Borough President’s Cup Embraces Baseball As A Higher Learning Vehicle

As the year 2017 winds down, sports and politics remain at the center of conversations. NFL protests, a divided nation and political corruption were topics of constant discussion and divisive in nature. 

To find a light in this world of darkness, look no further than The Bronx, New York, where Ruben Diaz Jr. continues to be a trustworthy, legitimate defender of the meek, instigator of change and uplifter of the community in his role as Bronx Borough President. 

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    (Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and winning coaches)

Diaz first entered public office as a member of the New York State Assembly in 1997, and will begin serving his third term as Borough President in January.  As Borough president, he has led the implementation of a robust agenda on economic development, housing, health and wellness, education, and public safety in every corner of the borough. 

The sport of baseball is a game that is embedded in the everyday culture of Bronx communities. Communities that are driven by a Latino influence with a passion for the games principles of hard work, teamwork, community and culture.  

When Diaz Jr. was first campaigning, a woman from an organization called Grand Slam Baseball named Belkis Lora suggested that if he became Borough President, he should have a Presidents Cup baseball tournament and the two Little League finalists could slug it out at Yankees Stadium. 

It started from there and then we added a little twist to it, Diaz Jr. told The Shadow League at his 7th annual Borough Presidents Cup Little League baseball tournament. We wanted to make it more than just a contest between the best baseball players, but we also added an academic component to it. So these are not just the best 12,13 and 14 year olds, but these are also young boys who have maintained a B average in school and a 90 percent attendance rate. Also, theyve proven to us through letters, that theyve done civic engagement.

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                                     (Photo Credit: Edwin Molina)

It took Diaz Jr. about a year to fulfill his campaign promise and put the tourney in motion once he was elected. It has grown into quite the event.  Last month, Diaz Jr. and AT&Ts New York State President Marissa Shorenstein co-hosted a celebration for the Little League teams who participated in this years seventh annual Borough Presidents Cup between Caribe Little League and this years champions, Bronxchester Realtors.

The celebration took place at the Hard Rock Caf at Yankee Stadium and included players, their families and their coaches. The Shadow League was in attendance and during the event, AT&T presented each team with a gift card to Modells Sporting Goods to help pay for equipment for the upcoming Little League season.

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                                    (Photo Credit: Edwin Molina)

Diaz Jr. is from the same Bronx culture as the young boys who have embraced their love of baseball and used it as a vehicle to higher learning. 

I’m from the Bronx, I’ve been going to Yankees games since I was a kid, Diaz told The Shadow League. My favorite all-time Yankees player was a third baseman named Greg Nettles. He wasnt the best bat, but there was nothing going through that glove. I remember playing as early as the Pee Wee leagues with my brother. I used to pitch and play third base and centerfield. I had a strong arm and I always remember playing in the schoolyard at Blessed Sacrament over there by Sound View and playing way off of third base and hoping someone would try to burn my line so I could dive for it like Nettles and gun them out at first base. 

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                                  (Photo Credit: Edwin Molina)

As much as baseball has done for the families in this community, the way they have taken the game and returned it to its role as a socially-enhancing vehicle and valuable cultural practice should also be commended. 

No. 1, you have kids who are very talented and predominantly Latino excelling in what many are saying arguably is a dying sport, Diaz Jr. said. They are keeping the sport alive. These kids come from different countries. Theres diversity here. Its part of what we celebrate. These kids not only play good baseball but also know that they represent their families. Think of all the families that are so invested in making sure their kids not only pursue their passion for baseball but stay out of trouble. 

Zulyka Flores is the team manager for Caribe Little Leagues squad. 

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                                    (Photo Credit: Edwin Molina)

While the coaches are the architects of the accomplishment, the team mothers are the glue to the overall success. 

These kids never thought they would have the opportunity to play at this level, Flores tells TSL. The discipline they have in school will carry over to the sport. We work them very hard and are disciplined with them, so it’s really amazing to see all of the hard work pay off as they walked into the stadium and the expression on their eyes.

It was a journey that enhances a community, gives it hope and dreams and is indicative of the work that can be done when politicians are genuinely invested in improving the conditions in their community. 

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                                        (Photo Credit: Edwin Molina)

When we came into the Spring League, we were underrated. Then we put a nice group of guys together with common goals. We bonded. We beat tough teams and became a family and stuck together and came through with the championship, said 14-year-old Juan Perdomo, player and spokesman for Bronxchester Realtors, winners of a 2-1 championship nail-biter.  

Playing at Yankee Stadium was like a dream come true,” Perdomo continued. Youre walking where Derek Jeter used to walk and Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. So you see the reward in being an athlete and a scholar.

Christian Rodriguez, whose dad manages the team, was there supporting his older brother Miguel, who plays on the team. Christian said it was also a once in a lifetime experience for him to be that close to the action. 

It was very exciting. I was cheering my lungs out, Rodriguez told TSL. 

Diaz Jr. says an event such as this represents the best of the Bronx in every way. If anyone wants to know what The Bronx, New York is all about and what kind of initiatives the Borough President is actually engaging in to serve his community, look no further than this celebration of education, family and baseball. 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.