Community starts petition to name Van Cortlandt Park baseball field after 9/11 hero

MC President Brennan O’Donnell announcing that he would propose to Community Board & Parks Commissioner the naming of the field to honor Joe Coppo.
Photo courtesy of Manhattan College

Bronx resident Joseph Coppo was captain of the Manhattan College baseball team, inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame and died on September 11 in the towers.

Nearly two decades after his untimely death, the community has started a petition to name its home field at Van Cortlandt Park after the local baseball legend. So far there are 258 signatures in support of the renaming effort.

2020 would have marked the Jaspers’ return to Van Cortlandt Park, after playing this past six years in Wappinger Falls due to the field’s poor condition. But now with COVID-19, the season has been canceled. The school is the only Division 1 team that plays in a city park.

The hope is when things do return to normalcy, Coppo’s name will be on the field.

“Joe loved wearing the Jasper uniform and playing ball in Van Cortlandt Park,” the petition states. “Now that our team has come home, there would be no better time to honor this special Jasper and the great legacy of our baseball program. Please join me in showing the support of the Manhattan College community and the surrounding neighborhood for naming the Van Cortlandt Park Stadium Baseball Field after Joseph Coppo, Class of 1975. This is a fitting way to commemorate the life of a beloved Manhattan College alumnus and a great New Yorker.”

Coppo began his collegiate baseball career with the Jaspers in 1973 and was recognized by his teammates as a power hitter, excellent pitcher and an overall good person. He was the captain of the team his senior season in 1975 and went on to coach his children’s Little League baseball and softball teams in later years.

This movement to rename the field has been underway for several months and his widow Pat is in full support of it.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have been working tirelessly on this project for so many months,” Pat said. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by great friends like Kevin Monaghan and Fred Marro who have never forgotten Joe for a minute, but having President Brennan O’Donnell and Rob Walsh be so enthusiastic and supportive is extraordinary and very humbling.”

Robert Walsh, senior advisor for the president of the college, told the Bronx Times that the school has sent a letter to the Bronx Parks Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa and met with Community Board 8 about the proposal. The school also received a letter of support from the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and past teammates and classmates.

He said they both seemed to support it and hopes a decision is made in the next few months. Walsh added that Coppo was beloved by everyone and this would truly be a great way to honor him.

“This is respectfully the call of the community board and the parks commissioner and we understand that,” he said. “I don’t see any downside to this. The alumni are ready to support this in a big way.”

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