Volume 19 Issue 49 | April 20 - 26, 2007

Downtown Express photos by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Ryan Pocaro, 8, of the Braves slid into home on Opening Day for the Downtown Little League season in Battery Park City Saturday.

Play ball! Season begins with parade, speeches and baseball

By Josh Rogers

Marchers walking away from, not toward, City Hall, politicians’ baseball jokes, and the ping of the bat were the unmistakable signs that the Downtown Little League opened another season.

Beating the nor’easter by a day, players paraded from City Hall Park to the Battery Park City ballfields Saturday for a sunny Opening Day. Making his pitching debut for the Tigers, Balthazar Merrin, 9, felt the pressure. “It was good, but I was nervous,” he said. “On my first pitch, my legs were wobbly.”

Not that he felt pressure to win. His coach took him out when he went over 60 pitches. He didn’t know the score when he came off the mound.

“It’s tied – whoo!” a Jay cheered after another game ended. “We tied! We tied,” a teammate added. The Jays rallied for seven runs in the last inning to tie the Rays 13 – 13 before the ceremony began.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Wiener, left, said he’d help the players get more playing time on Governors Island. At right, Olivia Goodkind, a vocalist with TriBattery Pops and the daughter of the founder, Tom Goodkind.

A local band, the TriBattery Pops, added an Americana flavor with marching songs. TriBattery girls dressed as Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam walked on stilts passing out tiny American flags. Scott Stringer, Manhattan’s borough president, and other politicians spoke.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Wiener “came all the way from the distant land of Brooklyn” joked Councilmember Alan Gerson of Lower Manhattan. Wiener told the players and parents he was working to help them get more field time on Governors Island. “I think you should have some road trips,” he said.

Mark Costello, the league’s president, said there’s “six acres of fields. Six acres and they’re sitting there.” The fields are old but have not been used much so they shouldn’t need too much work to get them ready, Costello said. He’s been talking to New York Water Taxi about a ferry shuttle service for the league, which had limited use of the island last season.

Costello said he hopes he’ll be able to raise some money for the expanded ferry service but he thinks government help will be needed. Wiener told Downtown Express he’s talking to the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp. about opening the island up more for the league and he wasn’t sure yet if there’s a need for federal money.

Considered a likely mayoral candidate in 2009, Wiener proved to the crowd he was not pandering when he said on the Yankees-Mets question, “Let’s go Mets.” He stayed Downtown after his appearance, joining an environmental rally about global warming in Battery Park. But don’t think Wiener slighted Brooklyn Little Leagues Saturday. “Any other?!” he asked, repeating a reporter’s question about other opening days. “We have nine today.”

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