On a Saturday afternoon at Kissena Corridor Park, Field 10 plays host to a good old American softball game. On one side is the Mets and their opponents are the Yankees. There are pre-game stretches and the Star-Spangled Banner.
But you won’t see David Wright or A-Rod wielding a bat. Instead of high-paid athletes, Randy Novick is giving an opportunity to developmentally disabled adults to put on an exciting game of America’s pastime.
“There’s nothing like this anywhere else,” said Novick, the current American Softball League’s founder, who is from Howard Beach.
Started in the 1990s as the Achievers of America by a friend of Novick’s, whose son was developmentally disabled, the league dissipated in 2010. Two years later, Novick restarted and renamed it when counselors from group homes contacted him hoping to see the league come back.
Since then, American Softball has gotten sponsors from small businesses to big retail chains such as Modell’s, as well as support from politicians such as state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).
Each weekend from now through Aug. 25, 40 men and women ranging from ages 22 through 70 come from group homes such as Little Flowers and Lifespire to play.
Scores are kept and while everyone is having fun, the players take the game seriously.
At the end of the games, everyone is given a trophy, which for many of the players, is the best part.
“It’s something they really look forward to on the weekend,” said Marie Policard, a counselor from Lifespire. “It’s also great recreation for them.”
Novick can’t do it all alone, so to assist him, coaches come by and volunteer their time to help players run the bases or give them advice.
Izzy Prosa of Howard Beach is in his second year of coaching. “It’s something I just want to do for the handicapped,” he said. “They’re really enjoying themselves when they come out here.”
While they get a good turnout of players from Queens, American Softball hopes to expand to all five boroughs and even nationally to help serve the handicapped, said executive director June Moses.
“There’s a need to expand to all five boroughs,” she said. “If that happens we can have interleagues where they can play each other.”
The players themselves can’t even contain their joy when they go on the field. Steve Sullivan is one of the players who really looks forward to coming out to every game. At Saturday’s game, he made five hits. “I like to hit the home runs,” he said. “Randy is a great coach.”
Michael Fillyaw from Little Flowers in Springfield Gardens is another player who looks forward to making home runs. And he did so when he went up to bat.“We have a lot of energy,” he said. “I enjoy going up there and batting.”
For Novick, nothing makes him feel as good as when he sees how much fun “[his] kids,” as he affectionately calls them, are having.
“I get complete satisfaction helping them out and socializing with them,” he said. “Seeing the smiles on their faces; there is no other feeling like it.
For more information on the American Softball League, including making donations or sponsoring the team, visit their website at americansoftball.org.