By Phil Corso
Little sluggers lined up near the Poppenhusen Triangle in College Point with baseball on their minds.
Their annual parade Sunday celebrated the beginning of yet another season in northeast Queens, stocked with elected officials, community leaders and dedicated parents.
But this year, there was a solemn silence for one of the league’s former players, Cristian Malave, who was killed in a car accident March 30.
Malave, 11, was on his way back from a Florida spring break vacation with his family when a car crash took his life and injured his mother Hilda, sisters Alyssa and Melissa and father Carlos.
In the aftermath of the accident, members of the College Point and Whitestone communities came together to help the Malave family through emotional support and fund-raisers. The Little League also postponed its kick-off parade, originally scheduled for April 7, in light of the tragedy.
The Malave family still marched in the parade in honor of the late Little Leaguer, who played in College Point for six years.
“We will be playing all year in his honor,” said Lou Sucre, coach of the boy’s team, The Destroyers. “There aren’t many words to describe something like this. He will be missed.”
League Executive Director Rafael Rivera described the 11-year-old as a great ballplayer and wished his team well before they opened their season later that afternoon.
At the front of the parade, which marched down College Point Boulevard with the New York Mets’ nearby home at Citi Field visible in the distance before concluding at the baseball fields along Ulmer Avenue, Destroyers players hoisted up a banner in honor of their beloved teammate.
“We love you Cristian,” the banner read, next to his former jersey, No. 13 outlined by two wings.
Rivera marched proudly up and down the route, snapping photos of the players and chatting it up with coaches, excited about the season to come. Little Leaguers between 4 and 12 cheered each other on as passers-by and business owners along the boulevard stopped to wave at the passing parade.
The College Point Little League has called northeast Queens home for about 200 children in the spring season since the early 1960s, Rivera said. The league also holds summer and fall seasons.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) delivered the ceremonial first pitch in the company of players, coaches and parents after delivering his opening remarks on the season. The senator remarked on how developed and pristine the College Point fields had become throughout his time in government dating back over a decade and drew applause when mentioning the new batting cages soon to be installed there.
“These are some of the best ball fields in the borough of Queens,” Avella said. “We need to keep improving to keep it that way.”
Joining Avella were other community leaders and elected officials, including state Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) and City Council candidates Paul Graziano and Austin Shafran.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.