There’s an old saying in sports that you play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. But in the Police Officer Michael J. Buczek Little League in New York City, it’s just the opposite, as the names on the back are that of fallen New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers.
To recognize the league’s 28-year commitment to both the Washington Heights and greater NYPD communities, Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO, presented the Buczek Little League, with the third annual Carl E. Stotz Little League® Community Award, including a $5,000 grant, at a special ceremony in New York City at the Michael J. Buczek Ballfield on Saturday, June 25.
“It’s a tremendous honor for us to receive this award,” said Johnny Moynihan, League President, NYPD Sargent, and a friend of Mr. Buczek’s. “Michael was a man who really wanted to get the community involved. I think we exemplify the ultimate Little League community because of how the police and everyone in the community gets involved in the league.”
Established by the family and friends of Police Officer Michael J. Buczek, who was shot and killed in the line of duty working in Washington Heights in 1988, the league has been a fixture of the neighborhood since 1989. Mr. Buczek isn’t the only fallen officer that the program honors. In the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the league began a tradition where every team is named after a fallen member of the NYPD. Players proudly wear the officer’s name on the back of their jerseys, as well as keeping a picture of the officer in their dugout for each game. Many of the league’s volunteers are current or former NYPD police officers who either have a connection to the league or to one of the names on the backs of the jerseys.
“It’s a great way to try to keep these heroes’ names alive,” said Mr. Moynihan. “The children definitely understand what it all means. They’re fully aware of the sacrifices made by these men.”
The impact of the Buczek Little League has been felt both on and off the field. Over the years, the league has grown in size to nearly 30 teams and has seen more than 8,000 players pass through its ranks. The effect of playing for fallen heroes has had a clear impact on the lives of a number of former players, as around 35 have gone on to become members of the NYPD themselves. The motto of the Police Officer Michael J. Buczek Little League is, “Building Major League Citizens, One Game at a Time.” That ambitious goal is the hallmark of any Little League program, and shows why the Buczek Little League is fully deserving of the 2016 Carl E. Stotz Little League Community Award.
“What the volunteers and families are doing at this league and in this community is very special,” said Mr. Keener. “Johnny Moynihan, Michael’s sister, Mary Jo Buczek, and all the volunteer leaders in this league are not only instilling all of the great life lessons that the Little League program emphasizes, but also establishing the important connection between the community and its police officers. Which is evident through the more than 30 Buczek Little League graduates who have gone on to become New York’s finest. This league is one of the most impactful programs that I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with. We are proud to recognize the Michael Buczek Little League with the Carl E. Stotz Little League Community Award and honor the value of this local Little League program to the children in the Washington Heights neighborhood.”
Named in honor of the founder of Little League, the Carl E. Stotz Little League Community Award, created in conjunction with the 75th Anniversary of Little League in 2014, is presented annually to a local Little League program that has worked with their community to create a lasting impact and positive environment for the families and children in their hometown.