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Bayside Little Leaguers begin another baseball season

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Photo gallery

1/23
Members of the Dr. Mittman's Medics, including Jack Lobrutto (front), march along 35th Avenue in the annual Bayside Little League Parade. Photo by Christina Santucci
2/23
Twins Angelina and Alexander Gonzalez hold their team's banner. Photo by Christina Santucci
3/23
Bayside Little Leaguers Pete Hountas (l.-r.), Thomas Hountas and Emmanuel Espinel kick off a new season at the ball field in Crocheron Park. Photo by Phil Corso
4/23
Members of the Uno Chicago Grill team carry their banner along 35th Avenue in Bayside. Photo by Christina Santucci
5/23
Anthony Morinello leads his team. Photo by Christina Santucci
6/23
Members of the Jackson Hole team hold hands on Bell Boulevard. Photo by Christina Santucci
7/23
Members of the Bayside Milk Farm team stand together. Photo by Christina Santucci
8/23
Frankie Scullin cheers as he marches along 35th Avenue in Bayside. Photo by Christina Santucci
9/23
Christian Costello (l.) cheers with his team, the Dr. Mittman Medics. Photo by Christina Santucci
10/23
Julia Raab, 7, carries her team's banner. Photo by Christina Santucci
11/23
Jack Lobrutto (l.) marches with Aaron Braun. Photo by Christina Santucci
12/23
Jooney Kim form the Grand Cafe team cheers for the New York Yankees. Photo by Christina Santucci
13/23
Roman Alvero holds an American flag on a flagpole. Photo by Christina Santucci
14/23
Bayside Little League Commissioner Bob Reid (l.) hi-fives his grandson, Joseph, who read the Little League pledge. Photo by Christina Santucci
15/23
Officials (l.-r.) Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, state Sen. Tony Avella, Bayside Little League Commissioner Bob Reid, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, Community Board 11 Chair Jerry Iannece and Meng's husband Wayne Kye walk with Meng and Kye's children in the parade. Photo by Christina Santucci
16/23
Hundreds of players and parents march along Bell Boulevard. Photo by Christina Santucci
17/23
AJ Cercena (l.) hops over a fence at the field in Crocheron Park. Photo by Christina Santucci
18/23
Players hold the Bayside Little League's banner during the opening ceremony. Photo by Christina Santucci
19/23
Members of the Bell Bay Florist team sport green and gray. Photo by Christina Santucci
20/23
Hundreds of players participated in the annaul Bayside Little League parade in Bayside. Photo by Christina Santucci
21/23
Ray Winter (l.) and John Callahan carry the banner in memory of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Photo by Christina Santucci
22/23
Players from the Tiger Schumann's MMA team are fired up. Photo by Christina Santucci
23/23
Joseph Martinez (r.) walks with his dog Niko. Photo by Christina Santucci

The road to this year’s Little League season started on the Bell Boulevard pavement.

Ballplayers between 5 and 18 and their coaches, who make up 63 teams, marched through Bayside Saturday, marking the beginning of the league’s 60th year before the season’s first pitch.

The crowd gathered at 43rd Avenue and Bell before marching over to nearby Crocheron Park, where the league hosts most of its games. Business owners along the boulevard stopped as the Little Leaguers paraded by, shouting their team names and cheering.

League Commissioner Bob Reid corralled the teams before setting them off onto the route, often heard shouting at the players, “Are you ready to play baseball?”

Bayside Terrace’s 9-year-old Brandon Kaplan sported the bright orange colors of his Cross Bay Diner team, ready for his fifth year in the league. The lefty pitcher and outfielder was drafted high by the league’s team, his mother Jill said.

“It’s always a really nice thing when we start a new season,” she said as her son posed with his team for photos. “This Little League pulls from everywhere.”

Emmanuel Espinel, his season’s 11-year-old shortstop and second baseman for the Sal Salamone Masonry team, said he was ready to see a lot of action in his fourth season playing ball. His dad, assistant Coach John Espinel, said they travel from Flushing to be part of Bayside’s brand of baseball.

“It’s a great Little League here, and time well-spent with my son,” John Espinel said. “Every year I get to see how much he progresses on the field.”

Peter Hountas, 10, will be playing first and third base for the Rocco Brothers Construction team, he said, and spent the winter working on his batting stance to strengthen his swing. His little brother, 7-year-old Thomas Hountas, stayed close to his brother as he readied himself for his third season in the league playing second base.

After the players completed the parade route and dug their cleats into the fresh dirt of the ball field, the crowds became silent in recognition of the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. In honor of the teachers and students lost that day, Reid said a commemorative banner will hang on the Bayside fences throughout the 2013 season.

Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece was one of several officials to speak before the ceremonial first pitch and drew from his experiences on different levels of the league to inspire the young athletes.

“You’re making us so proud to be Baysiders,” said Iannece, who worked with the league as a parent, coach, advocate and sponsor over the past 15 years. “I saw firsthand what we can do with these kids and make them productive members of our community. That’s why Bayside Little League is going to win a national championship.”

After brief remarks, Iannece and several elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), former Sen. Frank Padavan and former Bayside Little League players state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Austin Shafran, a candidate for Council, took to the mound to throw the season’s first pitches.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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