Two years ago, the Lady Tigers softball team from the South Bronx and their beloved coach, Chris Astacio, wowed Ellen DeGeneres by sharing their inspiring success story on her daytime talk show.
“It’s really amazing,” DeGeneres marveled when Astacio explained how the team taught the female middle school students, many from disadvantaged, broken homes, to find ambition, confidence and sisterhood. “What you’re doing is so important.”
Now, Astacio and the girls are the subject of a new book, Lady Tigers in the Concrete Jungle: How Softball and Sisterhood Saved Lives in the South Bronx, by seasoned journalist Dibs Baer.
Seven years after the team was created at the struggling Jordan L. Mott Middle School, the original members are thriving, thanks in no small part to their time with Astacio.
“We have a book written about us, we’ve blown up now!” former teammate Angie Cruz told RadarOnline.com. “It’s amazing.”
Creating chaos and failing classes before joining the team, Cruz, now 19, will soon major in psychology in college. She hopes to become a counselor at a struggling high school after graduation.
“I want to help out and be there for others,” she explained. “I want to give back.”
Cruz admitted her “whole life would be different” if she had never joined the Lady Tigers back when she was just 13.
“I just want to thank my coach, without him I don’t know where I would be. I’m glad he never gave up on us.”
In addition to crediting Astacio for their current path, Nicky Marte, Alcielis Ramirez, and Rashell de la Rosa also believe their teammates helped shape them into the strong young women they are today.
“They were not only my friends, we were each other’s whole lives,” Ramirez, 19, who is now studying interior design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, told Radar. “A lot of who I am today is because of them.”
De la Rosa, a childhood education student, said the women still talk frequently, several years after they left middle school and the team.
“Everybody has their own lives. We work and go to school. It’s not easy maintaining work and college and a social life, but we do have each other and check in,” the 19-year-old insisted.
Cruz said she hopes their fame doesn’t stop at Baer’s book: She wants their story to go to Hollywood!
“If this becomes a movie, I want to get to know who is going to play me!” she laughed. “I want them to walk in my shoes.”
Baer's book is now available online and in bookstores everywhere.