Disappointed that the pandemic canceled last year’s Memorial Day weekend festival, the Schenectady Softball Cricket Association has stepped up its game with an 8-team tournament for this upcoming weekend.
The association’s cricket tournament on Saturday and Sunday is expected to draw some of the best cricketers in the world, association president Onkar Singh said.
Four Schenectady teams will share the spotlight with a quartet of Queens-based teams that will bring international softball cricketers to the city, according to Singh.
Softball cricket is the underarm bowling style version of the sport.
During the association’s 16-year existence, it has held Memorial Day weekend festivals off and on, and they were limited to local competitors.
The association president expressed gratitude to the mayor, council and city parks maintenance for helping the association build a cricket pitch at Central Park for the festival. Councilman John Polimeni, an advocate for the new playing venue, bowled the ceremonial first pitch at Central Park this past Sunday.
Tournament matches will also be held at Grout Park. The championship round is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at Grout Park.
During the Memorial Day weekend festival, out-of-towners are expected to book local hotel rooms and patronize restaurants and bars, bringing a temporary boost to the economy, Albert Morris, chairman of the association’s discipline committee, suggested.
The softball cricket association has nine teams and about 180 members, and it expects those numbers to increase at the start of its next local competition in June, Singh said.
Like baseball is to Americans, cricket is the national pastime for the Guyanese, Morris said.
The sport’s popularity in the city has been a selling point for Guyanese considering taking residency here, he said.
“The league has influenced people to come up here in the sense that they play cricket in Queens,” Morris said. “Now that they know they have a competitive league in Schenectady, it has helped them to make that final decision. There was a push in making them re-migrate to Schenectady, because they have a place to participate in the national pastime.”
Born in Guyana, the 51-year-old Morris moved to the U.S. in 1997. He’s lived in Queens and Minnesota before coming to Schenectady. He said his 16 years here is his longest stint in any city since moving to America.
Singh said he wanted to bring international cricketers to Schenectady to showcase local talent such as Fizal “G” Husain, whom Singh said is one of the best competitors in the city.
Husain, 35, has also been playing in the Schenectady association since its inception. He competes with the Schenectady Nightriders.
Husain said he used to have to drive three hours every weekend to find good competition.
Singh, an international cricket commentator who helps with local, national and international cricket softball tournaments, was heavily involved in cricket leagues when he lived in Queens for 10 years.
He said there was only marginal interest in cricket when he first formed the Schenectady association. But it eventually ballooned to 12 teams. It was pared down to the current nine teams because of a limited availability of cricket fields.
It’s important to note that cricket takes kids off the streets and gives them something to look forward to, Signh said.
The association runs a youth academy to hone the skills of about 30 children a year, and one year it held a summer camp.
Singh said the academy has helped produce professional-caliber softball cricketers.
“I’m a very proud president. When I go out there and I see those guys that I knew, who were 12 years old at that time, and now they’re 20, early 20s, they are a force to reckon with.”
Morris said he also takes pride in seeing Guyanese children from the academy go on to important roles throughout the city. One is a doctor at Ellis Hospital, while others are nurses, engineers, and run their own construction businesses. Many others are in college, he said.
“They’re making the Guyanese community very proud of them, for a migrant population to be doing so.”
The association’s central venue, Grout Park, is in need of improvements, and the Schenectady Softball Cricket Association has asked the city to authorize a long-term lease for the organization to maintain and turn it into a state-of-the-art, multi-sport facility available to all residents of Schenectady, with summer camps.