Downtown Little League Kicks Off Its Silver Anniversary Season

Downtown Little League President Andrew Zelter at the closing of ceremonies for the league's 25th anniversary. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Apr. 22, 2017

The Star Spangled Banner had been sung, the speeches delivered, and the first pitches thrown. Dr. Lewis Gross stood to the side of the Battery Park City ball fields, surveying the crowd of mingling kids and parents. This Saturday morning at the fields was not just any opening day ceremony of the Downtown Little League season, but the 25th. And Gross, the league’s first president, had been there at the beginning.

“Oh, man,” Gross said as he thought back to those first years. “We were playing on dirt lots back here where, now, there are super buildings. And they have Astroturf and their own batting cages. It’s amazing.”

Gross, a new member of Community Board 1 back in 1992, helped get the league off the ground along with then CB1 District Manager Paul Goldstein, Assistant District Manager Judy Duffy and Manhattan Youth director Bob Townley, who had served as the board’s Youth Coordinator.

“I had just joined the community board and [then CB1 chair] Anne Compoccia said, ‘You have three sons, I’m going to make you in charge of creating a little league,’” Gross recalled. “And I actually had never played Little League.”

“The league almost created Tribeca in a way,” Gross noted, “by bringing the families together and making it a residential community. It was really instrumental.”

Speaking to the crowd earlier, current Downtown Little League President Andrew Zelter noted the huge expansion of the league from those early days, now with a 20-member board and more than 250 coaches.

“I’m not sure that when Dr. Lewis Gross kicked off this program 25 years ago he realized we would grow to become the largest single chapter Little League program in the United States. Over 1,025 kids and 80 plus teams,” he announced. “A pretty remarkable feat.”