Under the early morning Saturday sun, the American Softball League gathered together — as they do every Saturday — at Vito Locascio Field in Ozone Park. However, unlike previous weeks, the July 16 game was the league’s annual All-Star game and Home Run Derby. Before the event, an awards ceremony was held honoring two instrumental members of the organization.
Elected officials from both the local and state level gathered together to recognize Founder and CEO Randy Novick and Coach Tina Roseman, as well as enjoy the warm weather and the yearly game.
The American Softball League is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with several organizations for people with special needs. Meeting weekly, the organization holds games from May through August. This year, the league’s opening day was on May 14, and the season is a 16-week long program.
Among the elected officials who were present at the All-Star Game and awards ceremony included Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue, Queens Deputy Borough President Ebony Young, and Councilwoman Joann Ariola.
Together, they — among the numerous players and their families who had gathered together on that bright Saturday morning — recognized the philanthropy of Novick and Roseman and their devotion to the players.
“They worked tirelessly to make sure that this league is up and running every year,” Amato told the crowd. “Through [COVID-19], by recruiting the top players from every part of our borough and happily bringing it here in our hometown of Howard Beach to make it more convenient for a lot of families to get here.”
This season has participants from various group homes such as Bernard Fineson Developmental Disabilities Services, Unique People, Little Flowers, Lifespire, YAI, Life’s WORC, and Services for the Underserved, as well as people from New York Families for Autistic Children and the NYC Board of Education in District 75.
“While some people may think their challenges might inhibit them from playing a sport they dreamed of, we prove to them that they can do it and make their dream of playing softball a reality,” their website states.
Every player gets the chance to hit, run the bases and play the field. As before every game, the team sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” which was then followed by a player-led “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Randy Novick is the founder and CEO of American Softball. He serves as one of the coaches as well, involved with each and every game.
“As the founder of American Softball, I have created a sports league unlike any other,” Novick wrote on the organization’s website. “We have given challenged people a chance to play softball just when they thought it could never be a possibility. Knowing there are thousands of challenged people in the United States, I wanted to provide an opportunity where they felt unstoppable.”
Novick and Roseman were given citations from Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, the city council — which are citations given “only to people who are great as persons who give complimentary service to their communities” — and New York State. Both were also sent a congressional proclamation from U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
Ariola, who threw the honorary first pitch of the game, expressed her passion for the organization, stating that “there’s no better investment than in our youth.”
“What you are learning here is not just how to play ball,” she said. “It’s how to be a member of a team. It’s respect. It’s working together. It’s getting a job done. And that’s going to take you all the way through your life.”
Ariola ensures that American Softball gets $5,000 a year from the New York City Council budget. The non-profit also receives $10,000 a year from the New York State Assembly, Amato stated.
“It’s the only one I truly fight for and to make sure [of],” she said.
The future of American Softball, their website states, is to hopefully expand membership and open additional locations both within New York City and across the country. Any interested fans who may wish to watch the weekly game, are always welcome.
“These players are truly special and giving them this opportunity, to play the great American sport of softball, is priceless! Please come down to cheer the players on.” Novack states on the website.
Games will be held every Saturday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. throughout the summer at Vito Locascio Field, 149th Avenue, and Cross Bay Blvd in Ozone Park.
For more information on the American Softball League, visit http://www.americansoftball.org.