Bronx Profile: Coach Christopher Astacio And The Lady Tigers

Cancer Won’t Beat Coach A and His Lady Tigers

by Koi Germany, Jr.

Credit: Koi Germany Jr

Credit: Koi Germany Jr

Coach Christopher Astacio, recent stomach cancer survivor and physical and health education instructor at Jordan L. Mott, Junior High School 22, granted The Bronx Chronicle an exclusive interview on a subject very near and dear to his heart, his softball team, the Lady Tigers.

Beginning as a fledgling educator at the South Bronx intermediate school, Coach Astacio immediately noted a sharp disparity between male and female sports participation, with female students lagging far behind their male counterparts. Among other peculiarities, he also noted the “2-3 pregnancies” which he felt was unacceptable to have in a middle school.

Undeterred, the dedicated first year teacher utilized his background in baseball and began a female softball team, deciding that “if these girls had some sort of an outlet after school, something to teach them discipline and self-worth, the pregnancies could [be] prevented.”

And thus began the coach’s uphill battle, with his first year of coaching described as “by far, the most difficult.”

Citing a lack of initial participation and interest, the team was not immediately popular at the school.

“Only five girls showed up to try out for the team. What made matters worse was that I didn’t have any softball equipment except for some plastic Wiffle balls and one cracked Wiffle bat. Additionally, the field available to the school [was] surrounded by heavy gang violence and riddled with broken glass.”

Pressing on through these setbacks however, Astacio set aside time to tend to the field before games, sweeping shards aside to ensure a safe space for his team to practice.

Not stopping there, he also became a frequenter of, an online charity which assists public school educators in acquiring materials for the classroom.

Within weeks Astacio was able to acquire the equipment he needed to form a fully functioning softball team, raising the interest as well as softball’s profile at school and overall head count to 28 girls.

Credit: Koi Germany Jr

Credit: Koi Germany Jr

What he could not prepare against though, were the underlying issues that would hamper the team. Ranging from the lack of positive male role models in the home to molestation and even rape, the team seemed mired in conflict.

“Girls who were also failing in school became fixated on the notion of failure”, said Astacio of the situation.

Things seemed to bode poorly for the budding team and its equally fresh-faced coach. However, Coach Astacio yet again rose to the occasion, stepping in to provide where his team was deficient.

“I attended their parent-teacher conferences, used my lunch periods to check if they were in their classes, called their houses to make sure they were home [and] facilitated conversations between parents/guardians.”

It would be a whole year before he would see a return on his investment, however Astacio could sense that to his girls, this was more than a mere opportunity to play softball.

“During our second season, we remained undefeated, crushing our opponents six games in a row before we would suffer a loss. For my girls, softball had become a way of life, a means to escape the harsh reality of their circumstances and simply enjoy being a teen.”

Now an integral part of their lives, the team blossomed into a close-knit family.

Credit: Koi Germany Jr

Credit: Koi Germany Jr

“The ultimate joy of coaching these girls [was] helping them grow to be mature and successful young ladies.”

To this end, Coach Astacio, as he is wont to do, went above and beyond to ensure a successful future for his team, scheduling a number of college visits to help the girls realize the value of an education.

One such visit to Pace University’s Westchester County campus left the girls mesmerized.

“Accustomed to dismal housing projects, streets riddled with filth, gang presence nearly on every street corner, etc. most girls did not realize such places like this existed in NY nor they did fathom that they would one day step foot on a “’real softball field,’” said the coach.

Realizing the majority of his team had never set foot outside the Bronx, Astacio then decided that a trip of a larger scale was in order.

With a plan to visit Florida State University, Astacio realized due to visiting schedules and booking deadlines that he would only have 39 days to raise the $40,000 required for the trip, as opposed to the standard ninety days via Donorschoose.

“Donations came in slowly, $50 or $100 at a time. But then all of a sudden, on the second day $15K had been donated. By the third day, we had a total of $25K with donations given by anonymous donors, Capital One, and teachers from across the United States.



And on the fifth day, notified via telephone by his very much ecstatic wife, Coach Astacio realized that his goal was met. Unbelievably, in just five days, Astacio had raised $40K to send his girls to a softball training camp at Florida State University.

“I [could not] begin to describe the overwhelming feeling of emotions that flooded me on that day.”

Like stepping into another world, the girls were awe-stricken, bonding immediately over their new, shared experience. Astacio quoted one girl as saying “[I would] rather be stranded with [my] team than be home.

However, for the hero that he was to these girls, Astacio was not without his Achilles’ Heel.

“Telling my girls that I was sick again was the hardest thing I ever had to do.”

Credit: Koi Germany Jr

Credit: Koi Germany Jr

Falling ill shortly before their trip, Astacio broke it to his girls that he had no idea what the future held. Though ever the optimist, he put on a brave face for his team, despite being misty-eyed from the news.

Having come too far to let his team down, Astacio willed himself to health, and the weekend before the trip he was discharged and given clearance to fly.

And with all the makings of a Hollywood movie, this reporter was left with just one question: What’s next for the Lady Tigers?

In June, the State Education Department identified JHS 22 as one of 20 “Persistently Struggling Schools.” Schools designated as Persistently Struggling will receive an unprecedented infusion of resources to support school turnaround efforts and given one-year to make demonstrable improvement on annual academic goals, including student performance. For the Lady Tigers, their challenges continue on and off the playing field.

As Coach Astacio informed me, “I will continue to fight for my girls and my health. As for our next season, we plan to go all the way! We made it to the playoffs this year, next year will be the championships.”

Keep an eye out for the next chapter of the Lady Tigers. If you’re interested in supporting the Lady Tigers, email Coach Astacio at

Story by Bronx Chronicle staff writer Koi Germany, Jr. 

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