American Softball League kickstarts season with an outpouring of support in Ozone Park

Medina American Softball
On Saturday, April 8th, at Vito Locascio Field in Ozone Park, the American Softball nonprofit, committed to enriching the lives of individuals with disabilities, warmly embraced numerous families, caregivers, elected officials, and civic leaders on its inaugural day.
Photo by Anthony Medina

The American Softball League, a non-profit organization dedicated to giving individuals with developmental disabilities a chance to live their lives to the fullest, welcomed dozens of families and caretakers on its opening day at Vito Locascio Field, in Ozone Park, on Saturday, April 8.

Organizers at the opening day celebration welcomed both new and returning players to the mounds, including 22-year-old Rishan Chowdhury who was eager to take a swing at a ball.

Accompanying Rishan was his mother, Ann-Marie Chowdhury, who grinned ear-to-ear as her son participated in the day’s event. She says as a parent, it feels really great to see her son come outside and play sports.

“It’s great to see him really actually getting involved in the community, doing sports and, participating,” Chowdhury says.

In addition to bringing softball to those with disabilities, the American Softball organization also aims to help people develop their full potential both mentally and physically. The organization’s many years of advocacy don’t go unnoticed, with many elected officials joining the opening day.

American Softball Players stretching and getting ready for the big game.Photo by Anthony Medina

New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams visited Ozone Park for the morning event and shared her appreciation for the American Softball Founder Randy Novick in her remarks.

“We all know this is America’s favorite sport,” Adams said. “ We are opening it up today with this amazing league and these amazing individuals who brought this to our district.”

Photo by NYC Council

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards also showed up to the occasion, emphasizing American Softball’s influence in bringing together bipartisan support as he stood next to Assemblywoman Stacy Pheffer Amato and Council Member Joann Ariola.

“We know when our young people, individuals with disabilities, have the support systems that they need that they can succeed and they can excel,” Richards said. “It’s not a can’t. They can and they will when we stand by them and support them.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards asks one American Softball player to sign his newly gifted softball.Photo by Anthony Medina

Councilwoman Ariola worked closely with the New York City Parks Department to get the field ready after heavy rains the day before.

Photo by NYC Council

Ariola and Amato have allocated funds to the softball organization throughout their appointments as elected officials. Amato explains that funding organizations like American Softball does much more than bringing softball to the neighborhood. 

“A lot of programming ends at 18 for people with special needs, and once you’re out of being a kid, on once you become an adult, there’s no different programming. It’s through the group home. So Randy takes advantage to make it a league that all these different homes can come here and play.”

The rarity of the physical sports programming is one of the other elements that make American Softball special, Amato added. Although normally done in the summer, the organization pushed it up to April for a more suitable environment for the players. 

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz seen speaking with Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato, also stopped by the event earlier in the day and shared her support with American Softball.Photo by Anthony Medina

April is recognized as Autism Awareness month, and support from civic leaders such as Community Board 9 Chair Sherry Algredo, and Community Board 10 Chair Betty Braton, brings another element of importance to the cause. 

Algredo, accompanied by her son and daughter during Saturday’s activities, especially knew the importance of similar programs in the city, as a mother to a son with disabilities. Algredo is bringing the community together again next month for an Autism Awareness Month walk, hosted by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo. Jr, in Richmond Hill.

As for American Softball Founder Randy Novick, who has an comedically accurate Rodney Dangerfield according to those who know him, he’s continued to run the organization for over 20 years for both parents and the individuals who keep coming back to the field for more.

Photo by NYC Council