Donations From Community Groups Help Bring Down Cost Per PlayerBy Dave Carlin

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The pandemic pause is over for Little Leaguers in a East Harlem.

Dozens of kids aged 4-13 were back on the field Saturday for opening day.

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Six-year-old Christopher Petgrave is among 200 kids getting back into the swing of Little League.

“And I love playing with my brother,” he said.

Siblings Christopher and Quanell, who is 12, grew very close in the pandemic.

In the East Harlem Little League together, they broaden their horizons and expand their social circles.

“I think it’s good for the community because it’s been, like, a long pandemic and everyone needs to feel ease,” Quanell said. “And play sports like how they used to.”

“Because I had three kids in three different schools, three different educations, three different times, so it was very difficult, but I’m glad they’re back in school now … back in sports and everything,” mother Patricia O’Shaughnessy told CBS2’s Dave Carlin.

“It feels good. Today is their first day. We’re getting them loose and energized,” volunteer coach Tiana Perez said.

Leaders of the nonprofit, all-volunteer league say it was already in trouble in 2019 and almost lost forever in the pandemic. Funds dried up.

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To restart, organizers took up a collection. Answering the call were politicians, businesses and the Boys Club of New York.

Also helping get the League back were NYPD, FDNY and New York Empire Baseball.

The money was used to buy uniforms and equipment.

Some big donations from community groups brought down the cost per player.

“One of the things that held back the league was that it would cost about $100 to be a part of the league. With all the support, we were able to get that down to $10 and no one gets turned away,” said Carlos Velasquez, with East Harlem Little League.

“This represents community to me, getting back to normal, my child being able to interact with other children,” East Harlem resident J Van Buran said. “Doing something positive, getting exercise, fresh air.”

“The best thing about it is I get to play with people and make new friends,” 12-year-old Emperor Van Buran said.

Cooped up no longer, they’re ready to learn teamwork and discipline and prove that overcoming obstacles, including a pandemic, is what this game and what life is all about.

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The games really get going Sunday.

Dave Carlin