The acclaimed Harlem Little League has produced a plethora of outstanding student-athletes as well as successful teams since its founding in 1989, most notably the 2002 contingent that reached the venerable Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Although the boys’ teams have garnered much of the attention both locally and nationally, the girls have made a firm imprint of their own. They built on their strong tradition by capturing the Manhattan 10-and-under softball championship to cap an undefeated spring schedule.
“I’m really happy for and proud of our girls,” said Harlem’s coach, Jayson Braswell, who has been coaching girls and boys in the Harlem Little League for 17 years. “We started in April and from then until the end of our season, about 10 weeks, they just kept getting better and better. The outcome of the games is obviously meaningful, but what was gratifying for me was watching them improve.”
The talented young Harlemites were led by their sensational pitcher Shea Brown, who Braswell referred to as “a strikeout machine.” Brown’s father, Derrick Brown, is an instrumental figure of the well thought of Urban Sports Group City Divas girls’ softball program based in the Bronx, which like the Harlem Little League emphasizes mentoring, character building and social-emotional development of its participants.
“I have definitely seen Alea’s self-confidence grow since she started playing in the league,” said Larraine Dennis, the mother of Alea Sattel, an outfielder on Harlem’s championship squad. “She didn’t even want to play softball, but once she got into it, she was hooked.”
“I like running the bases and hitting,” shared Alea. “[Softball] is much more fun than I thought it would be.”
Braswell credited the Harlem Little League’s board of directors, sponsors, donors, parents and numerous volunteers for their time, commitment and financial largess in making the endeavor fruitful for the youth.
“[League president] Stephanie Washington and everyone involved has done a great job,” said the former high school and college baseball player who was reared in East Harlem. “A lot of [alumni] of the league who are now successful adults come back to work with our kids. To see them now and knowing them when they were very young speaks to why we all do this.”