Astor Little League opening day activity avoids rain

Astor Little League began its new season Saturday, April 16, and parents were just as excited as the kids that the predicted rain held off for a while.

Gus Menocal, player agent on the league board, ran through the usual introductions before inviting parent coaches of each team to come stand on the mound with the board members. “We were blessed with a wonderful day today,” he said, alluding to the fact that it was supposed to pour.

“Little league builds character, team sportsmanship, and working together,” noted Senator Jeff Klein in a speech to the parents and players. “These are qualities that will carry on into adulthood.”

Tom Messina, from Congressman Joseph Crowley’s office, took a more academic approach: “Learn the game, play it, and have fun,” he told players. “But remember, do good in school and the sky’s the limit.”

After the official speeches, Menocal was eager to mention the growth that Astor’s Challenger League has experienced. Astor is the only little league in the entire borough that has a special program for mentally disabled players. Menocal said Astor has seen such an interest in the Challenger program that this year, “due to the huge influx of new players, we added an extra team, the Purple Panthers.” Menocal also gave special mention of Rita Carstens-Hall, a new board member who is helping to run the league and whose son John is in the Challenger program.

With the addition of the new team, the Challenger program now has five, which combines with the league’s four tee ball teams, four teams in the Minors, three in the Junior Majors, three in the Majors, four in the Juniors, and two in the Seniors, to make a for an impressively large collection of players. The schedule will be packed with games as a result.

“I’m really excited for the continued expansion of the Challenger league,” said Karen Carroll of Morris Park. Her son Aidan, 7, will play for the Orange Tomcats in his third season with Astor Little League. “Thank God we have that program, it’s the only one of its kind here,” she said. “It lets the kids grow on their own and develop skills, but it also gives us parents the ability to come onto the field if our kid needs us, or to step back and watch when they’re doing great on their own.”

Luckily, it wasn’t until the opening day events were winding down and people were headed back to their cars that the sky darkened and one father had to announce: “I definitely just felt a raindrop.”

Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or

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