Opening day in their field of dreams.
The unseasonably cold spring day couldn’t dampen the excitement of young ballplayers on Saturday, April 7 as St. Anselm Catholic Academy held its softball and baseball opening day ceremony, followed by the chance to play some ball. This year had extra significance as it took place at the team’s newly renovated ball field at McKinley Park, Fort Hamilton Parkway and 73rd Street.
Eileen Johnson, one of the softball commissioners at St. Anselm, declared the special opening day a success.
“It went very well considering the weather was freezing. We had a pretty good turnout and this year it was exciting because this is the first time we’re using the new field,” she said, recalling that she and a colleague in 2006 had approached then-Councilmember Vincent Gentile about getting a new field. “We’ve been waiting a very long time for this to be finished and we were very excited to finally be using it this year. We just hope have many years to enjoy this, because it’s a great field.”
The ribbon was cut on the field during a ceremony in November of last year when Gentile, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Martin Maher and members of the community gathered at the field to celebrate its opening.
Opening day is always a special time for the youngsters, who range from pre-k to eighth grade. The league serves 200-250 children.
“It means a lot to them,” said Johnson. “Starting softball and baseball is always exciting. My kids are in high school now and I coached for several years at St. Anselm. They practice indoors during the winter, then they get ready, get new uniforms, and are ready to come out and start playing. Hopefully, the weather is going to start getting warmer.”
Before the three games that were played, Monsignor John Maloney blessed the field. Also in attendance were Gentile along with State Senator Marty Golden.
St Anselm Baseball Commissioner Christopher Auletti also stated that the day was a success.
“Considering that it was a cold day, it turned out to be great,” he said. “We had a big turnout with our kids. Marty came, Vincent Gentile was here, Justin Brannan was here in spirit because he helped us so much with the field.”
He also stated that having the new field gave the league incentive not to cancel the celebration despite the weather.
“If it weren’t for the fact that we were doing opening day for the brand new field, we probably would’ve called it off too, but we were really excited so we told the kids, we are going to bundle you up and get you out there,” he said. “This is something that has been in the works for 10 years, and it’s here and it’s great.”
Auletti added that having a place to call home for games will lift the spirits of all involved in the league. “We’ve been playing at everyone else’s home for so long. Now we have our own home and it felt great. The families and kids loved it.”
During the first game, which began at noon, St. Anselm beat OLA 16-4. Auletti’s son C.J. was the first St. Anselm player to hit a home run in the new field.