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.
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
Catholic League Opening Day
Johnny William of Juan Diaz, Chief Inspector Fox, & 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
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
family resurrects Camden Braves in the 21st century
CELESTE E. WHITTAKER
a family affair for the Camden Braves these days.
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
team ranges in age from 17 to 45, with Juan Jr. being the youngest and his
father the oldest player on the team.
they're just 2-10, Sunday gamedays and Wednesday practices are a lot of
fun for members of the Ortiz family.
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.
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."
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
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.
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
without a home field, the weekly gatherings give the family precious time
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."
said practice is a requirement -- unless there's a good reason.
if you don't show?
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."
David: "If you don't show up for practice, it's a $5 fee if you don't
call with a reasonable excuse."
also collect $10 per week per person for umpires fees, equipment such as
baseballs, or other team needs.
Jr., the team's shortstop, loves playing with family members.
cool," he said. "I feel comfortable playing with them. I love
baseball. I've been playing since I was 7."
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."
are two Ortizes on the team who are not related to the others: outfielder
Manny and outfielder/catcher Andy.
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.
is the new generation Camden Braves. He's one of the veterans, it's his
thing," Hector said.
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."
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."
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.
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
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