By Sabina Mollot
On Saturday morning, hundreds of young athletes and their families, mainly from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, gathered for the annual Peter Stuyvesant Little League parade.
The parade, a decades-long tradition, is considered the official kickoff for a new season of local baseball, softball and teeball.
Led by a bagpiper, the PSLL procession snaked its way through Stuy Town, finally ending up at Con Ed Field on Avenue C. It was there where the kids were met by a former Major League Baseball player, Jeff Nelson.
Nelson, a relief pitcher who played for the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners before retiring in 2007, admired the turf field the PSLL uses.
“I never had this when I was growing up,” he said. The player, who grew up in Baltimore, added, “It all starts here when you want to be a Major League Baseball player. I remember I was seven when I started.”
He also thanked the league for inviting him and seemed impressed by the PSLL’s size. “It’s great to see the support from the kids and especially the parents,” he said.
Nelson then threw the first pitch of the season, which was caught by Cubs Minors player Blake Levine.
Having an MLB pro player has become also become a PSLL tradition, and Nelson’s appearance was confirmed just last week.
Other invited speakers at the event included local elected officials, Council Member Dan Garodnick, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Comptroller Scott Stringer. In keeping with PSLL tradition, the politicians, who were there with their kids, kept their remarks brief and about sports.
Hoylman quipped that he wanted to see his daughter, Silvia, kick her love of all things princess related and get into baseball. “But it’s a work in progress,” he joked. Garodnick later mentioned that the recently opened Asser Levy Playground expansion is already being used for tee-ball games.
Jeff Ourvan, the president of PSLL, thanked CompassRock, a sponsor, for offering the league an opportunity to practice over the winter at the heated tent in Stuy Town that had been used for various sports programs over the winter. He also thanked the league’s other sponsors, which include Modell’s, Corbel Communications, Ess-a-Bagel and for the first time this year, the ST-PCV Tenants Association.
The rest of the ceremony was left to the kids with Kiki Kops singing the national anthem and Emma Slibeck reciting the Little League pledge. Ourvan then made parents recite the parents’ pledge, which is essentially a commitment to respect decisions by the umpires and to praise players’ efforts “despite the outcome of the game.” Then it was time to play ball, and Nelson also stuck around a while to sign autographs.
The league, which has around 750 members, celebrated its 59th anniversary this year.