The league (formerly known as Rich-Haven) has been marching each spring since the mid-1950s, along the way becoming not only a tradition but a rite of passage for young boys and girls in our community.
The residents of Woodhaven have chipped in and donated money to sponsor a team and the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association will be hosting a parade-watching party at their office to cheer on all the kids. The party starts at 10 a.m. at 84-20 Jamaica Avenue. Come out ready to make noise and cheer on the league.
The marchers will be assembling at Equity Park (PS 60) at around 9:30 a.m. They will start the parade down 92nd Street at 10 a.m. to Jamaica Avenue where they will turn left. They will march down the avenue until they hit Forest Parkway, where they will turn towards Forest Park and continue marching until they reach the bandshell.
It’s a great day for everyone involved, but especially the kids. It marks the end of winter (we hope) and the start of a new season. For the youngest kids, it’s the very beginning of something special. It’s where they will make new friends, learn the importance of teamwork, learn the value of good sportsmanship, and how to handle adversity.
Growing up in Woodhaven, getting a few hits and having your name mentioned in the next week’s Leader-Observer was about as big-time as it got for a kid. Forty years later and I still have some of those clippings saved in a scrapbook. Those were good days.
My father was very involved in the league. He loved managing and the excitement of the games, but he loved the practices most of all. Teaching, talking to the kids, building a team – that’s what he enjoyed the most.
Our best season came when I was 15 in the Youth Division playing for the Phils. We had a really good team, and by that I don’t just mean that we played well. As it turned out, we did – we finished first that year. But more importantly, we had a good group of kids that had learned how to play together as a team.
Here’s a picture of our team, moments before our championship game. You can see that we were all loose and relaxed and having fun. We were pretty confident, even though we were going to be playing one man short that day.
Our shortstop broke his arm the week before sliding into third base, he’s the kid my dad is playfully choking in this picture. But we pulled together as a team, and with him cheering us on we overcame his absence and won the game. Those were good, good days and I remember them all fondly.
Years later, through Facebook, I heard from our shortstop. His name is Terry Flanagan and he is now the president of WORKS Little League. He has overseen the transformation of the league and the addition of a softball league for girls and a Challenger league for children with special needs. My father would be extremely proud of the man our shortstop has become.
And now you know the rest of the story.
It makes me proud that my father was part of that, and I think that’s the important thing to remember when you are watching the kids march this Saturday. You’re not only watching a bunch of kids, but you are watching our future neighborhood leaders. You are cheering for our future firemen and police officers and doctors and inventors and teachers.
Our future. It’s a worthy investment.
So, come out and root, root, root for the home team and cheer on the future this Saturday anywhere along Jamaica Avenue from 92nd Street to Forest Parkway. Or join your friends and neighbors at the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association.