PATERSON, NJ- Under partly cloudy skies, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh stood in front of home plate at Paterson’s Larry Doby Field on Thursday announcing planned improvements to eight city baseball and softball fields, while also paying homage to the the man whom many say was the greatest athlete ever to come out of the Silk City.
“50 years ago, today, Larry Doby crossed the color line in the American League of Major League Baseball, six weeks after Jackie Robinson did in the National League,” Sayegh told the crowd of about 50 people. “Larry Doby paved the way to make a better life for all of us. He always wanted to give back to the people of Paterson. We want to do that today, as well.”
Donning a Cleveland Indians jersey featuring Doby’s familiar number 14, Sayegh announced improvements to eight city ballfields thanks to a donation of $30,000 from local business owners Cesar and Jennifer Pina.
Through the donation to the One Paterson Foundation, Commons Field, Titus Field, Pennington Park, West Side Park, Brandie’s Park, Eastside Park, Putnam Oval, and the former Paterson Catholic High School Field, will be upgraded by Sponzilli Landscape.
“We take distressed properties, make them livable, and rent them to people so they can have a nice place to live,” Cesar said of the work of his company, The WhairHouse Group. “We’re making a donation today to the city for the fields for all the kids to enjoy. We rehab homes and now we’re going to rehab the fields.”
One Paterson is a newly formed civic organization dedicated to promoting unity and bridging divides by engaging in civic advocacy to facilitate inclusion, diversity, and collaboration across a wide range of stakeholders.
Coach Maurice Richardson saw his own daughter, Emani, grow up playing in Paterson softball leagues. He continues to mentor young players.
“The girls’ fields are as important as the boys,” Richardson told the crowd. “They all deserve good fields to play on.”
“The batter’s box and pitcher’s mound at each field will be refurbished,” including the use of brick clay, Bill Rodriguez, Paterson’s new Director of Department of Public Works stated. “We want our fields to be excellent.”
Recalling an incident several summers ago when JFK High School basketball standout Tajae Stevenson broke her ankle while playing softball on a Paterson field, and subsequently missed her entire senior year, Rodriguez offered the pledge “This is only the start.”
“My daughter played softball here in the 1980’s,” Councilwoman Ruby Cotton said, with her council colleague Lilisa Mimms calling the event “a great opportunity to ensure that Paterson residents come first.
“Let’s play ball,” Mimms shouted gleefully.
Councilman Luis Velez, who also chair’s the body’s Public Works Committee thanked the DPW for their efforts to keep Paterson’s fields maintained with limited resources. “All of our kids deserve good parks,” he said.
“This brings back memories,” John Currie, chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, and long time Paterson supporter, reminisced. “I spent many hours on this very ball field when I was growing up as a kid. I got to meet and know Larry Doby."
"This is great for the citizens of Paterson.”