Volume 75, Number 47 | April 12 - 18 2006

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Little Leaguers took the field at J.J. Walker on Saturday for Opening Day ceremonies.

Kranepool kicks off what should be amazin’ season

By Jefferson Siegel

Last Saturday may have been rainy, windy and cold. But, at 10 a.m., Greenwich Village time, summer officially began.

Several hundred players of the Greenwich Village Little League marched onto the field of J.J. Walker Park on Hudson St. after a ribbon cutting, the first of several events held at the league’s Opening Day Parade.

Wielding a pair of scissors, league president Tom Ellett was joined by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and former New York Mets player Ed Kranepool as they cut the red tape, opening the way onto the field, drawing cheers from several hundred players and parents.

Ed Kranepool, former Mets first baseman, threw some heat.
Players from 10 league divisions paraded onto the field behind division and team banners.

“Rain or shine, the game must go on,” Stringer said as the parade began. “It’s great to be here with all the kids from the Village. It’s a great part of the job.”

Although games began one week earlier, the parade was a chance for fun and formality to mingle.

“I love Greenwich Village Little League Opening Day,” Speaker Quinn said, wearing a bright green rain hat. “They say when it rains on your wedding day, it’s good luck for a wedding. So I think this means we’re going to have the best season ever.”

Quinn was instrumental in securing a $5,000 grant for the league from the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development.

“If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have gotten the money,” a grateful Ellett said, thanking Quinn while standing on home plate. This year the league also secured a $1,000 grant from the State Department of Youth and Children’s Services.

One of many high points of the morning was the reading of a declaration from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, declaring the parade day as Greenwich Village Little League Day. After the crowd listened to the singing of the national anthem, ceremonial first pitches were thrown, including some heat from Kranepool.

“I think it’s a great turnout,” Kranepool told The Villager. “We have so many kids out here participating. They’re all excited and looking to starting their baseball season and we wish them good luck.” Kranepool stayed on after the ceremony, patiently autographing baseballs and mitts proffered from a crowd of fans both young and old.

Four lucky families won a raffle, each taking home four tickets to a Yankees game, courtesy of league sponsor Dunkin’ Donuts, which also donated $2,500 to the league this season.

Ten-year-old Blue Jays team member Addison Barash, who plays shortstop, pitcher and catcher, was looking ahead to the full schedule of games.

“I think it’s going to be pretty good,” Barash said of the coming season.

Ellett is responsible for a major change to Little League rules starting this season. At a recent Little League World Series game, Ellett said an 11-year-old player gained notoriety by throwing 141 pitches during the game. Ellett wrote to the parent organization, the Little League of America, decrying the high pitch count as potentially harmful to young arms. Though it didn’t respond directly, the organization did institute a pilot program to limit the pitch count for each game. As the season progresses and arms warm up, the per-game pitch count will increase to a set number for each division.

This year’s G.V.L.L. season will feature the first annual Mayor’s Borough Cup, to be held on Memorial Day weekend, Sat. May 27 and Mon. May 29. Hosted by G.V.L.L., eight teams from the New York City region will compete for the Borough Cup in an 11-to-12-year-old division and a 13-to-14-year-old division. The games are expected to be played at the Pier 40 ball fields.

This year’s G.V.L.L. season ends in early June, when playoff and championship games will be held.

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