Bagpipes could be heard blaring from Glen Head’s Four Corners, where Glen Head Road and Glen Cove Avenue intersect. Following the pipers was a group of young sluggers dressed in brightly colored uniforms, their caps bobbing as they walked. Billy Golden, a coach with the Glenwood-Glen Head Junior Baseball League, led the children in the organization’s annual parade through the hamlet on Saturday. As the procession neared Gaynor Park, the site of the first game of the season, Golden exclaimed, “One block to go!”
The parade stepped off from Glenwood Landing Elementary School. Members of American Legion Post 336 presented the nation’s colors at the head of the procession, and an engine from the Glenwood Landing Fire Department trailed behind the crowd. After the parade arrived, John Glennon, the league commissioner, made remarks from home plate.
From there the scene swelled into a snapshot of Americana: Volunteers passed out hot dogs from a smoking grill that was built by a league board member, Jimmy Meilinger, a welder. Players practiced pitching and catching with their coaches. Songs celebrating the pastime floated over the fields. And attendees crowded Jimmy’s concession stand — dedicated in Meilinger’s honor — to snack on peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
Meilinger and his wife, Patty, run the stand as volunteers, and all the money they raise from snack sales is donated to the league. Meilinger has been a part of the organization for nearly 30 years. “I have kids that I’ve coached that now have their children going through the league,” he said. “Even though I’m getting older, it’s still nice to see.”
For 64 seasons, the league has provided baseball programming for local children ages 5 to 13. It promotes inclusivity, teamwork and camaraderie. “And that goes beyond the baseball field,” said Steve Hirsch, who sits on the board of directors.
The board comprises 12 residents who contribute to the league in various ways. Some members have children who now play in the league, while others have children who have long since aged out. “They left — we stayed,” joked Glennon, 79. “We love the game, and we love the kids.”
In his early days, Hirsch, 69, organized trips for the younger players to Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium, now Citi Field. “He’s known as Papa Bear,” Glennon said.
Dan O’Connor, who organized this year’s parade, noted the board’s efforts to maintain the playing fields. “A lot of work goes into the fields, and our board is out there with shovels and rakes in hand,” he said. “In the last two weeks, we laid down 48 tons of clay on three fields.”
The active nature of the board and its willingness to, um, pitch in, has been key in sustaining the league for more than six decades, O’Connor said. “Some kids may not go on in high school and play, and this is what they’re going to remember from their youth,” he said.
“The great thing about this league is it’s so inclusive,” said board member Frank Castiglione, “and this is one of the events [where] everybody comes together and gets to know their neighbors. It’s a bonding experience.”
“With all the stuff going on out there in the world, just to see the kids play ball is what it’s all about,” Meilinger said. “Hopefully I’ll be looking from heaven and still see the kids playing baseball.”