Volume 21, Number 50 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | April 24 - 30, 2009
Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert
Councilmember Gerson receives a plaque from the new Downtown Little League president, Tom Merrill.
Fired up & ready to go
By Chelsea-Lyn Rudder
Lower Manhattan celebrated a rite of spring on Saturday, April 18 when the Downtown Little League kicked off the 2009 season with its annual parade and opening day ceremony.
Little Leaguers, parents, and fans joined together to welcome the new season on one of the first warm days of the year. The temperature went into the 70’s, providing an optimistic backdrop for opening day activities. J.C. Chmiel, parent and former vice president of the league’s board of directors, recalled one opening day when the weather was not so hospitable. “It was so cold one year, all of the kids had parkas on,” he said. “You couldn’t tell who was playing for which team.”
Tom Merrill, the new president of Downtown Little League, arrived at City Hall Park at 8 a.m in order to greet players and parents. Merrill attempted to recuperate the Little League banner, which looked a little worn after being left outside all winter.
The excitement in the air was like electricity as more and more players arrived. The Phillies, a team comprised of 7-9 year olds, burst on to the scene in their red jerseys with an abundance of energy. When asked what they were looking forward to in the coming season most of the Phillies said winning. Team member Josh Davis, a third year player, reminded his teammates, that “it’s not all about winning; it’s how you play the game.”
The valuable lessons of hard work and cooperation were echoed by parents and players. Parents praised the opportunity for their children to exercise outdoors and make new friends in a positive environment. Gail Cope, mother of Brewers’ player Oliver Cope, said she looked forward to “seeing my son reach his accomplishments and for him to continue to feel good about himself.” Cope also noted that 7-year-old Oliver “makes a ‘good’ mean face at bat.”
Councilmember Alan Gerson arrived just in time to kick off the parade and play the role of unofficial grand marshal. “I go to many parades, but this one is my favorite,” Gerson said, as he put on a Downtown Little League jersey for the occasion.
The N.Y.P.D. held the traffic at bay as the parade moved westward on Murray St. toward the Battery Park City ballfields. Entering the field, the procession was greeted by the sounds of the TriBattery Pops. The all-volunteer band was conducted by founder and Community Board 1 member Tom Goodkind, who was dressed festively in a top hat and red tailed coat. Goodkind began the ceremony by leading the crowd in two traditional baseball season songs, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”
After the songs concluded, Merrill recognized special guests who joined the festivities including James Cavanaugh of the Battery Park City Authority, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and State Senator Daniel Squadron. Squadron wished all of the players luck in the upcoming season, and acknowledged that during his own Little League days he was a “mediocre second baseman.”
Merrill wrapped up the ceremony by honoring two supporters of Downtown Little League. T.J. Westfall, parent and member of the league’s board of directors, was recognized for his work on the league’s website. As a result of Westfall’s work, players can register online and the league can process credit card payments without a third party vendor. The second award was given to Councilmember Gerson in recognition of his support to the league over the last 7 ½ years. Both awardees received plaques.
With the pomp and circumstance out of the way, it was time for the ceremonial first pitch. Some of the players joined in for the ceremonial tosses with Merrill, and the elected officials. The umpire shouted, “Play Ball!” and with that the Downtown Little League’s 2009 season was officially open.