Courtesy of the Hammers

New Jersey Hammers finish remarkable season with championship

MIDDLETOWN – With the Little League World Series taking center stage on ESPN this week from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, now is the perfect time to take notice of a local travel baseball team that recently completed a season for the ages that virtually nobody heard about.

The N.J. Hammers travel baseball team, based out of Middletown, New Jersey, competed in the prestigious United States Amateur Baseball League (USABL) in the 10-and-under (10U) division. They traveled up and down the East Coast playing against some of the stiffest competition afforded to them and the results were astonishing.

This spring and summer – playing an ultra-challenging tournament-only schedule – the Hammers finished with a staggering 55-1 record and won their second straight USABL World Series championship in addition to winning the Perfect Game 10U Northeast World Series title.

By winning both the USABL and Perfect Game Northeast World Series championships, the Hammers are considered the No.1 Northeast 10U travel team in the country. A year ago, this same group of kids won the USABL 9U World Series championship.

The Hammers lone loss this season was to a team out of New York, the Grit Black, in a Perfect Game tournament in Newark. However, two weeks later in the Perfect Game Northeast World Series final, the Hammers got their revenge by beating the Grit Black for the championship.

“We got our payback pretty quickly, which was great,” said head coach Mike Annucci. “It was unbelievable, it really was. I started to get spoiled coaching these kids; sometimes I forget how amazing it is. I look back and realize they did some special stuff this year.”

In the USABL World Series, the Hammers defeated another team from New York, the Dreamchasers, in the final to take home the championship trophy.

The Grit Black and the Dreamchasers 10U teams were ranked No.1 and No.2 in the Perfect Game Northeast Preseason rankings.

The NJ Hammers got their start in the summer of 2019 when Annucci and a couple of long-time buddies, who had been friends since playing little league and high school baseball together, decided to put a travel baseball team together. They each had sons who had turned seven that year, so they were now old enough to qualify for league play in the USABL 7U division. And so, the NJ Hammers were born.

“We all played ball together when we were younger,” said Annucci referencing his four coaches on the Hammers: Tony Ciccone, Jeff Karpell, Joe LoPresti and Israel Cabreja. “Now we all have boys the same age; that’s how we started this thing. Since we put this group of kids together our record is 157-9.”

So, in four seasons of play, the Hammers have an eye-popping .946 winning percentage - which is off the charts.

Recording such a daunting record one might assume the team is guilty of bringing in ringers to supplement the team but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Out of the 11 players on the Hammers roster this season, nine have been together and starting since the team's inaugural season in 2019.

When a team wins at the level the Hammers have, you obviously must have the pure athletic talent to begin with to sustain that level of excellence. However, just as vital to that continued success is team chemistry and luckily the Hammers are blessed with a ton of it.

“It’s incredible; these kids do everything together,” said Annucci. “All they want to do is be together-they’re all best friends. Being around baseball my whole life I’ve never seen anyone work harder than these kids. They love to play baseball. They’re very mature and very disciplined for young kids and they all kind off rub off on each other and all try to push each other.

"They’re not kids that goof around at practice - they go there to get better but have fun at the same time. It’s a pleasure to coach them; they’re a really special group of kids. They’ve become like brothers to each other by playing together since they were seven years old and have a supreme confidence in one and another. They enjoy winning and enjoy battling the best teams in the country and that’s what makes them different.”

In an era of specialization, the Hammers buck the trend by having each player play multiple positions and the team’s versatility has definitely paid off handsomely.

“I have 11 kids and this season all 11 kids pitched,” said Annuccci. “Now some pitched more than others, but every kid was on the mound this year. We take pride in the fact that every kid on the team plays multiple positions; some play as many as four or five positions. In my mind, when these kids get to middle school and high school, they’ll need to be flexible if they want to get on the field early."

“I move kids around more than most teams because we have a lot of kids that can play a lot of positions and I want to get them to be very good at all the different positions. That’s the best way for them to learn the game by understanding the different responsibilities of the different positions on the field. We’re very, very focused on the kid’s future in the game.”

Most the kids on the Hammers play multiple sports which also goes against the grain of a lot of today’s young athletes who tend to concentrate on just one sport these days which is unfortunate.

“Most of our kids play other sports,” said Annucci. “My son and three other kids are playing tackle football now, we have a very high-level hockey player, basketball players and wrestlers so we have kids that play a lot of other sports which I feel is important to their growth. In the fall, we play in a league as opposed to just tournament play and it’s much less of a commitment. Therefore, the kids can still play other sports in the fall as well. But from March to August, it’s all baseball.”

The Hammers will begin USABL Fall League play in September, but as Annucci stated the schedule is much less demanding. Games are played just once a week for seven weeks with playoffs following the season.

As is the norm, the Hammers will play up an age group in the Fall League to prepare them for the upcoming Spring/Summer League.

“We’re going to play in the USABL League for the Fall against the 11U and 12U,” said Annucci. “And we’ll be playing on the bigger field trying to get ready for the spring; that’s what we do every year. Last Fall when we were 9U we played up against 10U kids and won the whole thing. So, they can hang with the older kids too.”

The Hammers play their home games behind the Navesink Hook and Ladder firehouse in Middletown.


 #2 Antonio Ciccone 2B, OF, RHP, .689 BA, 7 HR, 66 RBI, 115 R

#4 Michael Annucci 3B, OF, RHP, .548 BA, 1 HR, 53 RBI, 68 R

#7 Joey LaPresti SS OF, RHP, .423 BA, 32 RBI, 49 R

#11 Nicholas Verdiglione OF, 2B, RHP, .568 BA, 3 HR, 61 RBI, 77 R

#16 Lorenzo Lambert RHP, 1B, .383 BA, 2HR, 47 RBI, 44 R

#17 Jake Karpell OF, 3B, RHP, .416 BA, 56 RBI, 47 R

#20 Brian Cabreja C, RHP, 1B, .588 BA, 7 HR, 86 RBI, 96 R

#24 Nicholas Heugle OF, 2B, RHP, .485 BA, 45 RBI, 58 R

#25 Logan Travis SS, RHP, OF, .561 BA, 71 RBI, 76 R

#26 Logan Bonici 1B, RHP, C, .481 BA, 2 HR, 52 RBI, 53 R

#99 Michael Faulk 1B, 3B, RHP, .598 BA, 1 HR, 61 RBI, 63 R

BAT BOYS: Luca Ciccone and Nicholas Annucci

The NJ Hammers is a non-profit organization (Omnibuild Youth Athletic League) and a registered 501C. They’re looking for sponsorship and it would be a great way to promote your business while at the same time helping the Hammers cover the ever-increasing cost of fielding a travel baseball team. So, if you’re interested in getting involved with the No.1 USABL team in the Northeast please contact:

Mike Annucci

Cell# (732) 887-4274