Put ‘em in coach — they’re ready to play!
More than 350 kids and parents marched in a parade Saturday to celebrate the opening day of little league baseball in Gravesend. The parade — a 54-year tradition for the athletic program at Our Lady of Grace Church — goes from the church on Avenue W between E. Second and E. Third Streets to the baseball field at the corner of W. First Street and Gravesend Neck Road.
The annual march was a rousing success thanks the bright, clear day and the the hard work of new organizer James Paolicelli, said Joe Leston, the athletic program’s president.
“We got great weather, and great new blood in the ranks,” he said.
Still, the program faces challenges going forward, both old — such as getting enough volunteers to coach the four leagues affiliated with the church — and new, fixing the league’s baseball fields and equipment at Shore Parkway and Shell Road, which suffered more than $180,000 worth of damage during Hurricane Sandy.
As he starts his fourth year running the program, Leston said nothing would stop the kids from playing ball so long as parents are willing to pitch in time or money. He knows what he’s talking about. Leston has been involved in Our Lady of Grace athletics since his own, now-grown, children started playing more than 20 years ago.
“You give back a little bit more than you got, and hopefully, if everybody follows that, you’ll end up with something better than before,” he said.Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderma