The players and coaches from the Little Neck-Douglaston (LND) Little League program gathered at Gino’s Pizzeria in Bayside on May 16 to celebrate the restaurant’s generous $600 donation to the team.
The event was organized LND general manager Nicholas Singh. Since Singh took over LND alongside Ariel De La Rosa and Lou Balkovic in 2020, the size has drastically increased as time has moved further away from the height of the pandemic. He has also drawn upon his connections within the community to help grow and benefit the team in each age group.
Gino’s Pizzeria has been one of the team’s sponsors since Singh started running LND. According to Singh, this sponsorship came in large part due to his longstanding relationship with the owner dating back to when he was a teacher at the nearby P.S. 46Q. He and many other teachers there would frequent the pizza place for lunch. The pizzeria would also frequently donate money to the school to fund the senior trip.
Singh is hopeful that this donation is the first of many from the community. With 96 kids enrolled for the spring season, it’s a significant increase from when there were only 12 kids when he, De La Rosa and Balkovic took over the team in 2020. Singh’s ultimate goal is to raise as much as $100,000 for the team.
“We’re going to [raise money] the old-fashioned way,” Singh said. “I do this for free. There’s a lot for me to be proud of.”
As Singh looks to raise more money for the team, he’s hoping community leaders can provide much-needed assistance. He even invited Councilwoman Vickie Paladino to the May 16 event in order to show her how much of an impact a donation to them could have.
The donation from Gino’s came as a way of thanking the LND coaches, players and families for coming together to get food at their establishment. That money comes from a portion of what this event generated for them. According to Singh, LND holds this kind of event every spring. More than 250 people attended this year’s event.
According to Balkovic, who coaches the 12U team, LND is looking to expand to the next age group of a 14U team. This would give the kids in this age group another year to play before going to high school, where they could then potentially try-out for those teams.
“[These kids] are sort of at that point where they don’t have a high school team to join yet,” Balkovic said. “We want to provide something for kids in that age group in the neighborhood.”
Other sponsors for LND include Shoe Village in Flushing, Prime Realty, Villa Rustica and East Hills Chevrolet on Northern Boulevard. The latter two have been sponsors for the team since before Singh, De La Rosa and Balkovic came in.
For more information on the Little Neck-Douglaston Little League program, visit lndbaseball.org.