Volume 75, Number 13 | August 17 - 23, 2005

In front of Fulton Housing, from left, Juan Acevedo, Henry Adams, Baseball Commissioner Miguel Acevedo, Michael Acevedo and Michael Maldonado

Thanks to ‘mayor,’ baseball’s a hit in Fulton Houses

By Judith Stiles

The teenagers at the Fulton Housing complex think of Miguel Acevedo as the “mayor” of the neighborhood who also wears many other hats such as, coach, uncle, P.T.A. president, dad, director of Fulton Youth of The Future and community activist.

Sit down on any park bench in front of Fulton Housing and ask someone who Miguel Acevedo is, and they will most likely say, “Nice guy!” and point to his headquarters at 419 W. 17th St. between Eighth and Ninth Aves. on the ground floor of Fulton Housing. It is there he began the nonprofit organization Fulton Youth of the Future, which Acevedo describes as a program for inner-city youth from low-income families that will “serve as a home base for most of our children where they will be guided to become self-sufficient and mature young adults.”

When Acevedo is not leading the P.T.A. at The Museum School, he is coaching his daughter Kaitlin, 5, in T-ball at Greenwich Village Little League, as well as his son Michael, 17, and nephews Juan, 14, and David, 19, in the Seniors Division of G.V.L.L. This summer the boys competed as a guest team in The YMCA League in Queens under the banner of G.V.L.L.

Just a few years ago, when these boys first reached their teen years, they traveled to other boroughs to play within G.V.L.L. where they experienced a lot of frustration with other teams who were no-shows. Traditionally, in every sport, including baseball, there is a drop-off in participation when girls and boys hit high school. Academics become very demanding and kids become interested in. . .you guessed it, dating. This means little or no time for sports and enrollment on both soccer and baseball teams often plummets. Armed with this knowledge, Acevedo was not discouraged and hunted around for more competitive leagues for the Fulton boys to play in. He consulted with Councilmember Christine Quinn who encouraged him to take charge and become the commissioner of baseball for the Chelsea-Clinton area.

In the summer of 2004, Acevedo enrolled the team (who still operated under the umbrella of G.V.L.L.) in the traveling Diamond Pro League where the boys got to play more competitive baseball against men in Connecticut and Long Island. These Lower Manhattan youngsters had a stellar season as they made it to the playoffs in this adult league, which Acevedo attributes to their hard work and dedication to baseball. “I want to preoccupy their minds with healthy activities,” says Coach Acevedo, sitting on the edge of his park bench. “When they are involved in sports, they don’t have the time to get in trouble and become spoiled brats,” he adds with a wink.

Across the street, Acevedo spots Henry Edwards dashing out the front door. Edwards is in a hurry, on his way to coach baseball for the Junior Mets, a program that Acevedo got Edwards involved in. “Henry could play professional baseball, yes, he is that good!” says Acevedo like a proud father, as he waves him over to say hello. With a big grin, Edwards stops by and remarks, “From 8:30 to 3:30 p.m. I am a Mets fan because I work for the Junior Mets, but really, I love the Yankees!” Acevedo doesn’t hesitate to do a little bragging for Edwards as he compares his pitching to that of Pedro Martinez, formerly of the Boston Red Sox, and now a pitcher for Edwards’s favorite team by day, the Mets.

“We need more sports opportunities for the 2,000-plus kids who live in these buildings,” insists Acevedo as he waves his arm in front of the Fulton buildings. At the top of his “to-do” list is finding the money to restore De Witt Clinton Park at 52nd St. and 11th Ave. He calls it the Fulton kids’ “Field of Dreams,” and is hopeful that it can be refurbished within the next year or two.

It is clear Acevedo is a very busy man who still manages to be generous with his time when teenagers turn to him for help. Neighborhood kids and baseball players flock around him whenever he takes a minute to sit on his bench. “Anyone want to join a soccer team?” Acevedo asks a few boys who are bouncing a basketball on the sidewalk. The response is enthusiastic as Acevedo, quick as lightning, whips out his cell phone to work out the details of a free soccer clinic that the Downtown United Soccer Club is hosting for Fulton Housing kids after Labor Day.

“But I don’t have a ball or the right shoes,” shouts one of the boys to Acevedo. “No problem, we’ll get balls! Just wear sneakers and you’ll be fine,” Acevedo adds, completely at ease with his new Herculean task of organizing the neighborhood kids to play another sport.

For information about the free Downtown United Soccer Clinic for children who live at Fulton Housing, to be held Sept. 10, starting at 5 p.m., call 646-456-8453.

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