G.V.L.L. starter program suits tykes to a tee

Coach Peter Marino leading the tee-ball Cubs in a throwing drill.   Photo by Jayson Camacho
Coach Peter Marino leading the tee-ball Cubs in a throwing drill. Photo by Jayson Camacho

BY JAYSON CAMACHO    |  Every Sunday morning at 8 o’clock, you can go to Pier 40 and see the cutest kids learning how to play tee-ball. Tee-ball is Greenwich Village Little League’s youngest and possibly most exciting division. The tee-ball program includes 10 teams, with players aged 5 to 6. For many of the kids, it’s their first time playing a sport.

The sponsor of the teams, the Twins, is Bob Berger’s No Mersey Band. Bob is also the team’s manager and has managed teams for the past 8-plus years.

“I sponsor a team because I want to give back to the organization that I feel gives so much to the kids,” he explained. “I like to support the cause, and it makes me feel good that I can do something to keep an incredible program like G.V.L.L. alive and well.

“It all starts with youth sports,” he said. “These are the breeding grounds that will shape and develop a kid at a very young age. To be able to do something that will help the kids gives me a great feeling inside.”

Tee-ball gives the kids the ability to try out a new sport without any competiting. G.V.L.L. provides a fun learning environment for the kids to play in.

One of the coaches, Max Kushner, is a friend of mine. He joined G.V.L.L. in 2008 and aged out of the league last year. This year, his family decided to sponsor a G.V.L.L. Tee-ball team, and Kushner agreed to volunteer and coach on the team. The sponsor’s name is AJ and Con’s Bombers, named after Max’s late grandparents.

“I decided to coach tee-ball for a handful of reasons,” he said. “I aged out, so I wanted to still be a part of the league. I also wanted to coach because I play baseball for my school’s varsity team and I’m also an umpire, so by coaching, I’m kind of completing the circle of what the different aspects of baseball are.

“I wanted to do tee-ball because when I did ‘counselor in training’ at my camp, I only worked with 14-year-olds. So I wanted to learn how to work with 5- and 6-year-olds,” he said. “What makes tee-ball so special is how innocent it is. It doesn’t matter how good you are or if you’re winning. All that matters is that you have a good time.”

Max looked like he was having a wonderful time, too, as he supervised his players with nothing but a smile on his face. Coaching Tee-ball seems to be just as fun for the coach as it is for the players!

Peter Marino coaches the Cubs tee-ballers. Peter isn’t a rookie to the coaching scene. He’s coached his older son, also named Peter, in the Minors and Majors divisions of G.V.L.L. This year his youngest son, Alex, is playing tee-ball and Peter jumped at the opportunity to coach his team.

“At the upper levels, there’s a lot more ‘baseball,’ ” he explained, “understanding how the game flows and how plays develop, and learning to play particular positions. In tee-ball, it’s more about keeping a mob of 5-year-olds from hitting each other with the bat, learning which direction to run, the basics of how to catch and throw, and most of all, not getting bored.

“For a lot of kids, it’s their first introduction to team sports,” he noted. “And it’s hopefully a way to begin to cultivate a love of a very complex sport from a young age, by teaching small elements of it. More important than anything else I think is teamwork, being part of a team and supporting your teammates.”

Peter loves being a part of G.V.L.L. and has made amazing friendships through the community.

Marino’s Cubs were playing bright and early on Sunday morning. Eight boys and two girls, they were warming up to take on the Reds. The listened carefully to every instruction their coaches gave them. Then they started with fielding groundballs thrown by a partner. The kids were excited to get the balls in their mitt. Even more exciting was hitting off the tee and running around the bases. They eagerly lined up against the fence, waiting to get their chance to hit the ball and enact a home run.

What are the players’ favorite things about tee-ball?

“Hitting!” one kid said.

“Baseball is funner than soccer!” said another.

The parents were also pumped over tee-ball.

“He’s proud of his uniform and being a player,” said Meredith, one of the Cub parents. “He wears it all the time. He’s also learning a lot from the coaches.”

Sunday mornings, you’ll find the tee-ballers playing on the northwest field on Pier 40 and on the pier’s roof! These young sluggers are the future of G.V.L.L.