2013-04-05 / Sports

After Sandy, Sun Rises On RLL’s 60th Baseball Season

Young Jays march hand-in-hand at last year’s Opening Day parade. Young Jays march hand-in-hand at last year’s Opening Day parade. With the help of trusted elected officials, generous organizations and supportive Americans from around the country, Rockaway Little League will kick off its 60th season on Saturday, April 20th, in Fort Tilden.

The annual Opening Day celebration will be attended by Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Gregory Meeks, State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Councilman Eric Ulrich and –of course– most of Rockaway’s young baseball and softball players. As an excellent indicator of the peninsula’s rebound from the devastation of Sandy, close to 650 children and Challenger athletes are set to participate in 2013. Sadly, close to 100 boys and girls will miss this season because of the storm’s hardships.

The path back to the diamond was made easier by many helping hands. To replace bats, gloves and cleats that were washed away or burned, Pitch In For Baseball, a not-for-profit affiliated with Little League Baseball, provided new equipment for more than 200 children. Nike and Beaver Bat Company also made donations. Sports Authority is giving our families a 20% discount on all sporting equipment. The Mountain Ridge Little League in Las Vegas, NV shipped us 65 new batting helmets. The Kevin McAuliffe City Softball League of Plainview, NY made a significant monetary contribution toward repairs. East Bay Sporting Goods of Wausau, WI donated 150 new wood bats.

Boys fly high on a ride during last year’s Opening Day Celebration in Fort Tilden. Boys fly high on a ride during last year’s Opening Day Celebration in Fort Tilden. Help has come from all over the United States.

Locally, Harlem RBI sent more than a dozen volunteers this week to help Rockaway Little League’s staff prepare the fields for play. While the fields and clubhouse in Fort Tilden were miraculously spared major damage, Sandy did leave a lot of muck behind. Harlem RBI will also help RLL arrange clinics once Fort Tilden is officially open. The National Parks Service is granting Little League limited access in order to prepare the fields and kick off the season even though Fort Tilden is still closed to the public due to safety concerns.

As part of its continuing effort to get every boy and girl back to the normalcy and fun of baseball, Rockaway Little League will make this year’s Opening Day Celebration free for all registered children and their parents. Between the reduced 2013 registration fees, reduced Awards Breakfast tickets and free tickets to Opening Day, RLL has invested close to $30,000 in its families thus far.

Opening Day will once again feature the parade, a great outdoor buffet of American classics, the season’s first Challenger game and several amusement rides on field 5. Little League will also do its second distribution of donated baseball gear to families who responded to its lost equipment survey.

Despite the late start to the 2013 season, RLL expects a full slate of games before the playoffs in mid-June.

Players in girls’ softball will again be given the option of wearing pink “Crush Cancer” socks to show support for alumna Clare Droesch. An important change will be implemented for boys in the Minors, Majors and Juniors divisions. To increase safety, only wood bats will be used in games. Aluminum and composite bats will no longer be legal in the season and post-season.

Registration for the 2013 season closed on March 15. However, Rockaway Little League is committed to get Rockaway boys and girl back on the field with their friends. They will work with any family that needs additional accommodations during the recovery.

DIAMOND DUST: At the annual Awards Breakfast, Senator Schumer was awarded the Key to Rockaway Little League for his contributions to and protection of the organization over the last 20 years...Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder will once again sponsor a team in 2013. Thanks Phil...Thank you, too, to Gateway NRA for giving Little League access to the area around the ball fields ahead of schedule so that our children can enjoy some normalcy after the destruction Rockaway experienced. Most of Fort Tilden will remain off limits due to safety concerns.

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