By Sabina Mollot
On the sunniest opening day the Little Leagues of New York City have seen in years, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League, celebrating recent district-wide wins, marched triumphantly through Stuyvesant Town, circling the Oval and then heading onto Con Ed Field on Avenue C.
The annual parade and kickoff celebration took place on Saturday morning, with the PSLL also celebrating another coup — the first-ever visit from an active member of Major League Baseball, the Mets’ Jerry Blevins.
For the past decade, the league has had a tradition of having a former player come to the field to give the kids a pep talk. Previous guests have included Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson.
Seth Coren, the league’s new president, introduced Blevins as “the most reliable pitcher in the bullpen, contributing to a historic 11-1 season.” He also joked that Blevins was also “an internet sensation” for stirring up some controversy when he said “Field of Dreams” wasn’t among the top 10 baseball movies of all time.
Blevins then called for a round of applause for the hundreds of Little League parents in attendance at Con Ed Field.
“Without the adults, this Little League doesn’t exist,” he said. He also then called for more clapping for a PSLL player, Claire O’Connell, who’d sung the National Anthem earlier that morning.
“My biggest fear is singing in front of a group,” Blevins revealed.
Addressing the crowd, he advised players to “Have fun, rely on your teammates, respect the coaches and respect the umpires and baseball will be good to you like it was for me.”
Blevins then threw the ceremonial first pitch of the season to PSLL player Vincent Ourvan.
Along with Blevins, other VIP guests included team mascots: Mrs. Met and the Brooklyn Cyclones’ Sandy the Seagull, the latter engaging in a bit of chicken dancing and both enthusiastically taking photos with kids at the field.
As always though, the real stars were the players with two district teams recognized for major wins last season. This year, the league has 720 players, who, when marching behind a set of bagpipers, resembled a moving rainbow in their new uniforms and homemade signs.
Coren cheered the fact that for the past three years, the PSLL’s district teams had won Manhattan championships.
“Before that it had only been done once in 25 years,” said Coren.
Other special guests included Rick Hayduk, Stuy Town general manager as well as the force behind the PSLL’s Challenger Division for kids with disabilities, and sponsor reps from Blackstone, Mount Sinai and Con Ed as well as elected officials. In attendance were Council Member Keith Powers and his predecessor (and PSLL dad) Dan Garodnick, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Coren spoke about how new goals for the league were to make improvements to its facilities (it uses a playground in Murphy’s Brother’s Park as well as Con Ed Field), and implementing a player motivational program as well as professional training for its volunteer coaches.
Additionally, for their services to the league over the years, former PSLL president Jeff Ourvan and Garodnick were presented with special monogrammed bats.
Also as part of the ceremony, PSLL members Magnus Niblock and Avi Farver recited the Pledge of Allegiance and another player, James Shaw, recited the Little League pledge about playing fair. This was followed by another pledge for parents to respect a good effort despite the outcome of a game — not to mention the decisions of the umpires.