By Ayala Ben-Yehuda
They may have worn rain jackets over their baseball uniforms, but players in the Ridgewood-Glendale-Middle Village-Maspeth Little League marched with bright smiles Saturday in the annual parade marking the start of their game season.
Queens' oldest league, which consists of 56 teams and 900 children, was scheduled to begin its first games Sunday in a season that will last until July.
“This Little League is one of the best parts of this community,” said Mark Ferran, who coaches girls' softball.
The Jackie Robinson Center Steppers Marching Band, a spirited group from a Brooklyn after-school program, kept the parade going to a drumbeat and tuba blasts that pierced the dreary skies.
The parade began at Mafera Park on the corner of 68th Avenue and 65th Place in Glendale and wound its way to the league's ballfield, Seither Stadium, where hot dogs and soda rewarded marchers for completing the chilly trek down Shaler Avenue, Cypress Hills Street, Myrtle Avenue, Union Turnpike and Woodhaven Boulevard.
League president Pat Piteo, vice president Al Erdmann, and purchasing agent James Catalano marched at the front of the parade with City Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village), a longtime supporter of the league.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens), Assemblyman Michael Cohen (D-Forest Hills) and former City Councilman Tom Ognibene attended the opening ceremonies.
The early-morning festivities brought out residents, shopkeepers and even firefighters on the parade route from Engine Co. 286, Ladder 135 who honked the horn of a fire truck and posed for pictures to the children's delight.
An informal poll revealed Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter to be the youngsters' favorite player, with Mets catcher Mike Piazza coming in a close second.
Though firmly in the Piazza camp, 10-year-old Donte Williams also admired a certain Mets first baseman.
“I want to be like Mo Vaughn,” said Williams, a third baseman for Cutrone's Lawmen.
Asked what he liked about playing third base, the Middle Village resident said, “I'm just comfortable with it.”
Fellow Middle Village resident Deirdre Waldron, 15, summed up what she loved about playing softball in the league:
“It's a lot of fun and we get to scream and make good friends,” she said.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.