The Throgs Neck Little League season kicked off Saturday, April 17 in style, but also in memory of Bob Jonap and Leo Vitti.
The 26 girls of the Mother Cabrini High School marching band were decked out in yellow and blue uniforms to lead the annual parade down East Tremont Avenue. Behind the band in the procession was a collection of well-known borough officials that included Councilman James Vacca, Assemblyman Mike Benedetto and Kenneth Kearns, the director of Community Board 10.
“This is an exciting time for families. The league gets bigger and better every year,” said Julie Lanci, who watched the parade with her daughter Jan Salveggi and was eager to see her grandson, 5-year-old Dylan, play on the Giants.
The band played old favorites like “America the Beautiful” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as the entire procession of over 600 parents and players made its way down East Tremont before turning left onto Harding Avenue and reaching the field.
In a speech after the parade, Little League president Vincent Todino wasted no time in discussing Jonap and Vitti, dedicatees of the two ball fields. Bob Jonap, said Todino, “was a hardworking and dedicated volunteer who was with the league for 53 years.” Todino held a moment of silence for Jonap before concluding, “This league is all about the kids. In the words of Leo Vitti, our former president, ‘If you can’t cheer for all the kids, don’t cheer at all.’” Jonap was league president for the past two years after Vitti passed away, but for the majority of his time was vice president, serving alongside Vitti. Together, the two of them amassed nearly 100 years experience with Throgs Neck Little League.
Throgs Neck Little League is the house that Leo and Bob built,” said Senator Jeff Klein, who stressed the vital importance of meaningful after-school activities” like little league baseball.
Assemblyman Benedetto mentioned that he is a product of little league himself, from Castle Hill. “I know the joy and exhilaration of opening day,” he beamed.
Finally, Councilman Vacca reminded everyone that this year the league has a new generator, which is “a dream come true because Bob and Leo very much wanted that.” The long-awaited generator isn’t the only new addition to this year’s season. The bigger of the two fields also just got new fences in left field.
“This is a very nice day for me,” said Jeff Jonap after hearing the numerous tributes to his father. As people filed out or began setting up to watch the first games, all the thoughts were still of Jonap and Vitti. Todino could only reflect, at the start of his first year as league president, “I have big shoes to fill.”
Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or droberts@c