TM Select takes first game in Borough Cup

By Rich Mancuso

Monday night and under the lights, the TM select team prepared on a back field at the Throgs Neck Little League Field in the Bronx.  For any young and aspiring ballplayer, competing under the lights offers that major league atmosphere. They looked proud and honored to be participants in the first Borough Cup.

The tournament, organized by the NYC Sports Group showcases some of the best aspiring ballplayers in the city of New York, a round-robin tournament taking place until mid August. The concept, borough against borough and culminating with the Under 12 and 13 team playing championship games at Yankee Stadium and MCU Park in Brooklyn, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York Penn League.

The NYC All Star Sports Group, created by WFAN radio personality Craig Carton, New York Mets Hall of Famer John Franco and Brooklyn Cyclones Assistant General Manager Gary Perone, announced in March plans for the inaugural Borough Cup .New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson are serving as ambassadors for the event, which anticipates hundreds of teams to compete in the U9 through U13/U14 divisions.

So here they were, dressed in TM Red and moments away from the first pitch against the host team, the Throgs Neck Little League. 

“We have been waiting for this all year,” said an enthused Tony Melendez, founder of the TM Baseball Academy. “We are due to make a statement to New York.  The purpose is to put together what they worked on, their training and their discipline of the game.”

He added, “If they really want this…there is   the commitment and desire for the game.” And that is the purpose for these youngsters. They are training and at the same time learning discipline and respect for the game of baseball.  

“This is something we emphasize, to be prepared for every situation,” Jesse Melendez said. She is the matriarch of TM, always available and has become the second mother to many of the youngsters who have been members of TM, and of course the many who are members of the year round education and baseball facility.

And on the field, all that preparation and discipline, which also leads to respect, leads to what was seen on the field Monday night. The team won their first game in the tournament and because of a 9-0 TM lead in the fourth inning a Mercy Rule was imposed.

“We are an educational based program all year around. We are representing the Bronx,” she said,” A Bronx born appropriate team to represent the borough.”

William Negron was itching to get on the field. “A good feeling under the lights,” commented the Salesian High School catcher. “I Like the fact it s a tournament and we travel.”

Zach Bright, Communications Director of the tournament, explained a purpose of the Borough competition and the goals, which will result in developing increased awareness of youth baseball in the city and creating a fund to assist Little League baseball city wide.

“Four months ago we created an event that brought the city together for youth baseball,” he commented.  “Bringing back the sandlot glory days with 150 teams, five boroughs- 25 locations and there are the championships at Cyclones Park and Yankee Stadium.”

 The emphasis, as TM Academy is aware: Major League Baseball is shifting  attention to more urban communities.

“It’s a focus point,” Bright stated.  We are working with them (MLB) creating a fund to give back to the five boroughs for fields, for little leagues in the five boroughs.  In the long run we think this has lot of potential.”

The long term goal is working with the Baseball Tomorrow Fund and expanding more teams into the tournament next year, and maybe moving the games in the spring to accommodate more teams.”

Lardho Richardson, a 15-year old who plays ball and is an outstanding student at Riverdale Academy said, “I haven’t won anything in summer leagues so I think this one will be special for me.”

He added, what has been so evident at TM: “Discipline in baseball is first and play the game the right way with the fundamentals.” And the coaches, they are also a part of this great experience. Playing under the lights and teaching the kids that it is more than winning a game.

 “Seeing them grow over time,” said Rafael Perez who is assisted with Coach Peter Soroa. “You can keep them together for years, see them grow, see their skill potential enhance year for year. Having fun learning, understanding the game and learning, that’s the price.”

Commented Soroa, “The respect, the disciple the kids work hard.  Playing under the lights is exciting no matter what age. You want to put the best against the best whether it’s the five boroughs or the 50 states.”

“Why we gave you guys this big game on the first night see what you guys got,” said Bright. Most of all, he was a first hand witness, as many have learned also, that TM Baseball Academy is not always about winning. It is about discipline, education and the respect.

Next up for TM select: Moving to the next round Saturday.

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