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The Small Town of College Point

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The kids who signed up to play ball in the College Point Little League this spring are learning more than how to throw, catch and swing a bat. Their coaches are teaching them a far more important lesson: how to deal with one of the tragedies that is part of life.

The Opening Day parade this year looked much like the parade does every year. There were the players with their new uniforms and bright faces. And, of course, there were the elected officials, community leaders and dedicated parents who work hard to make the season happen.

But this year there was something special. As the teams kicked off from the Poppenhusen Triangle, they paused to honor a fellow player, Cristian Malave, 11, who was killed in a car accident March 30. Cristian was riding in a car with his family on the way back from a spring break vacation in Florida when the accident occurred. His father, mother and sisters were injured in the crash.

As they led the parade, Cristian’s team, the Destroyers, carried a banner honoring their teammate. “We love you Cristian,” the banner proclaimed, next to his jersey, No. 13, outlined by two wings.

The Malave family also marched in the parade to honor their son and brother, who played in College Point for six years.

“We will be playing all year in his honor,” said Coach Lou Sucre. “There aren’t many words to describe something like this. He will be missed.”

He added, “I was more than just his coach. He was close to my son all the way from kindergarten up to now. His family was very involved. I knew the daughters from dance and his parents were very involved as well. They’d be here if this happened to anyone else.”

In the wake of this tragic accident, College Point showed once again that it is a small town on the fringe of a big city. The College Point and Whitestone communities held fund-raisers to help the family and the Little League postponed its kick-off parade, originally scheduled for April 7.

We’re sure that when the bases are loaded and a game is on the line, the players will forget the cloud that hung over the Opening Day parade. But they will not forget how their community came together to honor a friend who died too young.

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