By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Staff Writer
The scene plays out in yards across the country every year and it’s something that can be counted on as much as the flowers returning every April — dads flipping baseballs to their kids and working on perfecting a swing. In Linwood, however, 10-year-old Jules Cino was recruited into pitching duty for her father, B.J., who played competitive baseball into his 40s before he passed away at age 46 in June of 2014.
Jules, currently a senior and standout soccer player at Mainland Regional High School, remembers (now fondly) the nights of getting bug bites in the front yard of the family’s Linwood home to help feed her father’s passion.
“He loved baseball. There are so many memories. One of my favorites is, we had a batting cage in our front yard and he would make me go out and feed him (soft toss) pitches. I hated it, I was about 10 years old, but I knew it was the only time he could hit, so I would go out there, get bug bites all over my legs. But he loved it, I would have done anything for him,” said Jules, one of B.J.’s four children who was selected to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at this year’s Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, a tournament that got its start in Millville but moved to Mainland this year.

Mainland Regional baseball coach Billy Kern hands the game ball to Jules Cino, a senior at Mainland and daughter of B.J. Cino, prior to the first pitch to kick off the recent Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. B.J. Cino lost his life to cancer in 2014 at age 46. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O’Sullivan)


“B.J., he had a smile that was just amazing. I played baseball all over, and I have to say, he was one of the best shortstops I ever had playing behind me. Just a great teammate and player. The family lives four houses down from me and B.J. had a batting cage in the yard, and as soon as he would get home from work I would hear the bat going and he usually made Jules feed him pitches,” said Joe Bunting, family friend and owner of Bunting Family Pharmacy in Northfield, and a former teammate of Cino’s with the Northfield Cardinals baseball club. “It was a little more than a year (that he died) once he was diagnosed. Everybody adored and loved him. He was a great husband, father and friend.”
The Coaches vs. Cancer Classic was started by current Mainland and former Millville assistant baseball coach Mike Edwards, along with Thunderbolts head coach Roy Hallenbeck, in honor of Edwards’ mom, Kathleen, and Hallenbeck’s father, Roy Sr., who both lost their lives to cancer, as well as Hallenbeck’s wife, who is a breast cancer survivor. Jules was an obvious choice to throw out the first pitch to kick off the tournament, as she and her family were hit hard by cancer. B.J.’s oldest daughter, Becca, was just a freshman in high school when B.J. lost his battle with a rare form of bile-duct cancer. It was also fitting because B.J., former director of clinical pharmacy at AtlantiCare, was a certified baseball nut.
“It means so much because nobody has forgotten him, and we’re still doing things to honor him. I was nervous. It’s very bittersweet. I’m so thankful for Joe and everything he’s done for my family, sticking with us through the years and making sure we are OK,” Jules said. “I’m so thankful for (Mainland baseball) and everything they are doing for the American Cancer Society. (The girls soccer team) does the Relay For Life, and just seeing more fundraising is great. Taking cancer down is our main goal.”
“We are so honored. It means so much to be able to do this and support everyone who is going through it. We know where they are, we’ve been through it, so it’s a good thing to do. We had so much support, which was why it was important for us to be here. We had so many people help us out and support us,” said B.J.’s wife, Lisa. “It was a tough thing to go through, but he led a great life and we made some great memories. And that’s what got us through, who he was. We were able to remember that and keep his memory alive, what he did and who he was. We’ve been to a lot of baseball games, and there are so many good memories. It makes you smile and happy to keep going.”

Jules gets a hug from family friend Joe Bunting of Bunting Family Pharmacy, who also was a former teammate of her father and the “Grand Slam” sponsor of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O’Sullivan)


“Everything he did was perfect,” Bunting added. “He was a big fisherman, loved deep sea tuna fishing, he was the best pharmacist I ever met. I’m sure if your car needed a new carburetor he could probably fix that.”
Bunting said that when Mainland coach Billy Kern approached him about being a local business sponsor of the tournament, Bunting insisted that Bunting Family Pharmacy be the headlining sponsor, in honor of B.J.
“They had different options of how local businesses wanted to sponsor, and right away I wanted this to be about B.J., so I wanted to be the “Grand Slam” sponsor. We do scholarships for Mainland and we changed it from the Bunting Family Pharmacy scholarship to the B.J. Cino scholarship,” Bunting said. “He loved baseball, so it made sense that during the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic we could get his name out there. It was nice to be part of it. At first it was supposed to be me throwing out the first pitch and Jules catching it, but we switched it around because I wanted her to have that spotlight. And that was a great throw, so I know her dad was behind that throw.”
“When Joe told me he was going to wear B.J.’s (Northfield Cardinals) jersey (to catch the first pitch), I started asking around to people, and I could not find someone who did not have fantastic things to say about B.J., as a man, as a father, and as a ball player,” Kern said. “I was glad we were able to honor his memory tonight, and I’m happy with the partnership with Bunting Family Pharmacy. Hopefully, we can continue this great event next year.”
Cino’s children are all beginning to enjoy their own level of success, whether it is athletically or academically, or a combination of both. Becca is in pharmacy school, Jules plans on attending Rowan University this fall, Kara is an outstanding student as a sophomore at Mainland, and son Joey is a nationally ranked soccer player at just 13 years old.
“He should be very proud of all his kids. His oldest is just finishing up her freshman year of pharmacy school at University of the Sciences, which is where he went, and Jules got an academic scholarship to Rowan, where she will major in biology,” Bunting said. “His youngest daughter, Kara, is currently a sophomore who has straight A’s, and his son is an absolute phenom in eighth grade. He’s a nationally ranked soccer player and travels around the country. He’ll be starting, I’m sure, next year as a freshman at Mainland.”
Lisa said the family tries to honor B.J.’s memory by doing the best they can, every day, to lead successful and happy lives.
“I’m very proud of my kids for keeping his memory alive and keep going the same way,” Lisa said. “One of the ways to honor him is, he wanted us to remember what he did and his mission, and that’s what I promised him I would do — keep telling the stories and doing the things he would want us to do. I keep him alive by telling the stories, going to games. I feel closer to him (when I’m at the ball field). This is where he was and where he would want to be.”
When asked what B.J. would have thought about her first pitch, Jules said, “He probably would have said I should have thrown it a little bit harder. But he would have been proud.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays