Castle Hill Little League began its new season last Saturday, April 24, on a gorgeous sunny day that put big grins on the faces of the well over 1,000 players, coaches and parents that marched in the league’s celebratory parade.
The procession went down Castle Hill Avenue, right onto Newbold Avenue, right onto Havermeyer Avenue and left onto Gleason Avenue before entering the Kenny Pontillo baseball field, which was recently renamed in order to honor the late Pontillo, who had been a Castle Hill league manager for 33 years. Included in the parade were five different marching bands and two dance troupes, complete with big drums and horns, as well as a group of elected officials that included Tommy Messina, the district representative from Congressman Crowley’s office, and Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., wearing a large cowboy hat and sash across his chest.
“It’s fun to come out onto the sidewalk and watch them,” said Janet Chien, a business owner who had abandoned her grocery store to take a look at the spring baseball blowout. “Let’s go Allstate!” or “Who are we? Shorehaven!” could be heard the loudest as teams of boys chanted the name of their team sponsor in time with the drum beat and showed off their team’s banner.
President of Castle Hill Little League Henry Pelayo took the field after individual performances by the Aquinas High School band, the DeWitt Clinton High School band, and Starlite dancing studio, among others. “We were all here until 1 in the morning getting this field ready last night,” announced Pelayo. “Our volunteers work tirelessly and they are the reason this is the best league in New York City!”
Indeed, volunteers like Christina Carreras work hard, but love helping out the league. “The best part of Castle Hill league is that it’s a family,” said Carreras, who works as secretary for the league and whose husband is a field manager. “It’s all for the kids, it’s a great joy to be a part of that.” Carreras said that new to the league this year are a number of safety rules that have just been put in place. For example, all players will have to wear heart guards now, an idea that came from Pelayo, who also holds regular safety meetings and even classes on anger management for parents that get too involved in the games and forget that it’s about the kids having fun.
Luis Torres coaches the Century 21 team this year, and is excited for his second year as a coach. “Most of the kids on my team were together last year too, so there’s going to be some nice unity,” said Torres. His son Isiah, meanwhile, spent the past few weeks warming up in batting cages, and said his dad is a great coach. Isiah plays catcher and said that even though he’s a Mets fan, his favorite major league is Jorge Posada.
Jean “J.P.” Ithier has been bumped up to tee ball commissioner for this season, and said he’s excited about the growth of the league. There are over 100 new parents involved in helping out, and the league has a waiting list of 150 kids. “Everyone all over the Bronx talks about Castle Hill Little League, from what I hear,” said Ithier. “We’re the biggest and the best, man.”
Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or droberts@c