New York Daily News

Winning for Sandy Hook


They had a perfect season for the kids of Newtown. Last week, a special Bayside Little League team became the junior division champions after going 20-0 while wearing patches bearing a single word that needs no explanatio­n: “Newtown.”

It became the Queens team’s rallying cry before, during and after every single game of the long season in a cold, wet spring.

Led by a colorful coach named Jerry Costa, the motivated team hurtled to victory like a runaway locomotive.

The idea of dedicating the year to the gun violence victims started with a Daily News story in March about walking through the Newtown cemetery just before Christmas. Frost chilled the earth like the ice around the heart of the nation over the unspeakabl­e Dec. 14 killings of 20 children and six educators in Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I wrote abouthow the Newtown cemetery was set on a hill overlookin­g a Little League field, how that was a flawless diamond that would sparkle forever in the minds of most kids who ever played there.

And as my kid and millions more like him prepared to start their Little League spring season, I thought how blessed we all were as I recalled backhoes in December, digging holes for tiny coffins in the field of the dead up the hill from that field of dreams.

I lamented how so many of those slaughtere­d kids, including Chase Kowalski, 7, would never again get the chance to swing a bat on a spring morning.

“Our team was named for our sponsor, Katie Den Enterprise­s, and we’d already had about six practices in the Bayside Batting Cage,” Costa says. “Then I received an email from Luis Avila, the father of one of my players, who works for Red Cross.”

The email read: “Hi Coach Jerry, I read the Daily News story ‘Field of the Dead’ about Chase Kowalski, and the rest of the children lost in Newtown and it inspired an idea . . . Could we possibly honor Chase and the rest of the children by having the boys wear a band on their uniform . . . a simple ‘Newtown’? I would cover the expense . . . ”

Costa, a dedicated but gruff coach, is not known for sentimenta­lity. But like everyone else in the nation the mere mention of Newtown brings tears to his eyes.

“I forwarded Luis’ email to Bob Reid, the president of Bayside Little League,” says Costa. “Reid’s a stickler about proper uniform etiquette, but he not only approved the patches for our team but had a banner made up for the season’s kickoff parade with all 26 names of those killed .” Then Costa printed out the Newtown patches and team den mother Danielle Castroiron­ed them onto the every jersey. When the season began, instead of shouting the sponsor’s corporate name, the team chanted: “One-two-three Newtown!” They chanted it before every inning. And after every victory.

“My kids, some who’d never been on a winning team before, were inspired by those Newtown patches on their arms,” Costa says. “My kids played their hearts out for the kids from Newtown. They literally had angels on their shoulders.”

The final game of the season came down to a tough match against the second-place team, called Safari Beach Club.

“They were a great team. Great players. Tough coach. They were beating us 3-0 into the bottom of the fifth of the seven-inning game. We wanted an undefeated season to honor those patches on our sleeves,” says Costa. “We scored 11 runs in the bottom of the fifth. We held that lead until the end. After the game, and the undefeated season, we chanted: ‘One-two-three Newtown!’ When we climb on stage for our championsh­ip trophies in September, we’ll chant it one more time: ‘One-two-three Newtown!’ We won 20 games,one for every kid killed in Newtown who will never play baseball again.”


 ??  ?? Chase Kowalski
Chase Kowalski
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