A Whitestone ballfield is ready to welcome the next generation of baseball players as a local effort to revitalize the sport in the borough continues.
On June 26, an all-day rehabilitation effort occurred at Little Bay Park, where workers refurbished and manicured the ballfield in the span of about six hours. The field is the second in northeast Queens to see renovations in recent months in an undertaking led by Bobby Gellert, a local businessman.
QNS first spoke with Gellert when he began the initiative in May, shortly after the Whitestone native decided he wanted to begin a project to give back to his hometown. Gellert had reached out to DAC Athletic Club, an organization he belonged to as a child, and told current executive director John Zullo about his desire to see baseball’s position as “America’s pastime” locally restored.
The duo quickly got to work rehabilitating one of the two existing fields at Fort Totten in Bayside, hoping improved conditions at the neglected grounds would foster an increased interest.
Taking a similar approaching to the first Fort Totten ballfield, Zullo coordinated with a field maintenance company, Three Guys Maintenance, and Gellert, through his company Shares of New York, donated the necessary funds to renovate at Little Bay Park.
“We did this project for the same reason [as the first]: to motivate kids to play baseball,” Gellert said. “We received a lot of feedback from the first field and then immediately from the second field. We continue getting really great feedback from the community.”
This time around, the group had to coordinate with the NYC Parks Department, which owns the property. Gellert said representatives at the city agency welcomed news of the capital investment.
“[NYC Parks] has a need for assistance in capital — for working on not only baseball fields, but on other parks throughout the city,” he said.
Plans to renovate the second Fort Totten field, which is in the worst condition of the three, are still in the planning stages, as it will take the largest funding commitment. Gellert also said he and Zullo have identified other baseball fields throughout Queens that need attention.
Gellert is in the process of forming “Fields of New York,” a nonprofit organization through which he and his company will raise funds to further his mission to revive baseball in the local community. The Chappaqua resident hopes to further his mission in Queens, Westchester and beyond.
“The thought is that the leagues around town will use the fields, more kids will come out, and it will sort of snowball from there,” he said. “It’s starting to have an impact. Everything is really starting fall into place.”