The kids of summer

Last Saturday saw more than 2,000 kids, coaches and parents march from City Hall to the ball fields in Battery Park City in the early morning hours. The occasion was a celebration of the 2012 Downtown Little League season.

The event marked more than the beginning of D.L.L. baseball games; it signaled the spirit of rebirth that has come to define Lower Manhattan post 9/11.

Since 1993 D.L.L. has expanded to more than 1,300 kids playing baseball and softball. This in itself is a testament to how far the Lower Manhattan community has come in terms of redefining itself as a neighborhood.

From the Tri-Battery Pops performing on the upper deck to the speeches delivered by local politicians like state Senator Daniel Squadron, the day marked not only the opening of the D.L.L. summer season but the resilience and resurgence of Lower Manhattan.

“Take me out to the ballgame,” might as well have been changed to “take me out to Lower Manhattan.”

The fields alone are a remarkable achievement. The artificial turf, never in need of a tarp, funnels rainwater into a system that turns the runoff into nourishing water for Battery Park City’s gardens and parks. The entire complex is a testament to the buzzword of the last few years: sustainability. The grass fields were an inspiration to many, but couldn’t hold up under the pressure of intense urban use.

Also worth praising is the dedication of people like Bill Martino, president of D.L.L., and Mark Costello, a longtime ambassador of the league and a promoter of the need for more ball fields in Downtown. The community owes its thanks to all who have devoted time to ensuring the children in Lower Manhattan have a league unto themselves and an outlet to express their talents, skills and ambition.

And with last Saturday as a backdrop, the neighborhood is once again forced to stare down budget cuts that could ultimately decrease the vitality of organizations like D.L.L.

True, a Little League is not considered an after-school program in the city budget, but these programs do provide youth with character-building components that might allow the development of the next Carmelo Anthony or Alex Rodriguez. That is what is ultimately at stake in this debate.

The parents that paraded from City Hall to the Battery Park City ball fields last weekend were there not only to celebrate the new baseball season, but also to let officials know that their kids’ health, concerns and well-being need to be fought for, and protected.

The same concerns and sentiments can be found among the parents and kids of other local youth sports leagues, from Greenwich Village Little League and Downtown United Soccer Club to the Felix Millan Little League, Peter Stuyvesant Little League and the Greenwich Village Girls’ Basketball League.

This is what communities are all about: examining the present, learning from the past and adjusting for the future.

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