section 2 Tournament, the team was able to continue the tradition last Saturday.
“We’ve missed the last two years, but bringing all these guys back and for me is especially nice with a lot of these older guys that I looked up to when I was growing up,” said current Ridge coach Tom . Blackwell “I started here in 1981 going to games and being a fan and watching them play, and some guys I’ve played with are here and some of the guys I’ve coached.”
Although it wasn’t a particularly hot day, as lots of clouds and a strong breeze created chilly weather, the warmth was brought by the players as they reconnected with former teammates.
The day had added meaning, as late coaching legends Bill Giglio and Pete Hall were honored with their names and numbers permanently displayed on plaques set up in the grass just beyond the left field fence. Giglio and Hall combined a 674-322 record and .676 winning percentage during their many years in charge of the team. Many in attendance played under Giglio and Hall, including Blackwell and Pete’s son Ian, who addressed the small crowd while sporting his old Ridge baseball jersey.
“It’s so much bigger than all of us, and it’s just a culture that was built through Coach Hall and Coach Giglio, I’m lucky to carry that torch now,” Blackwell explained on the importance of the Memorial Alumni Game. “It’s just our love for each other and the game of baseball, our love for these coaches, it’s kind of cool.”
Hall also presented the Pete & Ann Hall Baseball Scholarship to center fielder and pitcher Mike Olivo, who graduated last week from Ridge on Friday and is expected to attend Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and play football.
“This scholarship is awarded to a member of the Ridge High baseball team who demonstrates dedication in the classroom, in the community, and on the field,” Hall said.
Olivo is also a member of the National Honor Society and served as Student Body Vice President during the 2021-2022 school year. Olivo, who has a long history of community work involving organizations such as the New Jersey Community Food Bank and the Special Olympics, shared his reaction to the scholarship award.
“Coach [Blackwell] always talks about Coach Hall and the quality of his coach and person, and the legacy he left at Ridge Baseball,” Olivo said. “Someone who does everything the right way, is looking to help someone and is willing to give up everything for the team and do what’s best for the team, that’s what Coach Hall has done and what this scholarship is meant to show.”
Blackwell echoed the fact that Olivo was selected for the scholarship for being a great person in all aspects.
“It goes to someone who sees the big picture and knows their role in that picture, whether it’s the baseball program or the school, the community, and Mike has been a pillar of excellence in all those facets. , a big kid and a big player,” Blackwell said.
With all the ceremonies over, the former players bridged the years between them to play together in a fun and light-hearted yet competitive enough game of baseball. The family watching from the bleachers cheered when recent alumni hit base hits and laughed when some of those same players hit pitchers who pitched for Ridge in the 80s and 90s.
Blackwell umpired a few innings of the game behind the mound and reveled in the thrilling plays that reminded him and so many other alumni why the game and the baseball program are so important to them.