League honors ump for his years behind the plate


By Lincoln Anderson

The East Village Softball Association sent a contingent over to Nelson Troche’s home last Thursday night to present him with a trophy (and a couple of Two Boots pizzas) for his more than a decade of calling games as the league’s head umpire and for his colorful, inspirational spirit.

Troche is hanging up his umpire’s mask, at least for now, for health reasons.

The trophy’s inscription read: “Nelson ‘e-LEV-en!’ Troche, Umpire Extraordinaire 1998-2011, With Great Gratitude and Admiration, East Village Softball Association.”

The “e-LEV-en!” refers to one of his many memorably unique ways of calling a game —in this case, when the count would be 1-and-1, one ball and one strike.

“While Nelson is physically under duress, his spirits were clearly lifted last Thursday night,” said Phil Hartman of E.V.S.A. and Two Boots. “And he’s hopeful to at least be able to walk over to the field to watch a game when he’s up to it.”

A community party — with testimonials and some affectionate roasting — had been planned for Troche at Nice Guy Eddie’s on Avenue A last month, but his health deteriorated to the point he couldn’t make it.

Hartman, E.V.S.A. commissioner until last year, launched the league 13 years ago, and Troche has been there every step, and every pitch, of the way.

“I don’t know that much about Nelson’s background except that we met in East River Park soon after the East Village Softball Association started,” the Two Boots owner recalled. “There were eight teams back then, including Two Boots, Three of Cups, Bowery Ballroom, Urban Roots, Lansky Lounge and the Miracle Grill.

“Welcome to the Johnsons joined soon thereafter, and brought a very colorful crew; I remember a woman pitcher in a bikini and a male outfielder in a thong — and only a thong,” Hartman recalled.

“The league has been co-ed from the beginning, and has always been a reflection of the neighborhood — a bit more freewheeling and fun-oriented back then, a bit more focused and competitive now.”

E.V.S.A. currently fields 12 teams and has about 200 players, age 16 to 60-plus. Games run from early May through late September, in an effort to mirror the Major League Baseball season, with three rounds of playoffs in October. There’s also an all-star game in July, with a league member blowing the national anthem on his trumpet, a home run hitting contest and special all-star T-shirts for the occasion.

Games are held in East River Park at Houston St., Monday to Friday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Nelson has been the heart and soul of the league from year one,” Hartman said. “His constant enthusiasm, endearing colloquialisms and love of the game have been an inspiration, and it’s impossible to imagine the great times these last 13 years without him.”