TNGSL: Play ball!

Sarah O’Keefe, 8, and Throggs Neck Girls Softball League president Rachel Mazza celebrated opening day on Saturday, June 27. Photo by Daniel Beekman

When the softball field at Bicentennial Veterans Memorial Park turned soggy, Rachel Mazza growled and went to work. When the police department denied Mazza a parade permit, she growled and went to work. When heartless vandals targeted her softball field, Mazza growled and went to work.

Mazza is a dedicated leader and a pit bull, Councilman James Vacca said. The Throggs Neck Girls Softball League is fortunate to have her. On Saturday, June 27, it was TNGSL opening day and Mazza held a rally to protest neighborhood vandalism. Litter and graffiti are common at Bicentennial Park. On Saturday, June 13, Mazza found her softball field in bad shape – portable toilet decked, bushes scorched, dugout damaged.

“SAVE OUR PARK!” Mazza shouted at the June 27 rally.

TNGSL players and parents joined in. Senator Jeff Klein and the Parks Department have agreed to install a security camera at the softball field soon. In November, Vacca will fund the construction of a seven-foot steel fence. The TNGSL didn’t hold an opening day parade in 2008, due to park redevelopment. When Mazza applied for a new permit, the police department refused. On June 27, Mazza promised to fight the snub.

After the rally, the TNGSL celebrated opening day. Mazza thanked Klein, Vacca, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Community Board 10 member Pat Devine, Parks Department representative Robert Stokes, TNGSL founder Jean Brancaccio, the TNGSL board, sponsor John Cerini of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association, TNCAP, Vacca staffer Jeremy Warneke and sponsor Jim McQuade of Schuyler Hill Funeral Home. Devine hopes to engage a part-time police force to secure the park. TNCAP will conduct a safety workshop for TNGSL parents. Monsignor Ivers of St. Frances de Chantal offered a blessing and asked neighborhood teens to stop damaging the park. TNGSL players Sarah O’Keefe and Alexandria Borg sang God Bless America and the Star Spangled Banner.

“I think we are going to win,” said O’Keefe, 8, of Performance Edge Dance Academy. “I like to play second base because my dad tells me I’m good at it.”

The TNGSL purchased a heart defibulator prior to opening day and performed background checks on all coaches and volunteers. Mazza registered 168 participants for 2009, compared to 92 last year. The TNGSL boasts 14 teams, including a 16U travel team.

“I’m excited,” said Christina McCrink, 15. “To be on the travel team is a privilege.”

McCrink and her buds will face Pelham, Kingsbridge, Port Chester etc. Mazza had them practice pitching all winter.

“Rachel is fun,” McCrink said. “She’s so dedicated.”

The TNGSL will host a family picnic soon and a closing day ceremony. Maddie Correa is a TNGSL coach and mother. She and daughter Brianna Ortiz, 11, live in Westchester Square.

“We eat, drink and dream softball,” Correa said. “Vandalism is definitely a concern, but if we act together we can beat it.”

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