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Glen Oaks Little League enjoys 50th opening day

The fields were raked, the grass trimmed and the players primed on a brisk spring day as the Glen Oaks Little League celebrated its 50th opening day Saturday.

Parents and teammates gathered for the first time this year early Saturday morning to celebrate the opening of their season, which runs through June, welcome back some of the leagues past presidents and honor the founders of the league, Larry Feigenbaum and Daniel Hennesey.

“Today is — other then playing in the championship game — the ultimate day,” said Joe Conway, now in the second year at the helm of the 50-year-old league, which was originally named the Bellerose Little League.

“It signifies the end of the winter and the beginning of spring,” he said. “The kids get to kick it out in the parade it energizes the community.”

All of the players and their families — led by cheerleaders and about five people playing drums — marched down 260th street and headed down to 255th Street, where they turned right and made their way back to the fields. Along the parade route community residents and business owners gathered to cheer the athletes and their families, while cars passing on the other side of Union Turnpike honked their horns.

About 700 people, including the 422 league players, showed up for the event, followed by the first games of the baseball season. The players come from Glen Oaks, Floral Park, new Hyde Park and Bellerose and are between the age of 5 to 15. The league sponsors t-ball softball and hardball programs.

Conway said the organization presented plaques to the families of the leagues founders who were represented by Feigenbaum’s wife, Eva, and his son, Howard, as well as Hennesey’s sons, Daniel Jr. and Brian.

“There are a couple of kids who graduated form the league and played college baseball and then in the minors,” he said. “There have been no major leaguers yet, but maybe one of the kids here today will be the first.”

New York Yankee fan Jorge Salcedo, a 13-year-old from Floral Park getting ready for his fourth year in the league, said the Little League allows him to hang out with his friends, run around and play a sport he loves.

But for former league President Bob Gecevich, the league means something more than play.

“It teaches the kids how to be good citizens,” said Gecevich, who was president for the 1997 and 1998 seasons and recently moved from Glen Oaks to Long Island. “Playing in the league has made my daughter a better person and the people involved better people.”

Gecevich’s 16-year-old daughter, Joanne, who now pitches for Bellport High School in Long Island, said the league taught her to be a good sportsman and made sure she learned the basics of softball: pitching, throwing, catching and hitting.

Tanuja Reddy of Floral Park, whose 7-year-old daughter Meghna plays softball, said the league is important because it teaches participation as well as cooperation and gives the children a sense of accomplishment.

Another New York Yankee fan, Jillian Hovi, who plays catcher for the David Weprin Rockies, said the league tries to teach the players how to play softball and help each participant to learn “the proper way to play the game.”

“It teaches the kids a lot — competitiveness, how to get along and make friends,” Conway said. “A lot of the coaches, who met as children playing in the league, are still friends. It gives the children memories that they will never forget.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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