Students of the Bronx were geared up and ready to play ball, commencing opening day for the NYC Middle Schools Baseball League.
On Thursday, April 23, at Behagen Park, located E. 165th Street, players and coaches from M.S. 551 Bronx Letters Academy and M.S. 298 Academy of Public Relations were joined by Councilmember Helen Foster, and representatives from the league and The Pinnacle Group to honor opening day for the Bronx division.
“I think this is just great and it’s giving kids the opportunity to play, which is especially important given the obesity, diabetes and asthma problems in the Bronx,” said Foster. “This is just such a positive thing for our kids.”
The league began three years ago with just a couple of coaches from Manhattan forming teams to create an afterschool program, but they had very little resources.
“It started out with three coaches just playing against each other and has built up since then,” said Rob Schliessman, one of the founding coaches. “Last year we hooked up with Pinnacle and have added so many teams. The best part is seeing these kids in uniform ready to play.”
Hearing of their circumstances, The Pinnacle Group, a real estate management company, began to sponsor the league last year, supplying students with uniforms, equipment and umpires for the games.
“I think this is a great idea for these children,” said coach Mike Howard of M.S. 551. “As a Bronxite sports helped keep me out of trouble. I always say, kids in sports stay out of the courts. It’s also a direct line to college.”
In partnership with NYC Department of Education, NYC Department of Park & Recreation, and NYS Office of Parks, Recreations and Historic Preservations, the league expanded to include over 600 students from 15 schools in Manhattan, 9 in the Bronx, and 5 in Queens.
In the co-ed league, students are able to participate completely free of charge and without any requirements of prior experience or skill level.
Bronx schools participating include M.S. 31, M.S. 128, M.S. 174, M.S. 223, M.S. 243, M.S. 296, M.S. 298, M.S. 505, and M.S. 551.
“My son always wanted to play and I am honored and proud because I know this is something every father would love to see, his son on a team,” said Ortiz Concepcio, Jr. “The good thing about this program is the kids have to maintain good grades and behavior. It helps them stay out of trouble.”