Everybody hits. Everybody runs the bases. Everybody has fun.
This is how Randy Novick from Howard Beach describes American Softball.
Every Saturday throughout the summer, Novick, along with counselors and mentally challenged people from five assisted-living homes met at a field in Kissena Park to get a chance to play softball. Five homes currently comprise the league: Little Flowers, YAI Network, Bernard Feinstein, Lifespire, and Services for the Underserved.
“They’re having the time of their lives,” Novick said. “Whoever comes down, plays. This way everyone’s included.”
On August 25, the last day of this year’s season, Novick, counselors, the participants and their friends from home celebrated before taking the field. While eating pizza and hero sandwiches, they talked with each other and asked if they were coming back next year.
“They love it very much,” said Cecilia Hewitt, a counselor at Little Flowers. “All week, as long as the season is in, they look forward to it.”
The league was started in 1998 as Acheivers of America by a friend of Novick’s who had a son that was mentally challenged and entering his 20s. Because there were no leagues for older people, Novick said, the man started the league. The founder moved to Florida in 2010, however, and the league fell dormant.
For the last two years, Novick said he got a number of calls from counselors asking when or if softball would start up again.
Novick tried this year but requests to the Parks Department were not answered by March. Finally, he went to State Senator Joseph Addabbo asking for help. Addabbo was able to secure Novick a field that was enclosed and adjacent to a bathroom, which Novick and counselors said was the ideal location to play.
Addabbo said it was a pleasure for himself and his staff to help Novick with some of the work load to get the league running.
“It’s not easy to run a league, provide some sort of recreational activity, and work with the Parks Department, so it was our pleasure in providing a recreational activity for them,” he said.
Despite ranging from 15 to 45 players a game, Novick said he expects the league to grow next year — by getting an earlier start organizing it and branching out to more homes. He went on to say he would like to see it grow into a city or statewide organization.
“I want to expand this in all the boroughs and hopefully New York State,” he said. “You have Special Olympics once a year for a week, but other than that there’s no league like this.”