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Field No. 1 at the Elmjack Little League complex is now known as Andre LaMorta Field after the man who made cancer take a number until he finished renovating the diamonds for his children and the community.
Friends and family gathered for the dedication of the field Saturday in East Elmhurst. A picture of LaMorta looked out over the crowd from a banner behind home plate, but the actual man was lying in a Calvary Hospital bed in the Bronx.
“Andre spent many days, nights and weekends on upgrading all these fields to get them ready for last fall season,” said Antonio Infortunio, a friend of LaMorta and fellow Little League coach. “He is one of a kind. I still find myself looking for his white truck to pull in or be parked by the Pee-Wee field.”
But LaMorta, a lifelong Queens resident, drove more than his truck to Elmjack.
He owned a construction company called Gretalia and in his free time would drive tractors, trucks and backhoes down to the fields and start digging.
“He was sick the whole time and he still did those fields,” Infortunio said after the ceremony. “He didn’t say nothing to nobody.”
After being diagnosed in December 2009, LaMorta would hop on his Harley twice a day and get treatment before working on the fields after he got off work, Infortunio said.
“I think it kept his mind occupied,” he said.
LaMorta fixed all of the fields in the park, but field No. 1 was originally much smaller. LaMorta was determined to expand it to regulation size in case a Division I Little League team ever went to a championship.
It was not a farfetched idea. Two years ago, LaMorta coached his 11-year old son Luciano’s team, The Scrappers, to a Division 2 championship without losing a game.
He repeated that feat last year with the Division 1 team The Orioles.
He also coached his younger 6-year-old son Rocco’s team, Storm, last year.
But now it is his sons’ turn to carry on where he left off.
“My boys are playing for him now,” said LaMorta’s wife Laura.
Her husband’s illness has been hard, but the crowd of people gathered at the ceremony was physical proof that the family was not alone.
“I’m blessed with a lot of unbelievable support,” she said.
The family has enjoyed happy moments as well.
LaMorta got to see the dedication ceremony on DVD from his hospital bed, and he recently found out his 14-year-old daughter Natalia was accepted to the prestigious Bard High School in Long Island City. On Monday, LaMorta celebrated his 43rd birthday.
But regardless of his health, LaMorta’s name will always be attached to the diamond. And Infortunio could not think of a more fitting honor.
“I figure you built the field. It’s yours,” he said. “You deserve it.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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