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Southeast Queens is full of shirts bearing the name of slain Rockaway resident Sean Bell, but now a few more have been added to the mix.
The Sean Bell Little League held its inaugural games at Baisley Pond Park in Springfield Gardens Saturday, along with a ceremony commemorating Bell's lifelong love of baseball. The league has four teams: the Mets, Yankees, Giants and Indians, featuring youngsters from throughout the city.
"This day means a lot to the children," said Bell's fiancée, Nicole Paultre-Bell. "I feed off their energy."
Paultre-Bell said the plan has only been in the works for three weeks or so, but went ahead quickly because of support from sponsors, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) and the NYPD.
Sean Bell became interested in baseball at age 6, Paultre-Bell said. Sean Bell played for eight years in Ozone Park before moving to older leagues and the John Adams High School baseball team, where his pitching and hitting skills helped lead the team to win the city championship at Yankee Stadium.
In the championship series, he batted a .320 average, had 11 RBIs and 14 runs, Paultre-Bell said.
Bell was shot to death by undercover police early in the morning on the day of his wedding in November 2006 outside a club in Jamaica where he was celebrating his bachelor party.
At the time of his death, Bell had also attracted the interest of a professional baseball scout, Paultre-Bell said.
Glenn Beyer, his high school coach, remembered Bell as an exceptional athlete.
"From the first day he played in March of 1999, when he struck out eight of nine batters, I knew he was something special," he said. "Keep Sean's dream alive. Play the game with passion and respect for your opponents, teammates and parents."
One player, Selena Washington, 11, came all the way from Bushwick to play for the South Side Mets. Selena said she enjoys playing second base and that she is excited to be playing in Sean Bell's name.
"He's a great guy, but I don't know why they shot him," she said.
William Bell, Sean's father, gave an emotional, short speech.
"If you lose or win, it doesn't matter," he said. "You have my son's name on your back. Wear it with pride."
The Rev. Al Sharpton also attended the event, throwing the first pitch of the game.
"I think it has shown a strength," Sharpton said of Bell's family, "that they wouldn't let Sean Bell's memory die."
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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