Paterson Divas Girls Softball Fundraiser for Puerto Rico Tournament
PATERSON — Angelina Perez was excited when she learned that her youth softball team, the Paterson Divas, was planning to go to Puerto Rico to play in a tournament.
But soon after, the 9-year-old said she had reservations.
“I’ve never flown in an airplane,” Angelina said. “It scares me, because I’m dizzy.”
The Divas hope to skyrocket once they arrive in Puerto Rico, but first they will need to raise enough money to make it happen. The 13-member women’s team, ages 10 and under, is trying to raise $15,000 to bring the players and three coaches to the competition in July.
“It is a dream for these girls to travel out of state/country to compete in this sport they are dedicated to outside of school,” the team states on its GoFundMe page. “These funds will go towards airfare, accommodation for players and coaches and additional equipment the team needs for the rest of the year.”
The trip to Puerto Rico was the brainchild of Divas head coach and manager Juan Crespo.
“We’ve played tournaments in New Jersey and Pennsylvania before, but I wanted to see if we could expand our horizons,” said Crespo, 39, who coached the softball team for eight years.
Crespo said he searched the Internet and connected with representatives of a girls’ softball league in Guayama, Puerto Rico.
Angelina said she was comforted that her father, Juan Perez, will be sitting in an airplane seat next to her on the trip. For Juan Perez, it will be a kind of homecoming. He was born in the continental United States, but his family is originally from Puerto Rico, and this will be his first time visiting the island.
“I’m really excited to go,” the father said.
Angelina and her father spoke to a reporter last month at a fundraiser for fish fries, one of the ways the team tries to cover the costs of the trip. For example, Deluxe Bubbles Hand Car Wash on River Street helped contribute $3,000 to the cause, the coach said.
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Parents who accompany their daughters on the trip will pay their own expenses, Crespo said. The tournament is scheduled to take place from July 8-10 and will consist of six matches for each team.
In the spring, the Divas have two teams – one for girls 10 and under and another for girls 14 and under – that play against teams from other North Jersey towns. In the summer, the Divas expand to five teams of different age groups. The 10 and under team will travel to Puerto Rico.
“We are so proud of our players and our parents,” exclaimed Crespo. “They do such a good job. Last year in the fall, the Divas were undefeated.
Kaitlyn Cabrera is in her fourth year at Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology. The 9-year-old said she first became interested in softball when she was much younger.
“When I was 5, I saw a varsity softball game on TV,” Kaitlyn said. “It looked really cool.”
Kaitlyn said she started acting soon after and started casting last year. She is now the starting pitcher for the Divas.
Mariah Cabrera, who is not related to Kaitlyn, shares the same last name with her “best friend” and is the same age, in the same class and on the same team.
Mariah said she and Kaitlyn joined Divas on virtually the same day.
“I take after my mother,” Mariah said. “She also played softball when she was little.”