Baseball community embraces 92-team ‘Thank You Classic’

By Bob Behre | December 1, 2021

Bishop Eustace’s Anthony Solometo no-hit Don Bosco Prep in the 2021 Thank You Classic

A year ago, longtime South Jersey baseball coach Bill Gore tried to put an eight-team baseball event together in an effort to honor first responders. He titled it, the “Thank You Classic.”

Gore is known around the South Jersey baseball community as well as Paul McCartney is known around music studios. In fact, Gore’s strong baseball reputation precedes him around the greater Garden State.

So it was no shock when Gore’s bid for an eight-team event mushroomed quickly into a 54-team extravaganza. Gore, with his merry band of scholastic baseball coaching contacts throughout New Jersey, assembled a large number of outstanding matchups for the event held in the spring of 2021.

It was nearly a year into the first major wave of the COVID pandemic and Gore wanted to find a way to thank first responders for all they had done in the face of a major and frightening health crisis. 

“We were just honoring first responders by taking the field and playing our best ball,” said Gore. “As we start to get more comfortable with the process of putting this event together again, we are looking at implementing a scholarship program or something along those lines.”.

That strong first year triggered an absolute flood of entries this fall for the one-game per-team “Classic” set for the weekend of April 29 to May 1.

“Our goal, when we started organizing last year, was eight teams,” said Gore, the former  West Deptford,  Bishop Eustace, Gloucester Catholic, Gateway and now current, Gloucester Catholic assistant coach. “That number turned out to be a joke. In a week, we grew to 32 teams. Then word started to spread up North and we eventually got to 54 teams.”

Last year’s wild fire of baseball camaraderie just kept burning straight through to this fall when Gore simply had to light the fuse again. When he did, he nearly doubled the size of the Thank You Classic scheduled for 2022.

Middletown South’s Ben Schild could be on the mound for his team’s Thank You Classic game against Egg Harbor Twp. on April 30.

“Things went well this year again,” said Gore. “People were talking it up and we’ve had 92 teams come in. We’ve set up 46 games. I think by February we should be at a good place. I would expect a couple more teams to come in.”

The Thank You Classic has been so well received by New Jersey’s baseball community that 20 of the state’s 21 counties are already represented with at least one team and schools from Pennsylvania and Delaware have also joined the fray. Warren County is, so far, the lone county not to jump in with a team, but there is time for the Thank You Classic to make it a clean sweep of all 21 New Jersey counties. How cool would that be?

Gore has received plenty of input around the state on how to create the best matchups and, as the pairings below show, there are some real gems.

“Some of the matchups came about by request,” said Gore. For example, perennial Non-Public powerhouse Gloucester Catholic will meet Group 4 power Hunterdon Central at Wood-Ridge High at 4 p.m. on May 1. “And the rest were the result of talking to a lot of coaches about what works best.”

Most of the games are set at neutral sites, while some teams will benefit from a home game. But Gore is thrilled with some of the high profile locations he’s been able to procure with, again, the help of the high school coaching community.

The 2022 Thank You Classic will be played at such sites as Joe Barth Field in Brooklawn, Walt Nicgorski Park in Pennsauken, Caven Point in Jersey City, Rutgers-Camden University, the Mid Atlantic Athletic Complex in Mickleton, Veterans Park in Hamilton, Millburn High, South Delsea Drive Park in Glassboro, Alycon Park in Pitman, and Hammonton Lake Park.

“I’ve been around awhile,” said Gore, now in his eighth overall year at Gloucester Catholic. “There was a lot of word of mouth and connections in high school baseball. Guys like Sean McKenna (MAAC), John Scanzano (Kings Christian School), Brian Chapman (Millburn) and the guys at St. Peter’s Prep (Pat Laguerre) were all a big help.”

As a result of the New Jersey Baseball Community coming together, we have this outstanding schedule for which to look forward to on the last weekend in April.

Steven Young will lead Middlesex against Wood-Ridge in an April 30 Thank You Classic game.

Thank You Classic Schedule

Friday, April 29

Gloucester vs. Glassboro, South Delsea Drive Park, Glassboro 7 p.m.

Collingswood vs. Pitman, Alycon Park, Pitman, 7 p.m.

Rancocas Valley vs. St. Augustine, Walt Nicgorski Park, Pennsauken, 7 p.m.

Lenape vs. Cherokee, Rutgers-Camden Univ., 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 30

Timber Creek vs. Schalick, Mid-Atlantic Athletic Complex, Mickelton, 10 a.m.

Atlantic City Tech vs. Cape May Tech, Walt Nicgorski Park, 10 a.m.

Westfield vs. St. Peter’s Prep, Caven Point, Jersey City, 11 a.m.

Vineland vs. Triton, Holy Spirit, Absecon, 11 a.m.

Williamstown vs. Jackson Memorial, Hammonton Lake Park, 12 p.m.

Salem vs. St. Thomas Aquinas, Audubon, 12 p.m.

Moorestown vs. Msgr. Bonner (Pa.), Joe Barth Field, Brooklawn,  1 p.m.

Woodstown vs. Delsea, MAAC, Mickleton 1 p.m.

Long Branch vs. Camden, Walt Nicgorski Park, 1 p.m.

Northern Burlington at Clearview, 1 p.m.

Cumberland at Gateway, 1 p.m.

Ocean Twp. at Holy Spirit, Absecon, 2 p.m.

Edison vs. Ferris, Caven Point, Jersey City 2 p.m.

Middletown South vs. Egg Harbor Twp., Hammonton Lake Park, 3 p.m.

Paul VI at Audubon, 3 p.m.

Hammonton vs. Brick Twp., Gateway, 4 p.m.

Ocean City vs. Ranney, Joe Barth Field, 4 p.m.

Kingsway vs. Bishop Eustace, Alycon Park, Pitman, 4 p.m.

Paulsboro vs. Pennsville, MAAC, 4 p.m.

Colts Neck vs. Robbinsville, Bordentown, 4 p.m.

Pope John vs. Malvern Prep (Pa.), Walt Nicgorski Park, 4 p.m.

Cinnaminson vs. Manasquan, South Delsea Drive Park, Glassboro, 4 p.m.

Newton vs. Caldwell, Caven Point, 5 p.m.

Highland vs. Haddon Twp., Alycon Park, Pitman, 7 p.m.

Nottingham vs. Overbrook, South Delsea Drive Park, 7 p.m.

Point Pleasant Boro at Bordentown, 7 p.m.

Haddonfield vs. St. Joseph (Hamm.), Hammonton Lake Park, 7 p.m.

Holy Cross vs. Kings Christian, Walt Nicgorski Park, 7 p.m.

Brick Memorial vs. Hamilton West, Veterans Park, Hamilton, 7 p.m.

Montgomery vs. Pascack Hills TBD

Ramapo vs. DePaul TBD

Union vs. Old Bridge TBD

Roxbury vs. Manchester Twp. TBD

Morristown vs. Bayonne TBD

Sunday, May 1

Passaic Tech vs. St. Joseph (Met.), Wood-Ridge High, 10 a.m.

Middlesex at Wood-Ridge High, 1 p.m.

Delran vs. Somerville, MAAC, 1 p.m.

Raritan vs. Madison, Millburn, 1 p.m.

St. Mary (Ruth.) at Millburn, 4 p.m.

Caravel Academy (DE) vs. Eastern, MAAC, 4 p.m.

Hunterdon Central vs. Gloucester Catholic, Wood-Ridge High, 4 p.m.

Don Bosco Prep vs. Hun School, Wood-Ridge High, 7 p.m.

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