"Fund's gift strikes out with school: Students lost playing field but got a pitching machine" Daily News 3/31/9
Fund's gift strikes out with school: Students lost playing field but got a pitching machine
BY MARIA CLARK
Tuesday, March 31st 2009, 9:05 AM
The All Hallows High School baseball team may have lost its field of dreams, but at least it has a pitching machine. Problem is, the players can't use it.
Too powerful for the school's tiny gym and too heavy to lug to practice sessions elsewhere, the 600-pound gift from the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is gathering dust in a crowded storage room.
"It took six men and a flatbed truck for them to drag it in here. If the Yankees had only given us a bus instead," said Sean Sullivan, the school's principal and assistant baseball coach.
The construction of the new stadium has left the school scrambling for a plot of grass since the loss of roughly 22 acres of local public parkland, including four ballfields.
All Hallows, ranked one of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the U.S. academically for five consecutive years, has had to take drastic measures to compensate for the long delay in replacing its field.
"We're like gypsies, running around the city trying to find a field to play in," said Sullivan.
Home games are played on visitors' fields.
Sullivan said it has been difficult persuading people to trek long distances to cheer the team, which occasionally has to practice at Rodman's Neck near City Island, next to the Police Department firing range.
"It's somewhat nerve-racking coaching and practicing with the kids while the sounds of bullets are flying in an adjacent park."
The school may have to get accustomed to the unsettling conditions. All eight replacement parks, originally set to open before the new stadium, won't be available until 2011.
The Yankee benefit fund just last week denied a request for $40,000 to offset the $60,000 the school had to spend to replace two broken-down buses needed to transport teams to alternate playing fields.
All Hallows President Paul Krebbs said the school was told the fund does not pay for the purchase of vehicles. He said the fund also recently pared donations to schools down from $50,000 to $5,000.
"It seemed that a grant request to assist the closest school to the new stadium, that would benefit 630 students on both an educational and recreational perspective, was a legitimate proposal," Krebbs said. "The fact that the need was created by the construction only strengthened the proposal."
Despite it all, Sullivan remains a die-hard Yankees fan, with signed baseballs and statuettes of team greats lining his office shelves.
"I love the team," he sighed, "but they really took from my kids."