Howard Beach Ball Players Fight for Borough Cup

Howard Beach Ball Players Fight for Borough Cup

The Ozone Howard Rangers square off in the Borough Cup final for the U11 Division on Sunday in Brooklyn.  Photo courtesy Al D’Andrea

The Ozone Howard Rangers square off in the Borough Cup final for the U11 Division on Sunday in Brooklyn. Photo courtesy Al D’Andrea

The team grew up together and has since blossomed into one beastly baseball club.

The Ozone Howard Rangers was born nearly five years ago, and most of the 12 boys have been playing ball together ever since. This summer, the team took on one of its greatest challenges to date when it signed up for the citywide Borough Cup tournament and made it all the way to the finals set for later this week.

The Borough Cup – the first of its kind – was created by New York Mets’ pitcher and hall of famer John Franco, along with WFAN radio host Craig Carton and Brooklyn Cyclones Assistant General Manager Gary Perone.

“The only way to increase awareness and play in New York City is to have something to play for, and the Borough Cup does exactly that,” Franco said.

Team coach Al D’Andrea said he first heard about while driving and listening to Carton’s radio show one spring morning before making sure his group of boys made it in. He shared the news with his three assistant coaches – Mike Frazzetta, Lou Piazza and Frank Didio – who teamed up to get the boys into the random drawing.

“I immediately started talking to other coaches and making sure we were involved,” he said. “A few short months later, we’re in the finals.”

The tournament put hundreds of teams throughout the city up against each other, separated by age groups. The undefeated Rangers have been dominating in their division, the 11-year-olds, already beating out a team from the Bronx and the number-one-ranked Staten Island team.

The team squares off in a final matchup at 4 p.m. this Sunday against the also undefeated YSL Bombers of Brooklyn at MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Tickets are $10.

When asked what contributed to the team’s success this summer, D’Andrea said the team followed a simple formula while also allowing the inevitable to happen.

“They grew up,” the coach said with a smirk on his face. “They have been playing together since they were 7-year-olds. Now, they have a responsibility to one another. We don’t hear about how small we are anymore.”

The coach said his players had to make some major adjustments in transitioning to their traditional Little League rules and regulations to those of the Borough Cup, including switching from aluminum bats to wooden ones and playing on a slightly smaller baseball diamond. But those things barely held his players back, D’Andrea said, mostly because of the depth of his team’s pitching talent.

Starting pitcher Chris Musco, 11, will be on the mound for the team’s final matchup on Sunday, the coach said. And with the big game approaching, D’Andrea said he gave very simple advice to his players, who have been playing in various tournaments simultaneously throughout the summer since Little League season ended in the spring.

“Rest up. Stay out of the pool. Stay safe,” the coach said.

The final matchups of the older divisions were given an opportunity to square off at the world famous Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, which D’Andrea said his team would undoubtedly strive for in the coming years.

“It’s a community bonding experience. The kids get a lot of unity experience and hopefully we can set them onto the right path,” D’Andrea said. “Everyone has a role – from the kids on up to the coaches and parents.”


By Phil Corso


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>