Queen of Peace Athletic Association recovers from fire damage

When Coach Eddie Cordero visited Vleigh Park Field in Kew Garden Hills last month ahead of the start of another baseball season for the Queen of Peace Athletic Association (QOPAA), he was dumbfounded at what he came across.

To his dismay, all of the league’s equipment had been burned and badly damaged inside a metal shed along the third base line of their home field at Judge Moses Weinstein Playground.

Among the damaged and charred outdoor maintenance equipment were three sets of rubber bases, liners and measuring tape, rakes, shovels and more inside the metal cage that has been protecting the equipment for well over four decades.

“I was shocked and upset,” Cordero, the parish athletic representative, said .

Coach Eddie and Melissa Grasso, treasurer of QOPAA, agree that vandalism has been dealt with in the past, but nothing to this extreme.

“It’s kind of sad,” Cordero said. “I’ve had family members playing here since 1983 and I started coaching in 1993.”

With basketball season being delayed due to COVID, baseball season was pushed back as well. Normally, Cordero says he’s preparing for baseball season in early February, but this year’s delay meant that he was simultaneously preparing for playoff basketball games and the start of baseball season on the same weekend.

A GoFundMe was created for donations to be made for the league’s equipment, with over $2,200 collected so far.

Cordero has also received a $2,500 grant from the Walter Kaner Children’s Foundation, a local nonprofit, to go towards league expenses.

With a delayed start –– just like the major leagues –– and now having to purchase new field equipment, Cordero says it’s been a difficult past two seasons of youth baseball.

“Last year, right in the middle of Covid in the springtime was tougher,” he added. “But people are starting to loosen the reins and feel a little more comfortable.”

The Queen of Peace school, formerly teaching grades K-8 in Flushing on 77th Road, closed in 2006. Cordero added that since the school closed some 16-years-ago, it’s been a more difficult task to get kids to sign up for the league.

At its peak, the league had around a dozen teams, some instructional and some travel teams, Cordero says. This year, a total of 6 teams (3 instructional and 3 travel) are part of the league.

Alumni of the league also includes Kyle O’Quinn, a Queens native who went on to play professional basketball for the New York Knicks, and relatives of Jose Alvarado, another NBA player, also participate in the league as coaches and players.

Having moved to the neighborhood in 1978, Cordero has seen three generations of his family compete or coach in the league. The all-volunteer QOPAA is part of the non-denominational Catholic Youth Organization. He says the league revolves around building sportsmanship, and keeping kids active.

A father of six, Cordero says his nieces and nephews all participate in the program.

“I’m still hanging in there because I have a three-year-old granddaughter who I’m hoping to coach when she gets eligible to play.”

To donate to the league, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/queen-of-peace-athletic-association-baseball

Using House Money

The last two decades haven’t exactly been a whole lot of fun if you are a fan of the New York Knicks.
Plenty of dysfunction combined with a whole lot of losing put the franchise in a predicament going into the 2020-2021 season, where the bar was set perhaps at an all-time low.
The Knicks season win total in Vegas for a 70-plus game season was in the low 20’s and expectations were minimal.
Well, a lot has changed in a year.
The Knicks hired Tom Thibodeau last summer, and in many ways he’s the true architect of this remarkable franchise turnaround.
Coach Thibs established a culture, and his players bought. It became obvious very early in the season that this team was not going to be the Same Old Knicks.
The Knicks compete nightly. The players have taken on the personality of their hardworking head coach.
Team MVP Julius Randle put together an All-Star season and the best of his professional career. RJ Barrett made a gigantic leap from a solid rookie season to an even better second year.
The professionalism of Derrick Rose combined with the shot-making ability of Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks has provided much needed competence in the back court.
The fact that you can pinpoint the growth and development of multiple players on the roster throughout the season speaks volumes to the job the coaching staff has done.
The Knicks defense has been the calling card of this team all season, but look at the improvements regarding ball movement and three-point shooting.
The improved offensive play has been the catalyst to their incredible surge over the final 20 games of the season.
The Knicks finished 10 games over .500 and will host a playoff series. Who in their right mind could have imagined that before the start of the season?
Up first in round one this weekend is the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks bring two specific challenges to the table: the shooting skills of guard Trey Young and the size of Clint Capela and John Collins.
Atlanta has been a red-hot team in the second half of the season and played much better under interim head coach Nate McMillian.
The Knicks must be able to neutralize Young and control the pace in order to win this series. It’s a manageable ask.
Of the potential first-round opponents, Atlanta is by far and away the most winnable series for the Knicks.
Vegas says it’s basically a pick‘em series.
I’ll take the playoff-tested head coach and the team with home-court advantage to keep the feel-good ride going.
My money is on, yes, the Knicks in six.

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