Village team motors to first subway series cup win


By Judith Stiles

While New York City baseball fans recently reveled in the hometown competition between the Yankees and the Mets, the real subway series occurred within Little League baseball at the first Mayor’s Borough Cup, where all-star youth baseball teams duked it out in a glorious Memorial Day tournament.

“Last year I noticed all the Village ball fields were empty on the holiday weekend,” said Tom Ellett, Greenwich Village Little League’s president. “When I moved here from Upstate with my family, I promised my boys they would have a regular life, even in the city, with Little League and soccer, and that included parades and even cup tournaments,” he added with a smile.

Since Ellett became president, G.V.L.L. has been revolutionized with several new impressive program improvements. Thanks to Ellett’s extensive fundraising, G.V.L.L. was able to hire experienced coaches to pitch in the Junior Minors Division, which meant no more wild pitches or cranky dads with sore shoulders trying to do the job.

Ellett has organized a noncompetitive baseball camp starting July 4 at which the emphasis is on skill building and fun rather than standings and trophies. G.V.L.L. will be hosting seminars for parents sponsored by the Positive Coaching Alliance, a national organization dedicated to guiding coaches and parents through the hoops of setting a positive tone while coaching. This spring Ellett drafted his wife, Gladys Vallespir Ellett, to spearhead the Opening Day ceremonies, which were a huge success, soon followed by the holiday weekend First Mayor’s Cup. In this gala event, eight teams from four of the five boroughs competed in two divisions, with 11- and 12-year-olds playing at J. J. Walker Field, coached by Ray Scardapane and Carlo Saldana, and 13- and 14-year-olds playing at Pier 40 and Murray Bergtraum Field, coached by Brian McKenna and Angel Arroyo.

Sure enough, by Sunday night G.V.L.L. claimed an initial victory with one of their teams, the U-14 (age-14-and-under) boys, making it to the Memorial Day championship finals, thanks to great pitching by young Brian McKennan, Richard Nelson-Chow, Ari Fima, Ivan Rodriguez and Brandon Torres. Each pitcher was allowed a total of 125 pitches for the weekend, leaving manager Big Brian McKenna to carefully ration each pitcher to 90 pitches before Monday, saving some for the finals.

At 9 a.m. sharp on a sunny Memorial Day morning, after the national anthem and the first pitch was thrown out by Commissioner Kenneth Podziba, of the New York City Sports Commission, the big game got underway at Pier 40. The U-14 G.V.L.L. team faced off against the mighty Elmjack from Jackson Heights, Queens, in the championship game. Although G.V.L.L. had lost to Elmjack before in their one loss out of four tournament games, and even though that final score had been 13-4, Elmjack, manager McKenna was very cool before the game, stating how lucky the Village squad felt to get a second chance at Elmjack in the finals.

The positive “go get ’em” attitude of the managers apparently rubbed off on the team, because in the top of the first inning they jumped out ahead with a 4-0 lead. Elmjack answered with two runs at the bottom of the first, but they could never catch up during the game, which ended with G.V.L.L. beating Elmjack in five innings, 7-5, thanks to stellar pitching by Nelson-Chow, Elliot Phillips and the young McKenna, who closed the game with his last 17 pitches. Chris Krasnow did a steady job as catcher and A.J. Arroyo was G.V.L.L.’s home-run king of the tournament.

The players and manager McKenna accepted their shiny new trophies and a dazzling Mayor’s Cup with great pride, as a beaming senior McKenna remarked, “It was a great experience for all the kids, and hats off to Tom Ellett for organizing the entire tournament.”

Remax Excellence provided the trophies and many fun giveaways, such as Frisbees, iPods and coffee mugs. But the swag for the players and the fans did not make the day. Rather, it was the thrill of the first Little League subway series and the chance for teams from the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn to test their mettle against their fellow city ball players, on the diamonds of Little League. One proud Village father noted, after he stopped jumping up and down, almost hoarse from cheering, that an essential element of the great weekend was the widespread support from fans and parents from all over the city, who attended the games in droves.

As Yogi Berra so wisely put it, “Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.”