By Phil Corso
Glen Oaks Little Leaguers received the all-star treatment when they were given the chance to play ball at Citi Field.
In anticipation of Tuesday’s All-Star game at the Flushing ballpark, Major League Baseball officials opened the field the previous Friday to members of the Glen Oaks league’s Challenger Division for a one-inning game in right field. The young athletes played the Queens Kiwanis Champions and took turns batting, fielding and running the bases and even saw their names sported on the stadium scoreboard.
And each time they went up to bat, the players heard their names announced loud and clear over the stadium’s sound system.
“This is a great experience for my son, and the Glen Oaks Challengers, who experienced playing on a Major League Baseball field for the very first time,” said Jodi Aronoff, parent and co-director of the Challenger Division. “They’ve been working hard all year.”
MLB mascots were on hand to encourage the young ballplayers as they took the field last Friday, including hometown hero Mr. Met, Kansas City Royals mascot Slugger and Texas Rangers mascot Rangers Captain. Former Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden and former infielder and manager Bud Harrelson also stopped by to watch the game and meet with the kids.
“We think our children deserve something like this,” Aronoff said. “It’s great that Major League Baseball can do this for our children.”
The free Glen Oaks Challenger league teed off on its third consecutive season in northeast Queens earlier this year, serving special needs players from across the borough. The new division was formed under the umbrella of Glen Oaks Little League, a community staple in northeast Queens for more than 60 years.
The Glen Oaks Challenger Division accepts all types of special needs children, including those on the autistic spectrum, Down syndrome youngsters and physically challenged children in wheelchairs.
The division was paid for by the Steven Petillo Field of Dreams Foundation in honor of the Floral Park 9-year-old who died in a car accident in 2010. The boy’s father, Glen Oaks Little League Vice President Mike Petillo, announced the Challenger Division would be free to the community because his son was always interested in giving back and playing baseball.
Anyone interested in joining the Glen Oaks Little League Challenger Division or learning more can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.