Superstorm Sandy destroyed their office and all their equipment, but it couldn’t dampen the resolve of the Our Lady of Solace baseball league organizers to rebuild the program.
The destruction of the equipment at the Coney Island church forced the league to cancel a season last year for the first time since 2001. But the staff vowed to do whatever it takes to bring the league back.
“Our first goal was we have to find a way to make this happen by the time the league starts and we just couldn’t do it,” said league president Oggie Quiles, “but we have continued on our quest.”
Thanks to donations and the hard work of volunteers, the program will return for the 2014 season.
The league has already completed its first set of registrations but the numbers have gotten off to a slow start this year for a league that usually draws 225–300 kids. Quiles expects things will pick up once more people learn they plan on bringing the program back. Registration will resume starting Jan. 19 and continue until March 2, from 11 am–1 pm at the Our Lady of Solace gym.
The league — for boys and girls ages 5–13 — is slated to begin play at Kaiser Park in April and run until the middle of July. The all-inclusive registration fee is just $50, to keep it affordable for neighborhood families.
The program also supports the Hustlers travel softball team and Warriors travel baseball club for kids starting at the age of 13.
New equipment has been donated or bought with the help of organizations like Harlem RBI and Lower Eastside Monarchs Softball, among others.
“We are not going to let any storm stop us,” Quiles said. “We have overcome bigger things than a storm. A lot of these kids have overcome bigger things than storms.”
Quiles and league founder Lucy Acevado see the programhas a valuable outlet for the neighborhood’s kids. It keeps them off the streets, serves as a reward parents can use as an incentive for kids to do well in school, and teaches the kids a game that could earn them a college scholarship later in life, like it has for others who have been through the program before them.
“We are trying to get them into the park and out of the projects,” Quiles said.
“They needed something constructive,” said Sharon Lundy Ross, who had two sons go through the Our Lady of Solace program. “That’s the problem in Coney Island. We don’t have enough constructive programs for the young people. To take the baseball away would be a terrible loss to the community.”
Lundy Ross, who works in community relations for the Brooklyn Cyclones, has already signed up her great nephews for this season. She said they were disappointed when they couldn’t play last year and are now keep asking her when they can start.
“They are looking for their uniforms,” Lundy Ross said.