The CAMDEN BRAVES baseball club, which as of 2006 is in its second season in the Tri-State National Adult Baseball Association league, is one of the newest chapters in the long and glorious history of Camden baseball.

An early Puerto Rican baseball club was the North Camden Lions. This club was succeeded by the North Camden Braves, organized by Popsy Rodriquez. They would play other Puerto Rican teams from Philadelphia on Sunday in the Pyne Point Park from the 1960s into the 1980s. Contests would attract large crowds, and everyone followed the outcomes, even if they couldn't attend. Crowds attracted vendors and wagering on the outcome. No one wanted to miss out on the excitement. Besides Popsy Rodriguez, other Braves players included Manolo Figueroa, Eligio Ortiz, Felix Colon, Juan Ortiz Sr., Junior Fantauzzi, Israel Tubens, and Hector Ortiz.

The Braves were the AA Champions of the local Catholic League in 1964 and 1965.

The original Braves team disbanded during the 1990s, but reorganized in 2005. David Ortiz is the current manager, and three of his family are current Braves players. 

1964 Champions - The Camden Braves

The Braves defeated Juana Diaz in the semifinal round of the league playoff, then defeated St. Paul to take the Philadelphia Catholic League title.

Click on Images to Enlarge

1964 League Leaders

The Braves' Junior Fantauzzi was the League MVP, and Jose 'Popsy' Rodriguez was Manager of the Year. Pitcher Jacke Earl led the league in strikeout, his 8-2 record was the league's second-best. Rookie of the Year Israel Tubens led the circuit with 4 homeruns, while second baseman Victor 'Manolo' Figueroa stole league record 42 bases, an amazing feat considering it was done in only 20 games. Junior Nazario was in the top six in four different offensive categories, and valuable offensive contributions were made Fanatuzzi, who hit .400, Angel Rodriguez, Edgar Causley, and Carlos Zayas. Pitcher Tommy Adams ran up a 6-2 record with 42 strikeouts.

Philadelphia Catholic League Opening Day
Johnny William of Juan Diaz, Chief Inspector Fox, & Victor "Manolo" Figueroa

1964 - The Braves Are The Champions!

Victor "Manolo" Figueroa
Israel Tubens
Junior Fantauzzi
Jose 'Popsy' Rodriguez

Stolen Base Champion Victor "Manolo" Figueroa

Camden Courier-Post - July 26, 1968

Camden Braves 1960s-1970s

Victor "Manolo" Figueroa spoke of these players in recent conversation August 2006

Manager Popsy Rodriguez
Pitchers Danny Calloway, Jack Earl, Tommy Adams
Catcher Diodario "Junior" Fantauzzi
First Base Angelo Rodriguez (also played left field), Junior Nazario
Second Base Victor "Manolo" Figueroa
Shortstop Ishmael Rodriguez, Nicky Harris, Edgar Causley
Third Base Carlos Zayas (also played right field) Luis Ceparo
Right Field Carlos Zayas
Center Field Israel Tuben, Victor Sanchez
Left Field Angelo Rodriguez, Junior Nazario

Popsy Rodriguez
North Camden Braves
circa 1970

The Ortiz family, with (from left) Hector, brother David and cousin Juan Jr., serves as the nucleus of a Camden Braves team in its second season in the Tri-State NABA league

Camden Courier-Post * June 25, 2006

Ortiz family resurrects Camden Braves in the 21st century

Courier-Post Staff

It's a family affair for the Camden Braves these days.

David Ortiz, brother Hector, and uncle Juan Sr. and cousin Juan Jr., all play for the Braves, who compete in the Tri-State National Adult Baseball Association (NABA).

The team ranges in age from 17 to 45, with Juan Jr. being the youngest and his father the oldest player on the team.

While they're just 2-10, Sunday gamedays and Wednesday practices are a lot of fun for members of the Ortiz family.

"It's something my dad taught me since I was little, and I teach my son (Elijah) the same thing," said David, 24, who is the team's manager and works in security at a Cherry Hill company. "Just the love of the game. I coach Little League, and I coach my team as well. I've been doing it for so long. Sunday's just a day for us. We all joke around, have some fun on the field, but at the same time, it's a serious thing, because we've got a game to play and we're trying to win.

"I've been playing with my brother since I was younger. Playing with my uncle, it's fun, he's been playing for so many years and he has a lot of knowledge of the game."

Some have said baseball has been dying in the inner cities around the country of late, particularly among the youths, but don't tell the Ortiz family that.

David, who looks almost like he could be a football lineman and is the team's designated hitter/first baseman, gets up each Sunday morning at 7 a.m., and makes sure everybody is ready to go play. He takes care of the equipment, he does the lineups and everything else that a manager worries about, down to making sure the team has ice.

The Braves are in their second season -- and first full summer season -- and they technically don't have a home field. They play some of their home games at Von Nieda Park, and some others at Farnham Park, if that field is available.

Even without a home field, the weekly gatherings give the family precious time together.

"It's fun," said Hector, 27, who played baseball at Pennsauken Tech. He just started playing baseball again last year with the Braves, after a 10-year hiatus. "Playing with your brother, family . . . it's better organization. It's better than playing with outsiders. We're all ballplayers. My dad (Hector Sr.) raised us as ballplayers. We all just play. It's in the blood. Everybody plays in our family. If you go to Puerto Rico, you're going to find all of them playing."

Hector said practice is a requirement -- unless there's a good reason.

And if you don't show?

"You get fined," said Hector, who drives a forklift in a warehouse at night. "I'm the enforcer, so I'm the one that enforces the laws. Everybody who doesn't come, I'm the one that makes sure they pay."

Said David: "If you don't show up for practice, it's a $5 fee if you don't call with a reasonable excuse."

They also collect $10 per week per person for umpires fees, equipment such as baseballs, or other team needs.

Juan Jr., the team's shortstop, loves playing with family members.

"It's cool," he said. "I feel comfortable playing with them. I love baseball. I've been playing since I was 7."

He said David is very hard on them. "He's like that with everybody," Juan Jr. said. "We're not cousins in the park, we're cousins outside of the park."

There are two Ortizes on the team who are not related to the others: outfielder Manny and outfielder/catcher Andy.

Hector said Juan Sr., who plays first base, is very good. The elder Ortiz grew up in Puerto Rico and came to Camden in his 20s. He used to play with the old Camden Braves teams in the 1980s and 1990s.

"This is the new generation Camden Braves. He's one of the veterans, it's his thing," Hector said.

"I would never imagine the day would come when I could play with my nephews and son on the same team," said Juan Sr., who speaks little English and received help during the interview from Hector as an interpreter. "I have a lot of experience in the game, so I feel it's good when David asks me advice on different plays and things. I feel very good helping him out."

"Their team is based on friendship, people they're close to," said Jason Ruiz, David's best friend. "They're trying to get together to have something to keep them away from stuff that isn't positive."

David's godfather, Felix Colon, ran a Camden Braves team in the past, which is the reason David decided his team would be named the Braves as well.

"He ran the team. He basically did everything for it," David said. "I decided to do my baseball team and just keep the Braves name alive. It was good for us.

"I love it. I've been playing with my brother since he was little. Now to have my cousin and uncle join the mix, it's wonderful for us."

2006 Roster: Angel Martinez, Angel Hernandez, Andy Ortiz, Gabe Medestomas, Charlie Vasquez, Roy Alloway, Edwin Pineiro, Wilfredo Zayas, Manny Ortiz, Patrick Sweeny, Frankie Rosado, Tito Perez, Wady Rivera, Pedro Rivera, Juan Ortiz Sr., Juan Ortiz Jr., Hector Ortiz and David Ortiz.

Manager: David Ortiz.

Camden Braves Official Website