Yankee legends pitch in

Yankees legend Rich “Goose” Gossage makes the first pitch on the newly renovated Castle Hill Little League field. - Photo by Kevin Heckman

“It just doesn’t get much better than this,” Yankee Hall of Fame inductee Rich “Goose” Gossage exclaimed before a crowd of excited youth at the Castle Hill Little League baseball field dedication on Wednesday, July 9.

Joined by fellow ballplayers Mickey Rivers and Roy White, the Yankee legends celebrated the field renovation, promising its importance in the youngsters’ lives.

“Every lesson learned is out here on the baseball field,” Gossage told the supportive parents who tried to catch a glimpse of the athlete from their bleacher seats across the field.

The park’s $200,000 renovation was made possible through the Little League Baseball Urban Initiative, whose mission is to grow youth participation in the game in America’s cities, Major League Baseball and Bank of America.

Improvements include a new grass infield and warning track around the field’s perimeter, repairs to the irrigation system, a renovated dugout area and installation of new batting helmet shelves, bat racks and a scoreboard.

“What a great way to kick off an all star summer in New York City,” Major League Baseball executive vice president Tim Brosnan said as the sun peeked beyond the clouds, drying the dampened field.

Thrilled by the event’s company, pointing to the Yankee greats he said, “Those were the Derek Jeters from when I grew up, so it’s really cool for me to be here tonight.”

The Castle Hill Little League is part of Little League Baseball’s Urban Initiative and serves 360 children from five to 16 years old.

“These projects don’t happen without help from organizations who care about children,” Little League International vice president of operations Patrick Wilson said. “This really is a test of what partnerships can do for a community.”

Since 2003, Major League Baseball has contributed $750,000 to the Little League Urban Initiative program, with the monies supporting their annual jamboree, training and education for league volunteers and little league field renovation projects.

Bank of America has donated $700,000 to the Urban Initiative since 2004.

“I am so thankful that we were chosen for this beautification project,” Castle Hill Little League president Henry Pelayo said. “Without the Little League Urban Initiative, Major League Baseball and Bank of America, this field wouldn’t have been made over in the next 100 years.”

Just two miles from Yankee Stadium at 1160 Zerega Avenue, Gossage stood on the Castle Hill field’s home plate, peered out onto the newly remodeled field, and proudly told the youngsters that his own little league memories rival those from his time in the major leagues.

He urged the youngsters that no mater what, “Promise you’re going to give it your best shot.”

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