The kids cavorted. The bagpipes droned. The parents beamed. What a happy event, the 57th annual Throgs Neck Little League parade! On Saturday, April 18, nearly 30 teams marched down E. Tremont Avenue to Throgs Neck Boulevard. An opening day ceremony honored league volunteer Joseph Tucci, who passed away last year. League graduate and Iraq War veteran Kevin Major tossed out the first pitch.
“Welcome to Throgs Neck Little League 2009,” league president Bob Jonap said. “Welcome to opening day, the best day of the year.”
Several hundred kids, parents and coaches assembled on Lafayette Avenue at 11:30 p.m. At noon, they set out. The transit police pipe band led the way. Tee ball coach Marty Tighe pointed out his son Liam, a five-year old. Liam plays for the Cubs.
“We’re the first team in the parade,” the elder Tighe said. “We get to carry the league banner.”
“I like baseball,” he said. “Our team is going to be good, because I have a lot of friends on the team.”
Rosemary Paraballo joined the parade. Paraballo’s nine-year old plays for Dugout. Her 14-year old plays for Tommy’s.
“They’re very excited,” Paraballo said. “They woke up at 8 a.m., uniforms on, ready to play.”
According to Dugout parent Gina Galella, little league friendships last a lifetime. Jennifer Cabrera, a Balcom Avenue resident, stopped at Philip Avenue to watch the procession.
“Spring is here!” Cabrera said. “The parade is always fun.”
George Villegas wore a New York Mets jersey. His five-year old son, George Jr., plays for the little league Mets.
“I’m a big baseball fan,” Villegas said. “I take my son to the batting cages after school.”
Joann Filomio kept her six-year old son close. Jeremy plays tee ball for the Dodgers. According to Filomio, tee ball is “organized chaos” and the league is “wonderful.”
Monsignor Leslie Ivers of St. Frances de Chantal addressed the opening day crowd. So did U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer.
“You’ll learn as much on the ball field as in the classroom,” Schumer told the players. “Courage, sportsmanship, teamwork. It’s my wish and prayer that one of you will end up a pro.”
Councilman James Vacca recognized the league’s volunteers.
“To Bob Jonap, Franke Eisele and the rest, your children are gone but you continue to serve the community,” Vacca said.
Borough president candidate Ruben Diaz, Jr. saluted the New York Yankees. Tucci’s wife, Linda, accepted a bouquet of flowers.
“I’m proud of Joe,” she said. “What a beautiful day. I hope all the parents participate.”
Major stole home years ago.
“It’s nice to be here,” he said. “It feels good to be home.”