The sounds of baseball are back at Surf Stadium in Atlantic City - at least for the next seven days.
The Atlantic Shore baseball team is hosting the Babe Ruth Mid-Atlantic Regional 13- to 15-year-old tournament at the former home of the now-defunct Atlantic City Surf.
Atlantic Shore hosted the 14-year-old tournament in Atlantic City last season.
Bill Rauzzino coaches the Southern New Jersey State champs along with Joe Iannuzzelli and Jack Taggart.
Atlantic Shore took batting practice on the field Wednesday and opens pool play against Piedmont, Del., at 4 p.m. today.
Rauzzino lives in Somers Point and said he remembers the early years of the Surf, when 4,000 to 5,000 fans would regularly attend weekend games at the stadium with views overlooking the city's skyline.
"The kids are loving it," Rauzzino said. "For kids to be able to play in this venue is something they will remember for the rest of the lives, so we're all very excited."
Surf Stadium sat empty and mostly unused after the independent professional baseball team folded following the 2008 season, but it has been revamped in recent years.
There are no longer lights at the stadium (no games start after 4:30 p.m. this week), but Rauzzino said the field is in great shape and agrees with other area fans that would like to see more baseball played there.
"It's a beautiful facility," Rauzzino said. "The field is perfect. It really is a shame there isn't more baseball here."
Atlantic Shore is an all-star team made up of players from Atlantic and Cape May counties.
Nick Droboniku pitches and plays right field for the Devils.
The recently-turned 16-year-old pitched a complete game with five strikeouts on Saturday as the team beat Mercer East 7-0 to win the Southern New Jersey State title.
"We used to come to games here all the time," said Droboniku, a Northfield resident and rising junior at Mainland Regional High School. "It's kind of cool being able to come out and play out here after all that.
"It's unlike anything that I've ever done before. The field is so nice. It gives you nice clean hops and everything. It's a lot bigger than we are used to and it takes some getting used to but it makes you feel like you're growing up and becoming a real baseball player. It's a cool experience."
Zach Zellers, 15, of Ocean City, plays second base and third base for Atlantic Shore. He went to grade school in Sea Isle City and remembers going to games on school nights.
"The view is incredible in the outfield and the field looks amazing," said Zellers, a rising junior at Ocean City. "It's amazing. It's the best feeling going out there and playing where the actual players used to play on the field."
Two years ago, Atlantic Shore qualified for the Babe Ruth World Series after winning the regional as 13-year-olds. The Devils lost in the regional finals last season.
"I love our chances," Zellers said. "I feel like we're going strong into the tournament and hopefully win a lot of games."
The tournament features teams from Delaware, New York, Maryland and New Jersey.
Atlantic Shore plays today and has Friday off before playing games Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be held on Tuesday and the final Wednesday.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional champion advances to the Babe Ruth World Series in Louden County, Va., from Aug. 17-24.
"We definitely have a great opportunity to make it back to the World Series," said Droboniku, who was on the team that made to the World Series two years ago. "It's a really cool environment to be in on this team with all the talent that we have. The competition is really good at this tournament but as always we expect to win and hopefully make it back to the World Series."
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