Mid-Island Little League families and friends were on deck at COMMONS Café Wednesday in support of the team, where a fundraiser was held to raise money for their trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The impressive Mid-Atlantic champs are currently just two wins away from winning the U.S. finals.
“We don’t say the ‘L’ word so WHEN they win tomorrow, they’ll play Saturday. Then after they win that one, the next day they win the whole thing!” said Michele Vazzo, Mid-Island mom and head of the fundraising committee.
They certainly have every reason to be optimistic. After winning 15 consecutive games this season, the team continued their winning streak with two victories at the start of the series, defeating the Midwest 5-2 and the Southwest 2-1. Their next game is against Hawaii on Wednesday, August 22 at 7:30pm. You can catch it on ESPN.
Christine Vidal, whose son Derek Mendez plays on the team, says the boys are in awe of all the attention but still gracious about it. “They’re busy giving autographs all day. But I just love their attitude. They took to everyone. They’re not cocky. They have a right to be but they’re not. They’re very confident and they’re very humble.”
It’s not every day that people ask your little leaguer for an autograph, but at the end of the day they’re still regular boys, she added. “They still got summer homework to do!” she laughed.
She also mentioned that Derek celebrated his 13th birthday the day the team arrived in Williamsport, on August 13. “That was the best birthday ever for him.”
Jennifer Astarbi, whose son plays for the 11-year-old All Star team, has been making the four-hour trip back and forth to Williamsport with her kids to cheer on the team for every game. She says it’s exhausting but worth it. “You can’t imagine what it’s like in the stands. The excitement is unlike anything you’ve ever seen!”
“It’s even better than a Mets game,” chimed in her daughter Sofia.
“Everyone thought we were the underdogs,” joked her son, Peter. “But not anymore!”
Tommy Kalantzis, who serves on the Mid-Island Board of the Directors and coaches the 8-year-old team, was busy with his wife Natalia selling raffle tickets at the fundraiser. They’re planning to attend Saturday’s game and have been helping all week with fundraising efforts. “We wish them all the best – bring it home, boys!” he exclaimed.
Fundraising has been a high priority for Mid-Island. The team posted a plea on their Facebook page for donations this week, citing that expenses have been a burden for the families. “What you may not realize is that these kids haven’t been home in almost a month between regionals and now the series,” it read. “While Little League does a tremendous job feeding and housing the kids, the parents are put through tremendous expense. Hotels and food are not cheap, especially when room rates seem to suddenly rise as these events happen.”
In the spirit of giving, 100% of the proceeds from the COMMONS Café “Pop-Up Community Day” Wednesday will be given to the boys’ families. According to Kristine Garlisi, Chief of Staff for the Nicotra Group, the whole fundraiser was set up within just a few hours after Ms. Vazzo reached out to her last week. 100% of the profits from the COMMONS café contribute to the funding for Staten Island non-profit organizations and scholarship recipients through the Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation.
“People who have big hearts want to open them,” Ms. Vazzo said. Anyone who would like to donate can either message the team’s Facebook page or donate to their Go Fund Me page.
And don’t forget to sign Staten Island’s Parent’s Congratulations Card to Mid-Island. Let’s show these boys they have the love and support of over 1,000 neighbors, friends, and family in Staten Island!
By Jeannine Cintron
Tuesday, August 21, 2018