Autism-friendly American Softball League closes 13th season with celebration and awards

The American Softball League, a non-profit program for individuals with autism and developmental disabilities, celebrated the end of its 13th season last weekend, as players, families and friends packed Vito Locascio Field at the intersection of Crossbay Boulevard and North Conduit Avenue on Saturday, June 29.
Photo courtesy of the American Softball League

The American Softball League, which provides individuals with autism and developmental disabilities a chance to play the classic bat-and-ball game, celebrated the end of its 13th season last weekend.

Players, family and friends of the American Softball League on Saturday, June 29, packed Vito Locascio Field at the intersection of Crossbay Boulevard and North Conduit Avenue, at the border of Howard Beach and Ozone Park.

Randy Novick, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit American Softball, said the completion of a 13th season signifies the success of the organization and the families that make up the league.

“Families look forward to this because there’s no other sport like this for kids with autism and developmental disabilities,” Novick told QNS. He went on to share that the program also serves adults and those in group homes, noting that they are waiting in anticipation for the next season.

American Softball League players hold-up their participatory trophies for the 13th season. Photo courtesy of Sherry Algredo

The guests at the season-ending game included long-time supporters of the league, Queens Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato and state Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr.

The two elected officials, who both represent Ozone Park and Howard Beach in Albany, shared their admiration for Novick and what the league brings to people with autism and developmental disabilities.

Addabbo, recalling his first interactions with Novick, said it has been a joy to see the league grow from its humble beginnings, when they did not have a field to call home.

“When you’ve been around the community for a while, you get to see changes, positive changes. And that’s what I’ve seen with American Softball,” Addabbo shared.

American Softball League ends its 13th season. Photo courtesy of the American Softball League

The legislator also said he has known of Novick since his days while serving on the city council and is still amazed by the many different age groups that play in the American Softball league.

“We look to help Randy as much as we can with funding or give him the resources that he needs, because you want something like that to grow,” Addabbo said.

Pheffer Amato also ensured her continued support for the league throughout Queens. The league includes members from all parts of the borough, especially those in the Howard Beach area.

The Assemblywoman said she has also been able to provide hundreds of scholarships through Novick’s leadership and praised his efforts, not only as a league president, but as a Howard Beach man.

Senator Joesph P. Addabbo Jr. gives the opening pitch at the American Softball League’s 13th season finale. Photo courtesy of Sherry Algredo

Besides the league’s guests were Girl Scouts from troop numbers 4615 and 4738. The girls from the St. Barnabas Church Girl Scout troop in Howard Beach presented the colors at the start of the game.

Accompanying the presentation of the colors were two of the league’s players, Jason Rivera of Far Rockaway, and Johnny Bradford of Broad Channel, who sang the Star-Spangled Banner and Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

Soon after, the batter’s box began to fill with players, with each taking their turn. One of the league players received special recognition for their time at the bat during the season.

American Softball player Johnny Bradford earned the MVP award this season for his talent at bat. League President Novick said Johnny had the most Home Runs and hits in the league, earning him the exclusive title.

Nevertheless, every player in the league earned their trophies, along with their esteemed coaches, to end the game, Novick shared.

In a few words, Novick simply said the focus of the organization is to play some baseball.

“Even though they have autism, they (league players) still know how to play softball and baseball,” Novick said. “It’s just a thrill they look forward to.”

Novick, who has run the league for years, received a surprise during the end-of-season day. Community Board Chair Sherry Algredo — a staunch supporter of the league — presented Novick with a cake two days prior to his birthday.

Carlos Roldan, The Crossbay Boulevard McDonald’s manager, provided league participants with Big Macs, securing the American Softball’s celebratory end with a classic burger.

The league’s president said he looks forward to continuing to serve families and hopes more will join the program.