Peter’s Field on East 20th Street at Second Avenue (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Parks Department will be installing turf surfaces at three asphalt playgrounds in Community District 6 to provide alternative spaces for Little Leagues along the East River during construction for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project.
The mitigation project, which representatives from Parks announced at a joint Land Use and Parks Committee meeting for Community Board 6 on Monday night, includes installing turf and painting lines for baseball, softball and soccer. The changes are planned for Peter’s Field at Second Avenue and East 20th Street, as well as St. Vartan’s at First Avenue and East 35th Street and Robert Moses playground at First Avenue and East 41st Street.
The Peter’s Field playground space is connected to Simon Baruch JHS on East 20th Street and Sarah Neilson from the Parks Department said at the CB6 meeting that the agency talked to the principal of the school, who approved of the plan. The basketball hoops will still be available on the playground, although in response to a question about replacing the nets on the hoops, Nielson said that is unlikely since the nets often get vandalized and the hoops often get damaged because kids hang from the nets and pull them down.
Stuy Town resident Allegra Abrams takes her at bat with Challenger Coach (and resident) Katie Tamola. (Photos by Benjy Kile)
On October 5, Peter Stuyvesant Little League held a fall baseball game for its Challenger Division. Eighteen athletes with mental and physical disabilities were matched up with buddies from other PSLL divisions to assist them at bat and in the field. The Challenger Division will hold its next season starting in April. Anyone interested in having their child play can reach out to email@example.com.
The PSLL 10U softball team for eight to 10-year-olds brought home the championship banner for District 23 on Friday, July 5, in addition to the 10U and 11U baseball divisions winning their championships for District 23 earlier this month as well. (Photos courtesy of Benjy Kile)
Three teams in the Peter Stuyvesant Little League took home championship banners for District 23, with teams winning in the 10U baseball, 10U softball and 11U baseball divisions.
The Peter Stuyvesant Little League Challenger Division for players with disabilities held its opening day on Saturday, April 14. (Photos by Benjy Kile)
On Sunday, April 14, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League Challenger Division for players with disabilities celebrated its third season opening day. Games were played at around 3 p.m. at Con Ed Field.
The Challenger division is for boys and girls with physical and developmental challenges between the ages of 4 and 18 (or still in high school) so they can enjoy the game of baseball in a supportive, non-competitive environment. They are assisted by buddies, other PSLL players and there are no balls, strikes or outs during games.
This year, the PSLL has 800 members, a record number for the league.
Peter Stuyvesant Little League players and their families headed out for the annual parade through Stuyvesant Town on Saturday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
On Saturday, hundreds of young baseball and softball players and their parents marched through Stuyvesant Town to Con Edison Field for the annual Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade.
As always, they were led by a pair of bagpipers from First Avenue to around the Oval to the field for a brief ceremony where former Mets player Nelson Figueroa gave a pep talk. Local elected officials also showed up to wish the players a good season, which has already begun with a record number— 800 kids in the league. There were also a few new teams, bringing the total to 74 across 14 divisions.
At the field, PSLL President Seth Coren announced that the number of female players has also gone way up.
“In 2003, there were 75 girls playing softball,” he said. “Today we have over 200.”
The Challengers, now a chartered division of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League, has 30 players and 100 buddies. (Photos by Benjy Kile)
By Sabina Mollot
On Sunday, April 22, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s Challenger Division for players with disabilities, kicked off the season with its first game at Con Ed Field.
The division has grown since being introduced last year and there are now 30 players with over 100 buddies. The division has players from ages 4-19 with developmental or physical disabilities and depending on ability, batters can hit off a tee or a ball is soft tossed. Meanwhile, buddies, other members of the league, assist or just stay with players for support throughout the game so parents can watch their children from the stands. Little League fees, which include things like uniforms, are waived for Challengers.
The Challenger division was the idea of Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk, whose younger daughter Jamie has Down Syndrome and played Challenger ball where she used to live before the family moved to the city. Rick and his older daughter Jordan are the PSLL Challenger Division’s co-founders and co-commissioners.
Seth Coren, the PSLL’s president, recalled how when he met Rick, “The first thing he said was, ‘How come you guys don’t have a Challenger division?’ There was no reason we didn’t have it other than it was completely unfamiliar to us.”
Mets player Jerry Blevins joined the Peter Stuyvesant Little League at Con Ed Field on Saturday morning for a ceremony following an annual parade through Stuyvesant Town. (Pictured) Blevins with girls from one of the league’s two district teams (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
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.
The PSLL girls’ championship team members at Con Ed Field for last year’s parade. (Pictured) Olivia Sheh, Julianna Fabrizio, Sarah Acocelli, Camile Bernard, Dorie Levine, Amanda Haspel and Jordan Hayduk (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
REMINDER: The Peter Stuyvesant Little League will hold its annual parade and opening day ceremony on Saturday, April 14. Players and their families gather at 8:15 a.m. and begin marching at approximately 8:30 a.m., starting from 18th Street and First Avenue to the Con Edison Field located at East 16th Street and Avenue C. A brief ceremony will be held at the Con Edison Field from approximately 9-9:30 a.m.
On Sunday, a division of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League for kids with disabilities played its first game. (Photo courtesy of PSLL)
By Sabina Mollot
Earlier this spring, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League debuted a new division for disabled players, The Challengers.
The kids were recruited pretty quickly, with just enough time for them to be able to march in the league’s annual parade on April 1. Then, last Sunday, the newly formed division played its first game on Con Ed Field.
For many of the 25 players, who’ve been placed on two teams, the Angels and the Braves, it was also their first time playing baseball.
Rick Hayduk, Stuyvesant Town’s general manager who helped form the division, said because of the severity of the kids’ disabilities, they wouldn’t have been able to qualify even to play tee-ball (which is how most Little Leaguers start). The players’ conditions include varying degrees of autism, cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome.
The PSLL girls’ championship team members wear celebratory jackets at Con Ed Field. (Pictured) Olivia Sheh, Julianna Fabrizio, Sarah Acocelli, Camile Bernard, Dorie Levine, Amanda Haspel and Jordan Hayduk (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
By Saturday morning, a downpour that had gone on throughout the night cleared up just in time for one of Stuyvesant Town’s most important annual traditions, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade.
Hundreds of kids, clad in their new, colorful uniforms, marched alongside former Mets player and coach Mookie Wilson from First Avenue to Con Ed Field, where they got a pep talk from Wilson and a ceremony highlighting the league’s recent victories.
Jeff Ourvan, the league’s president, discussed the $16,000 the PSLL just received as a result of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit settlement. Ourvan said the funds, which came from unclaimed checks from the settlement, would be spent on batting cages as well as turf repairs.
Ourvan also praised players who last season, he noted, took home some impressive tournament wins.
Of a 13 and 14-year-old girls’ softball team, Ourvan said, “It was the first time in PSLL history we went on to play a state tournament.” The nine and 10-year-old baseball team and the 11 and 12-year-old team also each won a Manhattan championship.
“It shows you the quality of our league is improving,” he added.
When the Peter Stuyvesant Little League celebrates its season opening day, this year on April 1, former Mets outfielder and coach Mookie Wilson will join the players at Con Ed Field, and along their march through the neighborhood.
Wilson, whose real first name is William, played for the Mets for over a decade starting in 1980, then later played for the Toronto Blue Jays. In his post-playing career, he served as first base coach to the Mets first from 1996-2002, then again in 2011 for one season and has also managed other teams.
It’s a PSLL tradition to have a former pro baseball player give a pep talk to the kids and throw the first pitch of the season. Previous MLB guests have included Dwight “Doc” Gooden, former Mets player Keith Hernandez and last year, former Mets manager Bobby Valentine.
This year, players from the PSLL’s new division for kids with disabilities, The Challengers, will lead the annual parade, alongside Wilson.
For Stuy Town General Manager Rick Hayduk, the effort is also a family affair. Daughter Jordan (left) is the divsion’s co-chair and daughter Jamison (center) will be a player. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
With baseball season about to begin, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League will be debuting a new division for players with disabilities.
The Challenger Division is open to would-be players of any age up to 18 with any type of physical or intellectual disability, and was the idea of Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk.
One of Hayduk’s three daughters, 11-year-old Jamison, has Down Syndrome, and had participated in a Challenger Ball team where the family lived prior to moving to the community, in South Florida. However, there was no local division — until now.
Jeff Ourvan, president of the PSLL, explained that the reason such divisions exist (as opposed to just letting kids with disabilities play on any other team) is for their own safety.
“Some of the kids, I understand, have some fairly restrictive physical disabilities,” explained Ourvan. “Obviously we can’t have those kids playing against 11-year-olds who throw 50 miles per hour. So it’s mostly from a safety perspective.”
Peter Cooper Village athlete Zach Elder (pictured at right) with his older brother Douglas (Photo by Karen Elder)
Resident wins medal in X Games Special Olympics
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
When Peter Cooper resident Zach Elder declared at age 9 that he wanted to learn to snowboard, his parents were shocked.
Elder is autistic and his mother Karen said that up to that point, her son was not very verbal, “never saying anymore than he needed to say to get the point across,” she said. But Elder was determined to snowboard, and that willpower to learn the sport paid off: he’s now 20 and on January 28, won a silver medal at the X Games in Aspen in the Special Olympics Unified Sports snowboarding event.
Elder, who has been competing in races since age 13 and who said his idol, Olympic and X Games gold medalist Shaun White, inspired him to learn the sport, is a member of a team with the Adaptive Sports Foundation, a non-profit organization offering outdoor physical activities and education for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities and chronic illnesses. Although Elder trains at ASF, which is about an hour south of Albany, he has deep roots in Peter Cooper Village. His father, Richard, grew up in Peter Cooper and went to Stuyvesant High School when it was still in the neighborhood.
“My mom is 91 and still lives there,” he said.
The event at the X Games is a partnership between the games and the Special Olympics that first took place last year, which Elder also participated in, winning a bronze medal with snowboarder Scotty James. Last year’s event marked the first time that Special Olympics athletes competed during the X Games. Continue reading →
Author Brenden Crowe is pictured shooting the puck. The player wearing the #21 jersey is Robbie McDonald. John Mastrorocco is the goalie. The boy closest to #21 is Phillip Spallino. Player #19 is Danny O’Shea. Other kids pictured are: Neil Crawford, Ricky Kirk, Eddie Mackey and Pat Mackey.
By Brenden Crowe
The greatest place to grow up in the sixties and seventies was Stuy Town. You had hundreds of kids playing in Stuy Town’s 12 playgrounds, not realizing that these friendships they were forming were not for a few years but for life. There was an unexplainable bond that Stuy Town kids had for each other. If you grew up on the same playground the bond was even stronger. If you lived in the same building, it was like you were family.
I grew up at 245 Avenue C on our side of the floor it was the same for families for over a quarter of a century. We had great neighbors, the Flemings, the Cordovanos and Wests and we could always count on each other if we ever needed help. Other families that lived there for decades were the Ryan, Collin, Clarke, Lyden and Delaney families. People like Mike Lyden always took an interest in my life. He would ask me, “When’s opening day for Little League?” or tell my brother Tim, “I heard you had a great time at the dance Friday night.”
When I was in second grade, I used to take Jimmy Delaney (first grader) to school at Saint Emeric’s. You were just taught to look after one another. When you went south of 14th Street in those days you had to be careful because it was a tough neighborhood. Charlie White of 271 Avenue C actually got shot in the leg going to Saint Emeric’s. A couple of Stuy Town kids got robbed going to school.
My father always taught me to see trouble a block ahead so you can make a left or a right hand turn. My brothers and the older kids taught us to be tough. When you walked to Saint Emeric’s you had to pass by Strauss Auto Parts store at 14th Street and Avenue C. There was no one ever in that store but somehow they made a living because it was there for over 40 years. Another establishment you would pass was Mousey’s bar on 13th Street and Avenue C. If you look in the dictionary for the word “dive,” you would see a picture of Mousey’s. They should have had a sign in the window, “underage drinking encouraged.” After you passed Mousey’s, you went east on 13th Street toward Avenue D and you had Haven Plaza on your right and Con Ed on the left. The Con Ed men would try to make us laugh and always gave us electric tape for our hockey pads if we asked. It was always comforting knowing they were there. When you got close to Avenue D, you made a right into an alley way. Once you made it past the alley way you knew you were safe and now it was time to have fun in the playground.
There were many games we used to play but my favorites were ring-a-levio and punch ball. The Saint Emeric’s playground was probably four times bigger than the average Catholic school playground so there was plenty of space to play. Ring-a-levio was usually played with seven or eight kids on each side. One side would start behind a safety line and each kid’s goal was to touch the Church wall which was about 100 feet away. Each kid would go off on his own and try to touch the church wall with about seven or eight kids trying to grab you. And kids didn’t grab you softly. The last two kids were usually the best athletes who got to run towards the wall together. They were known as the Big Two. If you were a member of the Big Two, you were moving up in the world. If one of the Big Two touched the wall he freed all the kids. You had to get back to base without being captured. If you were captured again it was really sad.
The other game was punch ball. All you needed was a rubber ball and chalk for the bases. It was played like regular baseball. The batter would throw the ball up in the air and punch the ball as hard as he could.
Playground 5 was the place to play punch ball. It was a rectangle playground being 200 feet long and 75 feet wide. The game was seven on seven (no pitcher or right fielder). If you wanted to hit a home run you had to hit it to dead center and it had to go between the “three trees.” You would see unbelievable one handed catches because you didn’t have a glove. Kids would slide on the concrete like it was nothing. I remember my brother Brian, Sid and Mike Lyden being able to reach the “three trees.” Other players like Frannie Sheehan, Pat Cavanaugh, and Kevin Keane seemingly could punch the ball just wherever they wanted. If you found yourself playing catcher or second base in punch ball you knew you were close to not being picked next time because they were positions that didn’t get much action.
One time my brother Timmy was playing punch ball with the older guys. It was the bottom of the last inning and a boy on third with two outs. Ronnie Driscoll, an older boy, came up to Timmy and said, “Timmy, I really want to win this game.” Timmy got a hit to win the game and Ronnie picked up Timmy on his shoulders. Years later Ronnie told Timmy he had a bet on the game.
One time Mike Cavanaugh hit a home run hitting a ball on top of Saint Emeric’s roof. When I think of Mike Cavanaugh I don’t think of him as a successful engineer but the boy who was the only one to hit a home run on the roof of Saint Emeric’s. When I think of Billy “Nat” Foley, I don’t think of him as a successful Wall Street executive, but the boy who made some amazing shots at Playground 9. When I think of Jim Nestor “Wolfe,” I don’t think of him as a successful writer but the clutchiest pitcher in the Knights of Columbus softball league. When I think of Eddie Mackey, a successful CPA, I think of Eddie Mackey, a successful CPA. The Mackey family has been a great family in Stuy Town for over 60 years.
At Saint Emeric’s, there were hardly any problems between the Irish and Italian kids from Stuy Town and the Puerto Rican kids from below 14th Street, some of whom lived in the projects across the street. The parents also got along famously and it definitely showed at Midnight Mass on Christmas when half the mass was in English and the other half in Spanish. There was great camaraderie. The only time there was tension was when one of the teachers in my brother Timmy’s class decided it was a good idea to put a production of “West Side Story” on with the white kids as the Jets and the Puerto Ricans as the Sharks.
When I was in third grade, I got invited to a party for Carlos Lopez in Jacob Riis housing project. I always heard how dangerous it was. If I had to go there by myself I probably would have been scared, but my mother took me to the party. It seemed to be an unwritten rule that if you were with your mother no one could bother you so I felt safe. Everyone had a great time at the party.
Stuy Town kids were good kids but no one I knew was an angel. Our third grade class got invited to the Bozo the Clown T.V. show. It was exciting and fun to be on a set. Roseann Keane was chosen to try and win prizes. She had to spin a Frisbee on a stick. I thought Roseann spun the Frisbee on a stick for a period of time. Bozo disagreed. Our mothers were best friends and I figured I would have gotten all the boy toys. When the camera started to span the students I didn’t make the best decision in my life when I gave the finger to the camera. A week later Bozo was going to be shown on T.V. My strategy was to sit in front of the T.V. and when they showed me flipping the bird to Bozo I would stand up and block my mother’s view. It worked. When I went to school the next day I was treated like a hero with lots of pats on the back. I still was worried about being called down to the principal’s office. I somehow got away with it.
Another time I was with my friend Johnny Messina. We went to Dalton’s malt shop on Avenue B. The Dalton brothers were hardworking men and also owned a fish store and a deli. Johnny and I walked into the malt shop and Johnny said, “Dalton, can you get me a chocolate milk shake?” Mike Dalton, who was probably in his early thirties, looked down at this 10-year-old boy and said, “That’s Mr. Dalton.” Mike Dalton went on for about three minutes why he should be called Mr. Dalton. When Mike Dalton finally finished Johnny said, “Dalton, can I get my milk shake now?”
Right below 14th Street, there was a gang called the Black Spades. They always wore their gang leather jackets. An off-shoot of this gang was called the Young Spades, who also wore gang leather jackets. They were young teenagers. One time the Young Spades were walking from Playground 4 to Playground 5 when Neil Crawford, John Mastrorocco and I threw dirt bombs at the gang. They immediately chased us.
We ran through Playground 11 and when I got to the other side of the playground, I got my pass key out and ran into 14 Stuyvesant Oval. Every Stuy Town kid had a pass key for all 89 buildings. We got away. Somehow the Young Spades found out John’s name. I saw Mrs. Mastrorocco the next day and she said, “If they know John’s name I think they should know your name too.” I remember thinking that that was the worst idea I ever heard of.
The author and friends on the playground–(Front row) Ricky McDonnell, Brian Mastrocco, Timmy Crowe, with his face covered is Brendan Crowe, (Back row) Kevin Keane, Jimmy Mastrocco, Bobby Curran, Ken Sidlowski, Ray Stout, Brian Crowe and Mike Lyden
Most Stuy Town kids stayed on their playground or the one closest to them until they were 11 or 12 and then they branched out. Whatever playground you lived on was the sport you played. Playground 7 was the mecca of Stuy Town hockey even though Playground 5 and Playground 1 also played hockey. We had a hockey league at Playground 7. Playgrounds 9 and 11 were basketball playgrounds. Our Playground was Playground 5 where we played football, hockey and punch ball.
My brother Timmy and his friends Mike Cavanaugh, Danny O’Shea, Rickey McDonnell, Marc Smalley and Robbie McDonald, just to name a few challenged the Playground 11 boys — Billy Jaris, Paul Gannon, Billy Kiernan, Jake McGarty and Jimmy Murtha to a game of football. This was definitely a Playground 5 sport. It was always exciting to play kids from another playground in any sport. I was proud of the Playground 5 boys, winning the football game 5-1, with my brother Timmy catching two touchdowns. When the Playground 11 boys challenged Playground 5 in basketball, they crushed the Playground 5 boys.
Stuy Town had the greatest athletes because we played sports all the time. There were no emails, phones, computers or Instagram. We played hard and played all day long. Kelly Grant played professional basketball in Europe. Donny Jackson was the quarterback at Columbia. Kevin McQuaid set football receiving records at Fordham. John Owens had the Catholic school track record for the 100-yard dash. Mike Lyden and Richie Maier were stars playing hockey in college. In one game Mike Lyden scored a hat trick and my brother Brian and his friends threw their hats on the ice. Roger McTiernan was the M.V.P. in the Xavier-Fordham football game; 35 years later Roger’s son also won the M.V.P.
The boys weren’t the only great athletes in Stuy Town. Nancy Murphy was three years older than me and I would watch in awe how well she competed against the boys. Nancy was the prettiest tomboy and was excellent in football, basketball and punch ball. Gina Ribaudo along with Rosemary Bennett and Dianne D’Imperio led the Epiphany eighth grade girls in basketball to the Manhattan Catholic school championship. Gina, in a foul shooting completion at the Police Academy, was 15 for 15.
We all played hard and had fun doing it. Barry McTiernan once told my wife Margaret, “Stuy Town guys don’t like to lose.”
If we weren’t playing sports we were finding fun things to do. I remember my brother John and his friends jumping off the garage ventilators which were about 15 feet high and jumping into the snow drifts. I remember scores of kids sleigh riding on Playground 5 hill and sleighing underneath a two-foot chain. God must have been watching after us because no one broke his neck. Once in a while my father or another parent would take us up to Pilgrim’s Hill in Central Park and go sleigh riding on some big hills. We played a game called “Animal,” where one kid had the football and all the other kids tried to tackle him. We had snowball fights, went skitching, played scullies and played tackle football in the snow in the playground. We had great games of manhunt. One kid at Playground 7 took the long fire hose out of the staircase and turned the water on in the winter full blast. Instead of playing roller hockey the next day, kids brought out their ice skates.
Kids from Immaculate Conception and Epiphany would have water balloon fights. Once, kids from Immaculate chased Padraic Carlin, Brian Loesch and me with eggs, shaving cream and water balloons. Unfortunately Brian didn’t make it. Mrs. Loesch had to do an extra load of wash that night.
One time I was going home and I heard two people screaming my name from the roof. It was Jimmy Murtha and Jeanie Collin who locked themselves on the roof. I went up to unlock the door. The roof was one place that Stuy Town kids found love.
I’m proud telling people I grew up in Stuy Town. We had so many characters but even better guys and girls. We were raised by parents from the greatest generation who all seemed to think alike. Kids moving away from Stuy Town was extremely rare. There was such stability. There was no keeping up with the Joneses because we all lived in the same complex. I wouldn’t trade my growing up in Stuy Town for anything in the world.
The kids of Stuy Town are now in their 50s and 60s but many are still called by their nicknames. People still call my brother Brian Birdie. People still ask D.A. Hopper what D.A. stands for. Donald Hopper would tell them it means, “Don’t ask.” The kids of the 60s and 70s do get together periodically. Bubba Kiely has had his turkey trot party for over 40 years. Stuy Town guys go to the racetrack at Monmouth once a year and always have a great time. My brother Timmy, among others, have golf outings to keep in touch.
Unfortunately we also see each other at wakes and funerals. One of Stuy Town’s best passed away last month. His name is Jimmy Capuano. He was a great athlete, played guitar, was tough and loved to laugh. He was a great father and husband. You know how much he was loved because you were waiting on line at Andrett’s Funeral Home for over an hour. I would make a winning bet that Jimmy is playing guitar right now for the choirs of angels.
God bless Jimmy, his family, and the people who grew up in the playgrounds of Stuy Town in the 60s and 70s.
Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s new president has written a book on coaching youth baseball. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
The 750 members of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League have a new leader after its president for the past five years, Peter Ramos, recently decided to end his run.
The new president is Jeff Ourvan, a literary agent and nonpracticing attorney who has three sons, two of them who are current league members. Ourvan is also the author of a book called How to Coach Youth Baseball so Every Kid Wins, which was published by Skyhorse in 2012.
This week, Ourvan stopped by T&V’s West 22nd Street office (his own office is just a couple of blocks away) and discussed his goals for the league as well as the significance of Little League to the kids who participate, playing baseball, softball or tee-ball.
“Little League for boys and girls is extraordinary,” said Ourvan. “If you’re eight or nine years old, this is what you live for.”
He added that his oldest son who’s now 15 and had played in Little League, still enjoys baseball and is even hoping to get into college with a sports scholarship.
On getting kids to want to play or just keep playing as they get older, Ourvan said the trick is to get them out of their comfort zones just a little with each practice and game.
“It’s creating an environment where a child can have fun but also challenge themselves,” he said. “Anyone can play.”
He also said parents’ support is crucial. This means not just dropping their kids off at games and practice but also playing catch with them.
Goal-wise, Ourvan said one of his priorities is to get more parents involved in coaching, which, as a 10-year-veteran of the volunteer practice, he is certainly an advocate of.
“It’s amazing to coach your own kid; it’s like a rite of passage in parenthood,” he said. “It’s fun to be on the field again giving support. And coaches have families and we work so we’re flexible.”
Ourvan has been on the board of the PSLL for the past five years, and on his moving up to president, he admits it wasn’t a hotly contested battle.
“Nobody wants the job,” he said. But he was also quick to note that the league is a relatively well-oiled machine with many parents eager to help out whether it’s by being in charge of concessions or handling the league’s insurance. There are also around 200 coaches.
“The league opened my eyes to the community of Manhattan,” said Ourvan, who lives in Murray Hill. “There’s so much of a family community feeling that I don’t think we noticed before we had a family. For parents, (little league) is a social opportunity and it’s fun.”
Another goal for this year is to keep older kids from leaving the league which tends to happen once players hit high school age. At that point, they’ll sometimes prefer to play on travel teams with their schools. However, Ourvan said he hopes they’ll stick around as coaches or umpires.
“A lot of these kids have younger brothers and sisters still in the league,” he said. “So we want to be able to retain some of those kids.”
The third of Ourvan’s goals for the league is to get it more competitive. Two seasons ago, the PSLL won a district title and he’s hoping for a state championship in 2015. He’s confident about player improvement since some of the league members will have an edge they didn’t have before, which is pre-season practice time at the newly tented Playground 11 in Stuyvesant Town. The spacious, heated tent, which has been branded by CWCapital as “The Courts at Stuy Town” opened recently and is currently housing a few winter sports programs.
Before its opening, management had approached the league to see if its members would be interested in a baseball clinic there, and Ourvan said they agreed without hesitation. While there is a fee for participants to cover the cost of pro coaches and some new equipment, the PSLL is not being charged for the space by CW. The clinic began on December 5, with around 160 kids showing up, and it will run through March.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for us,” Ourvan said, explaining that due to the cold winters in New York, it can be difficult for local kids to compete with Little Leaguers in other states like California or Florida who have more time outdoors. “To now have the extra months is going to be a huge help for our league.”
That said, he made sure to add it’s not about winning titles or games, but seeing kids improve and develop confidence. He recalled how last year one of his son’s teams had been struggling all season only to end up coming close to winning a big game.
“They almost made it to the finals and they were crying that they didn’t win,” said Ourvan. “They believed they were going to win. It ultimately was an amazing victory because they did their best and if you do your best you win.”
The 2015 season of Little League begins in April and registration for the Peter Stuyvesant Little League opened on Wednesday. Registration currently costs $175 per player and $150 for additional siblings. After January 10, the cost goes up to $200 per player and $175 for siblings, and can be done online at psll.org.