By Rich Mancuso/ Sports Editor
At the end of Balcom Avenue and across the street from the Throgs Neck Housing complex Ferry Point Park is the home of the Lady Bombers a team affiliated with the organized “Lady Bombers Against Bullying Softball League.” Opening Day is Saturday May 14th and the practice games were in full swing.
“We do everything and also maintain the field,” says Jennifer Igartua who organized the league with Juan Villoch a little over a year ago after viewing too much bullying by other girls in another league. The girls also get the field in playing condition after inclement weather the night before and the league is self funded for everything that is needed to properly organize.
That includes paying New York City Park Department permits, umpires, and of course the costs for uniforms and assuring that the umpires are reciprocated. And because the league competes under structured girls softball regulations, there has to be unity and playing by the rules.
But the most significant element of the league is getting a message across: There will be no profanity or another girl belittling another girl because their playing skills are not up to par.
This is not the New York Yankees, or the sandlot leagues that compete around the borough in other NYC park fields. Beyond the outfield fences the new Trump Ferry Point golf facility and back holes can be seen in the distance. The girls may not hit a home run ball beyond the fences that will disrupt the golf game but they are having a good time as a family, learning the game, and knowing about the good part of competition.
“Used to coach in another league and girls were getting bullied and tried to prevent it,” said Villoch. “I decided to take my team and venture on my own.”
The girls, 13-19 years of age come from all over the Bronx and some travel from upper Manhattan. Some play organized softball at their schools and others are taking advantage of learning the game for the first time and how to be a good teammate on the field.
“I’m recruiting with girls who played last year, word of mouth and social media,” said Villoch.” The league of six teams hopes to expand and they raise money also that is donated to anti bullying charities, and the efforts of the Bombers is one of awareness as there has been more than once incident of “Bully” tactics used in leagues that have been widely known.
In another league, Villoch used to see that wide spread issue of the more advanced girl making threats to the girls who were beginning and playing in an organized game. They were told they should not come back to the field again and complaints to an appointed commissioner were ignored.
So it was time to move on and do it the right way.
“Here they accept you,” said 17-year old Gabrielle Igartua a student at St. Thomas Aquinas in the Bronx and daughter of the co-league founder. “It’s good. It gives girls confidence and boosts their self esteem.” She says throwing a ball in the past was difficult to do but now “Girls should get a chance to show what they are worth.”
And of course, bullying does not exist and Igartua says, “We should promote anti bullying in school.” They look forward to game day, the preparation that is involved and know that respect and a proper foundation is in place.
“It helps me make more friends and nobody is disrespectful to each other,” says 12-year old Ayanah Liz learning and playing the positions of right field and second base.“
The girls don’t know where their future holds when it comes to playing the game beyond this league or on the high school level. However girls softball is an Olympic sport and there are professional leagues that get national exposure on ESPN and other cable networks.
But that does not matter to them right now. The entire concept is being together a few days a week, learning and playing together as a family. Most important again, there is no bully theme or verbal attacks against each other.
“We’re more together as a family,” said 14-year old Emma Ovalles a student at Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics. “We don’t bully each other. They have a place to go and not feel harmed. There should be more opportunity because there are other kids that are scared and may not be good enough.”
Other team Members: Samae Ovalles, Tabatha Santiago, Ashley Caba, Ave Guerrero, Tiarra Fernandez, Shay Reyes, Hailee Rodriguez, Krystal Cabeal, Glorian Carrion, Limarie Gonzalez, Helen Tejeda, Ashmani Mercedes, Mellissa Contreras, Christina Burgos, Alyza Cordero.
More information about the league can be obtained: (917) 768-6840
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