No Little League For Sorrentino This Year
Normally, the last Saturday in June brings the opening day for the Sorrentino Center's little league program. By now, the Far Rockaway baseball players should out on the ball fields of O'Donohue Park, pitching and hitting for their teams.
They are not, however, and the reason why they are not playing ball depends on whom you believe in a tangled web of funding and volunteerism.
One thing is definite at this point and that is there will be no little league play sponsored by the PAL and the Sorrentino Center this summer.
Despite holding a special baseball clinic for youngsters, hosted by Far Rockaway High School's coach on April 12, the same day that registration was opened for this season's play, the sponsorship of the program quickly fell apart.
"What happened was that Health Plus who sponsors the program [for the Health Plus/PAL/Parks and Recreation Queens Little League], for whatever reason, didn't sponsor it [this year]. So the program was ended," said Bernard Robinson, the manager of the Sorrentino Center last weekend.
"We have lots of sports-oriented programs. We just didn't have the dollars," said Kathryn Soman of Health Plus. "It's a great program."
Soman went on to say that she didn't believe the Police Athletic League sent Health Plus a proposal to sponsor its 2008 baseball program, something that must be done before funding is granted, and something that was always done in the past, officials say.
"Somebody has to contact us and show us a budget," continued Soman, who said someone usually gets in touch with her. "They have to pitch it [to us]."
The PAL's sports director did not immediately return calls for comment about the organization's failure to make a proposal to Health Plus.
Robinson said, "We were told, basically, about a month ago that the program wasn't going to go forward. The few parents that show up were told."
While he said that they usually send out information, no letters were sent home to inform parents of the cancellation. "We deal with a lot of children and we don't see a lot of parents," said Robinson. "A lot of times the response we get out of parents is once something doesn't happen." He added, "I don't hold that against them, because I don't know what is going on in their life. But, I don't think we should be held accountable for them not showing up. Which is what happened."
Some youngsters did show up at O'Donohue Park on June 28 and again on July 5 for clinics run by Ray Desmarets, who is in charge of Sorrentino's little league.
"I'm very disappointed. I don't know what happened," said Desmarets. "The kids practiced all the time."
Parents and grandparents who attended the clinic last Saturday were surprised to hear there would be no official little league this year.
"I don't like it," said Luz Basora, Luis Lopez's grandmother. "I just found out. Why aren't they funding it this year?"
Erica Vargas has a 13-year old son, Victor, and a brother, Dakota Marrero, 9, who have both been practicing for opening day.
"They practiced hard. Without the games there's no activities for them to do," said Vargas, who added her son's role model is New York Yankee Derek Jeter. "It [little league] helps parents keep the kids off the streets. We want them to become something."
William Gonzalez's grandson Christian, 11, has been on the team for the last two years.
"My grandson is so anxious to play baseball," said Gonzalez, who said he would give money to help out. "There's nothing else to do. They come over here to have a good time. They let everyone down."
The Wave spoke to the youngsters at last week's clinic. The young players used words such as "upset" and said that they "felt bad."
Vivian Smith, 13, was looking forward to playing on the same team as her brother.
"My brother got me into it," said Smith. "It really upsets me. It's my first year. It's the one sport I actually enjoy. I'm disappointed."
Kevin Cifuentes, 13, also told The Wave how he felt.
"Other people get the privilege of playing the game," said Cifuentes. "We deserve more than what we're getting. We practiced hard and getting no reward." Approximately a dozen players showed up last week, slightly less than the week before due to the weather. On Wednesday, Robinson said clinics at O'Donohue Park would continue on Thursdays - from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. - and Saturdays - beginning at 9:30 a.m.
"We're holding clinics, there just won't be a league," explained Robinson.
Last season the Yankees, in the 9-12- year-old Bantam Division, and the White Sox in the Junior Division represented the league in the citywide championship tournament.
This year, they will all sit home.