The hallmark phrase “play ball” was finally heard at Naclerio Field last weekend as the Pelham Bay Little League held its long-awaited opening day ceremony.
Hundreds of little leaguers, parents and organizers strolled down Crosby Ave. for the parade portion, a widely held tradition ushering the start of a new season.
But the delays, the result of a lumbering rehabilitation project, has created yet another issue–a broken sprinkler system that could cost thousands to replace.
“We don’t know the extend of the damage,” said Vinny Prestopino, head of the PBLL, impressed by the field’s look though nervous he’ll have to dig it up.
He’s pointing the finger at the city Parks Department for rupturing the internal sprinkler network embedded in the three diamond-shaped fields on Westchester Ave.
The land is legally owned by the Parks, which oversaw the upgrades.
But Prestopino charged that crews intentionally damaged a portion of the system, running from the field house and into the field, to make way for its heavy-duty equipment.
“If the sprinkler system isn’t fixed then the grass is going to wither up and die,” he said. “All three fields aren’t getting watered because it’s one system.”
The fields are getting hosed utilizing a fire hydrant, though Prestopino considered the option a “bandaid to cover a gigantic wound.”
Prestopino has vowed to continue the season for all 52 girls and boys teams ranked within 10 divisions. Each team will play 16 games this year, shortened from 20.
But the news added a fresh headache to PBLL, having waited months to pressure the Parks Dept. to get something done.
Prestopino, with colleagues Jimmy Scerbo and Lou Aurrchio, had been working the phones, demanding crews hurry up and finish the field in time for the Mar. 29 season opener. The project was set back for an entire month.
But the delay is small compared to the entirety of the project that initially started in 2008 following a $200,000 grant by Councilman Jimmy Vacca.
The plan was put in the back burner as the Parks Dept. searched for a contractor, a process that lasted several years.
The project was picked up again in July last year with several requests by the Parks Dept. that cut in to PBLL’s original requests. Those included a $40,000 backstop ordered to replace the original that allegedly veered from regulations.
Compounding the plan was Superstorm Sandy barreling into the Bronx, causing several trees to come down.
But neighbors along the neighborhood pitched in, cleaning up leftover debris from Parks. Prestopino was especially glad to see Joe Torione lend a hand, offering his contracting services pro bono.
“He volunteered his whole company to remove the trees that was brought down by the hurricane,” said Prestopino.
Meetings are now in the works between the PBLL and Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte discussing who is ultimately responsible for footing the bill on the system.
“They damaged it,” said Prestopino. “So even if we bring in a private contractor they should be pay for it.”
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383