Downtown Little League Starts Season on a Brand New Field

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Hundreds of Downtown Little League families take the ritual walk from City Hall Park to the Battery Park City ball fields. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Hundreds of Downtown Little League families take the ritual walk from City Hall Park to the Battery Park City ball fields. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Standing for the Star Spangled Banner played by Tom Goodkind's TriBattery Pops. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Standing for the Star Spangled Banner played by Tom Goodkind's TriBattery Pops. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Little League president Bill Martino tells the crowd, "It's very important that we honor these fields." Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Little League president Bill Martino tells the crowd, "It's very important that we honor these fields." Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Enthusiasm from some softballers…
Enthusiasm from some softballers…
…and curious interest from a new ballplayer. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
…and curious interest from a new ballplayer. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Baseball legend Dwight Gooden tells the kids to always try their best. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Baseball legend Dwight Gooden tells the kids to always try their best. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Sheldon Silver's windup…
Sheldon Silver's windup…
and pitch…
and pitch…
…as he throws out the first ball. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
…as he throws out the first ball. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Gooden signs autographs during the post-ceremony carnival on Warren Street. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Gooden signs autographs during the post-ceremony carnival on Warren Street. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
The community and political leaders (and former All Star pitcher Dwight Gooden) who participated in the opening day ceremony. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
The community and political leaders (and former All Star pitcher Dwight Gooden) who participated in the opening day ceremony. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Posted
Apr. 08, 2013

They marched by the hundreds from City Hall Park to the Battery Park City ball fields Sunday morning for the Downtown Little League’s opening day festivities. But this was more than a rite of spring for the players and parents who stepped onto the brand new AstroTurf fields, accompanied by stilt walkers and the TriBattery Pops. It was a celebration, even a victory of sorts. 

Just a few months ago it looked like those fields, badly damaged during Hurricane Sandy, would not be ready—not only for this opening day but for the entire season and the more than 1,000 kids in the league. Some added political pressure on the Battery Park City Authority and even the summoning of experts from the Mets by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver got the fields reconstructed and open, a couple of days early.

"Storm Sandy thought it was going to kick our butt Downtown," Authority board member and Battery Park City resident Martha Gallo told the league's families assembled around an infield, "but we're kicking it right back today."

Downtown Little League president Bill Martino reminded the crowd that it was just last season that the kids had enjoyed new artificial turf fields for the first time—only to be flooded by Sandy.

"It's very important that we honor these fields. For a second year in a row, a lot of work, a lot of resources went into making these beautiful safe fields," he said. "Treat them well."

The sentiment was echoed by former Mets and Yankees pitcher Dwight Gooden, the guest speaker at the ceremony.

"Growing up in Tampa we didn't have the kind of facility that you guys have here today so you should feel honored and privileged to have a field like this," he said.

The annual event is never complete without the ceremonial first pitch. This time it was thrown by the Assembly Speaker, who announced to the crowd before taking a couple of windups:  "As I got older I lost a little speed off my fast ball."

It was no fast ball, but it did land cleanly in the glove behind home plate. 

"That looked good," Martino announced to a cheering crowd. "A strike down the middle!"