Nelson Rodriguez, above left, Orly Maldonado and Eduardo Narvaez worked on shaping the Battery Park City pitchers mound on Tuesday.
The temperature may have been in the low-40s but the Battery Park City pitcher mounds returned to the ballfields Tuesday, proving there was at least a little spring in the air.
Robert Hansen of the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy oversaw the eight-hour job converting the neighborhood soccer fields to baseball diamonds by shaping the clay on the two mounds and using a less-fine infield mix for the base paths. Before joining the conservancy last July when the new fields opened, Hansen worked for the New York Jets, maintaining the teams practice field which of course has to withstand the pounding of larger players than the average Downtown Little Leaguer.
Hansen said after workers dug up the sod from the soccer season, they noticed uneven spots on the field that were retaining water so they evened them out for the baseball season.
The painstaking care the grass fields undergo is not lost on Vito Suppa, president of the Downtown Little League.
Theyll never admit it, but were the envy of every other Little League that plays on plastic turf, he said. Grass is much better in so many ways. Its just invigorating. Theres a steady supply of oxygen.
Suppa only sampled the $6-million fields on a post-season basis. The fields were completed after another Little League season that the teams shuttled to fields in Chelsea, the Village and the Lower East Side.
He said this season there are about 500 players signed up and the league has expanded from eight tee-ball teams to 12.
The past few years our tee-ballers dropped off, he said. With the new fields back everyone is so excited. Were going to have a steady stream of players for a long time
.Having our own fields makes all of the difference in the world.
The temporary fields were originally scheduled to close in October of 2001, but the city was forced to use them to park trucks involved in the World Trade Center recovery operation. It wasnt until the spring of 2002 that the Battery Park City Authority got use of the fields back and began building and growing the permanent, pesticide-free grass fields. So for the Downtown Soccer and Little League, it meant two seasons of scrambling for field space in other parts of the city.
The fields will open over the weekend for Little League practice only and to the general public on April 13. Opening Day for the league is April 17 and the league will revive a tradition that has been dormant since City Hall Park closed for its redesign six years ago the players parade from the park to the B.P.C. fields.
Suppa said he is excited about the fields, the parade, a growing league and a new season. He had nothing but praise for the Battery Park City Authority and Parks Conservancy
Hansen for his part was confident the fields would hold up well for the baseball season. He was a little more circumspect about the recently-announce plan to use excess revenue from B.P.C. to help build a larger Javits Center near a stadium for his old team, the Jets.
Well see, Hansen said. Im still waiting for Westway.