When Coach Eddie Cordero visited Vleigh Park Field in Kew Garden Hills last month ahead of the start of another baseball season for the Queen of Peace Athletic Association (QOPAA), he was dumbfounded at what he came across.
To his dismay, all of the league’s equipment had been burned and badly damaged inside a metal shed along the third base line of their home field at Judge Moses Weinstein Playground.
Among the damaged and charred outdoor maintenance equipment were three sets of rubber bases, liners and measuring tape, rakes, shovels and more inside the metal cage that has been protecting the equipment for well over four decades.
“I was shocked and upset,” Cordero, the parish athletic representative, said .
Coach Eddie and Melissa Grasso, treasurer of QOPAA, agree that vandalism has been dealt with in the past, but nothing to this extreme.
“It’s kind of sad,” Cordero said. “I’ve had family members playing here since 1983 and I started coaching in 1993.”
With basketball season being delayed due to COVID, baseball season was pushed back as well. Normally, Cordero says he’s preparing for baseball season in early February, but this year’s delay meant that he was simultaneously preparing for playoff basketball games and the start of baseball season on the same weekend.
A GoFundMe was created for donations to be made for the league’s equipment, with over $2,200 collected so far.
Cordero has also received a $2,500 grant from the Walter Kaner Children’s Foundation, a local nonprofit, to go towards league expenses.
With a delayed start –– just like the major leagues –– and now having to purchase new field equipment, Cordero says it’s been a difficult past two seasons of youth baseball.
“Last year, right in the middle of Covid in the springtime was tougher,” he added. “But people are starting to loosen the reins and feel a little more comfortable.”
The Queen of Peace school, formerly teaching grades K-8 in Flushing on 77th Road, closed in 2006. Cordero added that since the school closed some 16-years-ago, it’s been a more difficult task to get kids to sign up for the league.
At its peak, the league had around a dozen teams, some instructional and some travel teams, Cordero says. This year, a total of 6 teams (3 instructional and 3 travel) are part of the league.
Alumni of the league also includes Kyle O’Quinn, a Queens native who went on to play professional basketball for the New York Knicks, and relatives of Jose Alvarado, another NBA player, also participate in the league as coaches and players.
Having moved to the neighborhood in 1978, Cordero has seen three generations of his family compete or coach in the league. The all-volunteer QOPAA is part of the non-denominational Catholic Youth Organization. He says the league revolves around building sportsmanship, and keeping kids active.
A father of six, Cordero says his nieces and nephews all participate in the program.
“I’m still hanging in there because I have a three-year-old granddaughter who I’m hoping to coach when she gets eligible to play.”
To donate to the league, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/queen-of-peace-athletic-association-baseball