By Tom Momberg
The official start of the Bayside Little League was commemorated with ceremonial first pitches Saturday by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and state Assemblyman Braunstein (D-Bayside).
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz made it out to the Little League open as well to jointly announce alongside Vallone that her office allocated about $1.5 million in discretionary funds to repair and upgrade the fields the Little Leaguers play on.
Even though they and several other elected representatives and community leaders turned up to show their support at the Little League fields at Crocheron Park, the annual Little League parade day wasn’t about them. It was about the nearly three dozen Little League teams that came out on a gorgeous April Day to kick off their next eight weeks of hard practice and play.
Police officers of the 111th Precinct helped secure Bell Boulevard for the colorful parade lineup that got the attention of neighbors, led by T Z Bridgemen, a band that could draw your ears in from miles away.
It was apparent by all the community support Saturday just how much Bayside Little League is rooted in the neighborhood.
Business owners and employees stood in front of their establishments along with other spectators to cheer on the children who probably would not have such great recreational opportunities if it weren’t for their support in sponsoring the teams.
Bayside Little League is so deeply entrenched after 63 years in the community that it has even become generational.
“This year, I’ve had numerous parents come to sign their children up that played in the Little League years ago,” said Bayside Little League Commissioner Bob Reid to the large crowd of parents surrounding the leaguers. “Give yourselves an applause for staying in the community and keeping Little League as strong as ever.”
Braunstein said it is fundamental to have strong community support and a large Little League program for the way it influences the young Baysiders’ lives evident from generation to generation.
“I played Bayside Little League when I was younger, my father played Bayside Little League when he was a kid and I’ll tell you, it’s great to compete, great to learn the game,” Braunstein said. “But the best part is the friends that you make along the way. I still have friends from Bayside Little League that I see around the neighborhood. It’s something special.”
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stopped by the parade and opening ceremony to express to the young athletes the importance of having sports in their lives and why it is so important for communities to provide athletic activities for youth. “Here’s something you may not know. You’ll not only learn how to play baseball — batting and pitching and catching and throwing — when you play Little League,” Schumer said. “But you’ll also learn all the things that will help you when you grow up … character, teamwork, sportsmanship and courage.”
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb