by Debbie Kling
Every March is crunch time.
No, I’m not a tax accountant anticipating April 15th.
I’m Debbie Kling, President of the West Side Little League. And our “Tax Day” is April 1st, the League’s Opening Day.
The other morning, I was sitting at the kitchen table, staring at my Must-Do List. Schedules, field permits, team lists, equipment orders, schedules, rosters, sponsors, uniforms, background checks of volunteers and CPR requirements. And, of course, bills.
I laid my head on my arms. Every March for the past 15 years it’s been like this.
Where to start?
Suddenly I heard an odd rattling sound outside my window. But it wasn’t raining. Maybe roof work, with debris landing on my air conditioner.
Then I heard a tweet. Not the electronic kind, but an old-fashioned ornithological chirp.
I ran to the window. And there it was. A big, beautiful, brown-and-yellow hawk perched on my air conditioner.
I drew in my breath. And then I started to laugh. How perfect to be visited by a hawk in crunch-time. For the “Hawks” is the name of the West Side Little League’s tournament teams
Every summer our Hawks teams compete against other Little Leagues in the city — and if they win, they advance to play teams from throughout the state. Last year our Juniors Hawks team, under the leadership of League VP Jim Glasgow, did us proud by winning the New York State Championship.
The Hawks moniker has a long history. It was first bestowed in 2008–my debut year as league president—when a hawk paid a visit to coach José Aguilera’s tournament team practice in Morningside Park.
That summer, for the first time ever, two West Side teams, including Jose’s, won their District Championships. It was also the year I was successfully treated for breast cancer.
As Emily Dickinson wrote: Hope is the thing with feathers.
Welling up, I took a video of the magnificent creature, then texted it to José, Jim, and a host of other tournament team coaches, past and present.
“Our mascot is visiting League headquarters,” José quipped.
“Can it pitch?” division head David Halberstadt texted.
“It’s a sign,” said Diego Figueroa, a recent West Side alum, who once played tournament and helped coach a team this past summer.
We then shared recollections and photos of other hawk sightings over the ballfields in Riverside Park. It was a lovely bonding moment for our volunteers who work so hard for the League and the children of our community.
I’m not particularly superstitious. I live on a high floor, and it made sense that a hawk might find my air conditioner appealing.
Still, I can’t deny that the bird’s appearance felt like a happy omen.
I returned to my mountain of tasks with renewed vigor and sense of purpose.
With a community like ours and the blessings of our winged mascot, I’m sure it will be a good season.
Read about last year’s state championship win here.
The West Side Little League is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization composed almost entirely of parent volunteers — both on the coaching and administrative sides. To learn more about its programs and scholarships, click here.
How cool! I have many fond memories of playing in WSLL as a kid.
I love the Emily Dickinson quote and the idea that this sighting brought her community back together. This is such a beautiful story.
Looks like a peregrine falcon (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Peregrine_Falcon/id#). Hope it brings you luck!!
Peregrine falcon at the window. Last year Peregrines nested in the church steeple at 86th and WEA.
Saw a peregrine last week perched for several minutes atop a water tower a couple of blocks east on West 86th. Huge thrill; right up there with watching a pair of kestrels on the hunt for lunch.
Lovely story, Debbie. Hope your mascot ensures a great season for the West Side Little League.
The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), also known as the peregrine, and historically as the duck hawk in North America (Wikipedia)…”A hawk by any other name…” (Shakespeare)
Massive thank you to Debbie for the incredible amount of time and effort she puts into WSLL, it means so much to so many kids!
Thanks for everything you’ve done, Debbie, and go Hawks! (Both of my kids played in WSLL, one on the Hawks here and there, and I was a coach. Good times!)
We heard a clunk on our AC a couple of weeks ago and looked up to see that some kind of raptor had landed on it and was looking into our window. Not sure which of us was more startled!