Written by Rick Karas: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 20 April 2012 00:00
It was a great day for a ballgame in Mineola on Saturday, April 14, and because the weather cooperated, a parade was thrown in for good measure. The Mineola Athletic Association (MAA) kicked off the spring season with its annual parade, culminating in an awards ceremony at the MAA ball fields off Willis Avenue.
The Mineola High School marching band led the charge through the streets, as Little Leaguers and parents from the world of Mineola baseball, softball and soccer wore their team colors proudly, and displayed the banners of the many local sponsors that keep the MAA afloat.
Michael Nygaard coaches the 6-7-year-old boys soccer squad, and says it’s a day to recognize those that put in the time and effort to keep the MAA going strong.
“It’s all volunteers; parents get very involved,” Nygaard said as he marched. “It’s a lot of time but it’s a lot of fun ... you’ve got to love kids otherwise you wouldn’t do it.”
Mineola trustee Paul Pereira was on hand to represent the village, and says youth and sports are a perfect mix that keeps the town united. He coaches soccer at Mineola High School.
“This is another example of how Mineola is truly in every sense a community, and we have organizations like the MAA that really are the glue that keep the people in the community together,” Pereira said.
Some of that “glue” was honored at the ceremony at the athletic fields on Willis Avenue. All had one thing in common: their dedication to MAA and its young athletes through the years.
Sam Fischer received the MAA’s highest honor, the Joe Bruno Award, named after the dedicated volunteer who served the MAA in its early days until his death in 1965. Fischer has spent many years as a player, coach and parent in the MAA and is a past president of baseball, softball and cheerleading. He is responsible for the construction of the batting cages at the fields and spearheaded the Mineola Hurricane Travel Baseball Program.
Several volunteers received the Mayor’s Trophy for their efforts with the MAA, with Al Freehill singled out to receive the Sandy Byrne Award as volunteer of the year.
“Embrace your kids, nurture your kids, encourage your kids, do whatever you can [for them],” Freehill told the other coaches on hand upon receiving his award.
Pereira said handing out a couple of plaques is the least the town can do to recognize the efforts of people like Sam and Al.
“That’s what we’re thanking them for, for providing our children with the opportunity to have [MAA sports], and at the same time we’re thanking them for their efforts and their volunteerism,” Pereira said.
Parades and awards aside, the day is really about the talented boys and girls make up the MAA teams, and players are excited that spring has sprung, and that a new season is about to get underway.
“I like to play sports because it’s fun,” said Mineola Cardinal Liam Russelman. “You don’t get bored playing sports.”
Or marching in a parade, apparently. Play ball!