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Elmora LL honoring Trooper Thomas J. Hanratty

Everything the Elmora Youth Little League represents, everything it achieves is a tribute. Its teams wear their hearts on their sleeves, honoring their hero now and forever.

This has been a remarkable summer for the Elmora Youth Little League all-stars from Elizabeth, New Jersey. It is a year the players, coaches and fans will never forget. And it is all for Trooper Thomas J. Hanratty.

Hanratty grew up playing in the Elmora Youth Little League before becoming a New Jersey state police officer. Tragically, Hanratty was killed on April 2, 1992, during a traffic stop when a passing vehicle struck him. He was just 24. The Elmora Youth Little League named its field after Hanratty, wears his Badge No. 4971 on its uniform sleeves and started naming all its league teams “Troopers” five years ago. They cannot bring him back, but these players and coaches keep Hanratty’s spirit alive, now carrying his legacy all the way to the Little League World Series.

“It’s what we’re all about. We started calling these players Troopers when they were 7-years-old and we always get them together and reiterate what an honor it is to where this uniform,” said Elmora manager Jairo Labrador, who played high school football for Hanratty’s brother, Terry. “Every kid understands what it means to wear that uniform and knows who they are representing. We are honoring and representing Trooper Hanratty and his family and all the state troopers and fallen heroes. We take great pride in that and all coaches feel same way.”

A special relationship exists between the Elmora Youth Little League and the police. Trooper Reinaldo Cruz, a 10-year veteran, coaches in the league and the police have a strong presence at opening day festivities each year. Troopers march alongside the players, there is a helicopter flyover and even the police dogs are there.

At a time when relations between citizens and the police are sometimes strained, there is a powerful bond between those groups in Elizabeth.

“They (players and league members) embrace who we are as a league based on who we’re named after. Our league has really embraced the state troopers and we have a great partnership with the police,” Elmora Youth Little League President Manny Medina said. “They do a great job, not just with our league, but for our community and our players love them and support them.”

“I think it’s great with what’s going on with law enforcement and our league here,” former Elmora Youth Little League president and long-time board member Ralph Abbate said. “To have these kids representing our city and state and playing in honor of Trooper Hanratty and all the troopers is amazing.”

Hanratty made not just a big impact on the league, but throughout New Jersey. His picture is immediately seen when one walks into the Somerville police station. There also is a plaque honoring him near the site of the accident, and part of Route 78 has been named in his honor.

Hanratty carried himself with honor and Elmora Youth Little Leaguers have become his living testimonials. As great as this team has been, winning both the league’s first state and regional championships, it has earned just as many accolades for its off-the-field conduct. As fun as this run is, hearing opponents and tournament representatives share those thoughts might mean even more than winning a world championship could.

“Everyone in our league, especially this group, they are willing at all costs to help out and help out anyway they can in their community,” Medina said. “Anything you ask of them, they always want to help out and make sure everyone is comfortable.”

“The kids are brought up right. They have such great respect,” Abatte said. “They have such great parents. We’re all in those together and that makes me feel good. They’re wonderful people. That makes this easy.”

Of course, reaching the Little League World Series is anything but easy. Most of these players have been competing since they were 4. This particular group captured a 10-year-old Mid-Atlantic championship, then never flinched when earning that title again appeared in jeopardy two weeks ago. Washington D.C. scored four sixth-inning runs and won when Jayden Capindica surrendered walk-off 3-run home run.

Instead of reeling from that defeat, the Troopers came storming back. They outscored their next three opponents, 28-4. Capindica threw 5 1/3 sensational innings in the rematch against Washington D.C., allowing one hit and helping Elmora win, 5-0. The Troopers then put everything together against favored New York in the final, scoring nine runs in the first two innings, pounding out 20 hits and winning, 19-4. Seven players produced multiple hits, pitchers J.R. Rosado and Yadi Mateo combined on a three-hitter with 13 strikeouts. The Troopers gave Hanratty and all the state police officers quite a tribute.

The way the Troopers came back following that defeat showed a lot. It showed how tough, determined and fearless they are.

It showed that they are pure Thomas Hanratty.

“It’s special to be able to do this and to be a part of this. We’re not just paying Trooper Hanratty back, but we’re honoring him and being a part of something that can give the family some pride in the fact that their son can be honored like this,” Labrador said. “We love representing the Hanratty name and the Elmora name and the entire community. We’re representing both a great name and a great community.”

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