In the cold pre-season days of winter and through the spring, the John F. Kennedy Knights tipped their caps to Romana Moreira, a teammate’s mother who died of a heart attack on the day she should have been released from the hospital.
They took them off and replaced their armored-knight logo with the number 15. Ms. Moreira’s birthday was March 15.
“The day my mom died was the hardest day of my life,” said Peter Taveras, Ms. Moreira’s 19-year-old son and the recently graduated centerfielder of the Kennedy Knights. “Nothing prepares you for losing your mother. It changes you forever. It changed me forever.”
It was during a team meeting shortly after Ms. Moreira’s death on Jan. 16 that Kennedy players and coaches decided to emblazon the number 15 on their red, white and blue baseball caps, replacing the knight.
Coach Al Torres came up with the idea while pondering the memorial card at Ms. Moreira’s funeral. The March 15 birth date of a spirited woman would become a symbol of life for a proud and humane team.
Mr. Torres secretly hoped that embossing the number on the caps would encourage an extremely talented but brokenhearted young man to seek refuge in his teammates on the grass and dirt of a diamond and to discover the promise of a personal springtime while February’s lifeless winds still howled.
“Right after she died, nothing brought me joy, not even baseball,” Mr. Taveras recalled. “Every time I thought of batting or being alone in centerfield, I just thought of my mom.”
Though his father was the family’s baseball fanatic, it was Mr. Taveras’ mom who first brought him to the Crotona Park Little League field.
“She saw something in me,” said Mr. Taveras, who was both the youngest and the biggest kid on his team. “She was really good at seeing things in people.”
She took Mr. Taveras shopping for his first baseball glove, a tan Wilson with the webbing closed like a pitchers’ glove. She also bought him a black, metal bat that, he said, “I still have to this day.”
“She bought me pants, a belt and socks, too,” he said.