American Softball hosts annual All-Star Game and Home Run Derby

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.

Joann Ariola gives a speech at the game

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

STJ players end careers on high note

Already some of the most decorated players in the history of St. John’s softball, graduate students Gretchen Bowie, Kaitlin Mattera and Marissa Rizzi each earned spots on the 2021 All-Big East Teams.
Bowie and Rizzi were selected to the First Team for the fourth and second times in their careers, respectively, while Mattera landed on the Second Team, marking the third time she has been honored by the conference over her collegiate career.
“Gretchen and Marissa will be remembered as two of the most successful student-athletes in the history of St. John’s softball,” said coach Bob Guerriero. “The leadership and on-field performance of Kaitlin will not be easily replaced either.”
Bowie, Mattera and Rizzi have combined for nine selections to the All-Big East First and Second Teams over their respective careers.
The trio of graduate students combined to hit nearly .375 in Big East play this season, with Bowie and Rizzi each finishing in the top-ten in batting average in conference play.
The three five-year athletes were an integral part of the Red Storm’s success over the last few years, having been keys to the program’s 2017 and 2019 Big East Regular Season Championships.
This marks the fourth season that Bowie was named to the All-Big East First Team, the most in program history. The Red Storm third baseman hit .378 in conference play this season, adding eight doubles, which was tied with Rizzi for second in the conference.
The former Big East Defensive Player of the Year’s 28 hits were tied for the best mark in the conference this season, while her ten stolen bases were also tied atop the Big East in conference action.
Overall, Bowie’s .340 average on the season was the second best of her career. In 200 games played, the Johnnies third baseman caps off her career as the program leader in triples in a career with 13, while just three RBIs short of the all-time program mark.
Bowie also recorded 193 hits, finishing just seven shy of 200.
As for Rizzi, the Red Storm first baseman earned her second consecutive First Team selection. The graduate student hit .386 in Big East play, finishing ninth in the conference, while smacking eight doubles, tied for second, and landing tied atop the conference in stolen bases.
Rizzi’s 22 hits were good enough for fifth while she led the conference in triples with two in Big East action.
Overall, Rizzi finished the 2021 campaign with a .402 batting average, just one point off her pace from 2019. She finished the season in the top five overall in the conference in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored, doubles and stolen bases.
The Red Storm first baseman is the only player in program history to bat over .400 in multiple seasons in their career, as just eight other Johnnies have done it even once in the 40-year history of the program.
Mattera got stronger as the season went on in 2021. The Red Storm catcher hit .375 in conference play this season, finishing just three points outside the top ten, while collecting 24 hits, good enough for fourth in the conference.
Each of Mattera’s three home runs this season came against Big East opponents as well.
Overall, Mattera finished the season with a .354 batting average, which was the third-highest mark on the team and in her career. Like Bowie and Rizzi, she down as one of the top players in program history, as she caps off her career a .324 lifetime hitter.
Mattera racked up 157 hits, 31 doubles and 85 RBIs as a member of the Red Storm, while also holding the program record for hit by pitches in a career with 23.

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