By Paul Lomax
Special to DNAinfo
Cops and kids marched throught Washington Heights to honor the memory of an officer slain in the line of duty 24 years ago -- and to kick of the season of a baseball league named in his honor.
The parade featured players from the Michael Buczek Little League, which is named for the 34th Precinct officer who was shot to death while on duty in 1988.
NYPD Emerald Society bagpipes skirled as members of the Buczek family, NYPD officers and the ballplayers paraded in front of hundreds of spectators who lined the streets between the 34th Precinct station house on Broadway and the league's ball field on Amsterdam Avenue and West 193rd Street.
Sgt. Johnny Moynihan, 46, who was Michael Buczek's partner at the 34th Precinct told DNAinfo,
"This is a great day. This league keeps alive Michael's name," said Moynihan, who was Buczek's partner. "I miss him all the time. I'm carrying on this tradition because I made a lifetime commitment to Michael's father who passed away two years ago."
The league was founded in 1998 by Michael Buczek's father Ted to help keep neighborhood kids off the street.
Each Little Leaguer's uniform bore the name of NYPD officers who died in the line of duty, including many who perished on Sept. 11, 2001.
Michael Buczek's sister, Mary Jo Buczek, said the people of Washington Heights have helped ease her pain.
"Twenty-four years ago was a very, very sad day, but coming back here is like coming home," she said. "The people here, the NYPD and the Little League are like my extended family.
"It helps us as a family to recover from my brother's death - something I thought we would never do - so I love coming here every year to celebrate Michael's memory."
State Sen. Adriano Espaillat thanked the Buczeks for attending and lauded the "legacy of Michael Buczek, a brave cop who helped give this neighborhood back to the people, especially the kids."
"Now, let's play ball," he said.
The first pitch was thrown out by Joseph Esposito, the NYPD's Chief of Department, and, after a break for hot dogs, hamburgers and soda, the first game of the Little League season started.
Frank Rodriguez, 46, a construction foreman and former local baseball coach said, "I'm proud to be here today. This league helps keep the kids out of trouble."
"Out of a terrible tragedy came something that no one in this neighborhood will ever forget," Rodriguez said. "He [Michael Buczek] will always be a hero to this community."
And while everyone hailed the memory of the fallen officer, no one could forget what beautiful spring Saturdays are for.
"We couldn't have asked for a better day," Moynihan said. "The weather is great and people are having a good time."