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BY COLIN MIXSON
The Downtown Little League’s new season was saved in the bottom of the ninth when a local developer volunteered to help replace the league baseball’s gear that was discovered ruined by improper winter storage just weeks before opening day.
The little league, which provides competitive outdoor baseball and softball fun for about 1,500 Downtown boys and girls, typically relies on players’ moms and dads in the off season to store the hundreds of bats, gloves, pads, and other equipment essential to the Great American Pastime.
This year was no different, except that the parents who stored all the league’s baseball paraphernalia didn’t anticipate construction work that left the equipment encrusted in caustic dust and mold, according to Community Board 1 Vice Chairman Paul Hovitz.
“One of the parents volunteered to store the equipment in their building, and apparently there was construction going on, because the equipment got covered in soot and mold — and even after an extensive cleaning a lot of it was unusable,” Hovitz said.
Making matters worse, the mistake was only discovered a few weeks before the league’s April 22nd opening day, Hovitz said, leaving organizers to scramble to find a well-endowed emergency sponsor who could help replace $30,000 worth of gear — and fast.
“They were in trouble and they were really nervous about how to raise this kind of money,” Hovitz said.
Enter Saul Scherl, executive vice president for the tri-state area at Howard Hughes Corporation, the developer transforming the once-declining historic South Street Seaport District into shopping and dining destination. He stressed the importance of preserving traditional pastimes and old-fashioned sportsmanship
“When something like this happens, it’s important for us to help the kids,” said Scherl, “In this day and age, when we’re tied to phones and other modern-day tech, little league is so important. It’s nice that the kids get out on the field and communicate and get together outside of the modern tech.”
Scherl stepped up to the plate to cut a $15,000 check for the league organizers, covering roughly half the damages, and earning Howard Hughes a place as a platinum sponsor for the little league’s upcoming season.
Howard Hughes has donated roughly $2 million between 2015–2016 to local schools and community organizations, including the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Military Society of the War, Old Seaport Alliance, Peck Slip School, and Spruce Street School, Scherl said.
And all that goodwill may come in handy as the company pursues further its sweeping development rights at the Seaport, where Howard Hughes has already run into trouble with local preservationists over nixed plans to build a 650-foot super tower, plans to physically relocate and demolish parts of the landmarked Tin Building, and a reluctance to release the company’s overall master plan for the historic Downtown area.
But coming through for the kids in the clutch like this can only help.