Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Feel Good Story About Young Girl's Journey From Roosevelt Island RIYP Ball Fields To Hitting Home Run In Her Last High School Career At Bat During Championship Softball Game And Now On To College

Roosevelt Island resident Frantz Enama reports:

I was speaking to a friend, a fellow Islander, a few weeks ago whose kids were playing in the Roosevelt Island minor baseball youth league held on Saturdays. The conversation brought back memories of past years of Roosevelt Island kids playing baseball on Capobianco field.

I have a Roosevelt Island feel good story about a young girl's journey from the Island's baseball fields to last month's NYC Girls Catholic High School softball championship  game.

The story highlights the old Roosevelt Island Youth Program days as well as the volunteer coaches who inspired this young girl's journey from Capabianco field to hitting a 265 ft home run in her final at-bat in the city championship softball game.

Roosevelt Island resident, Gillian Katoanga, finished off her high school softball career in dramatic style in a heartbreaking loss during the NYC Girls Catholic High School Athletic Association  championship final on June 15.

With the Archbishop Molloy Stanners down by 3 runs in the bottom of the final 7th inning against Staten Island's Moore Catholic Mavericks, Gillian hit a 265-foot home run 

 out of the Roccio Torres sporting complex in what would be her final at bat for the Stanners. 
This sparked a rally that saw the Stanners load the bases with a chance to win the championship. Sadly, for the Stanners, Maverick pitching prevailed and the rally ended with the bases loaded. The 11-9 loss capped off an undefeated (12-0) league and overall 18-5 season for the Stanners.

It was also the end of a wonderful softball journey that started on the baseball fields of Roosevelt Island. Some residents will be familiar with Gillian and her brothers, who grew up playing in various little and youth baseball leagues on Roosevelt Island. 

Early mornings on most weekends, you could catch her hitting softballs at the various fields on the island. Her favorite field is Tony Capobianco, where she first played T-ball on the island twelve years ago. She credits her keen interest in softball to those early years of RI baseball and her coaches, including Coach (T-Ball) Tommy, 

Johan Marfey, and Scott Bobo.

Gillie, as she is better known to her teammates, is grateful for the great friendships that she formed over the years in the various school and travel softball teams. However, those early years playing on the Roosevelt Island fields with her siblings and having the community come out on those summer afternoons are the most memorable. 

The Roosevelt Island Youth Program (RIYP) sports leagues and events organized by Charlie Delfino and Andrey Chichagov were the highlight of the island summers. She recalls fondly, "playing summer baseball on Roosevelt Island with the families cheering us on, was so much fun. It brought the community closer together and we got to know our neighbors and make many new friends. It was always loud and some games were competitive and exciting". "I also looked forward to pizza or treats at Main Street Sweets after our games". She hopes that the island's latest generation of little league kids are having as much fun and that sports will have a positive impact on them as well. 

With her high school softball career now over, 

Gillian is headed to St. John's University in the Fall where she has been awarded a four-year academic scholarship in the university's biomedical science honors program. As for softball? With her heavy academic load, she's never seriously considered collegiate sport. But that could change, you never know. 

I have coached or supervised Gillian since she was 5 years old in various RIYP activities. Apart from the RIYP activities, she was part of the RI Pacific Island community that organized the Friday night volleyball games and also the summer rugby clinics. She and her brothers attended PS 217, and the family are also active members of the St. Francis Xavier Cabrini parish on the island. She credits her love of softball, and sports, to those early days of playing on Roosevelt Island.

Have a great summer everyone!