By Ivan Pereira
Big league baseball players may be gearing up for the World Series, but this weekend dozens of energetic athletes took to their field of dreams at Kissena Corridor Park in Flushing.
The Achievers of America held its annual softball game Saturday afternoon when more than 80 handicapped players from the ages of 16 to 67 put on pinstripes, caps and gloves and duked it out on two teams.
“It’s amazing. They’re doing something that they only dreamed of,” said Steve Biondo, founder of the Achievers of America.
Biondo, who helped coach the teams, said he and his volunteers worked to make the day fun for all involved. Not only did all of the players run the field and hit, each was awarded a trophy for participating.
“Everybody gets a chance to play,” he said.
Biondo started the tournament in 1998, with the help of friends Frank and Lillian DeMaeyer. The retired father of three had been a coach for the Special Olympics and wanted to help the athletes.
“I saw there was a need to do it all year-round,” he said.
He began with 10 participants and a few sponsors and the baseball event caught on among the community. Soon he started a bowling event for the handicapped athletes so they could compete during the months when baseball fields were closed.
When Biondo moved to Florida, he started a similar program down there which has become equally popular.
The tournament has several sponsors, including state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Far Rockaway) and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach).
Biondo said he was grateful for the support he has received and hoped this weekend’s tournament would remain a lasting positive memory for the athletes for years to come.
“I like the idea of teaching and coaching,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.