Festive music was blaring. The tracks of the 4 train were clapping. And the biggest game in Bronx this weekend was played not in, but just outside Yankee Stadium.
The event was an unmistakable Subway Series, with a Queens club in bright orange facing a Bronx squad all in black. The Stickball Classic was back, and everyone left a winner.
Queens technically earned the intra-city bragging rights for those keeping score, taking an 11-6 victory in the New York Emperors Stickball League’s title contest. On August 30, they will be feted during an on-field ceremony at Yankee Stadium.
The New York Emperors Stickball League, which falls under MLB’s Play Ball umbrella for promoting baseball and softball across the U.S. and beyond, affords kids an opportunity to play, socialize and learn, according to Jennifer Lippold, President of the Youth Stickball League (YSL).
“Stickball is the best game for reviving baseball in the inner cities,” Lippold said. “It brings kids together socially, it teaches them leadership, [and] it teaches them about the streets in which they grew up.”
Stickball, a modified game of baseball played with a broom stick and rubber ball, is a prominent street game within Hispanic and Latino communities. And according to David James — MLB’s vice president of baseball and softball development — events such as the one held on River Avenue serve to grow and fuel the next generation’s interest in baseball and softball.
“A lot of the kids who play stickball also play in the traditional [baseball and softball leagues], but this is an opportunity for them to keep playing,” James said. “The overall push is to get more kids playing the game. Whether it’s baseball, softball, stickball, a game of catch, we want to make sure that more kids, more families, more communities have access to our sport.”
Hosted by MLB and the Yankees, the championship game was bursting with hard-hit line drives, effort-filled dives and even a bat flip that would make Yasiel Puig proud. The game’s Most Valuable Player, a 9-year-old named Cevyn, tallied two hits and made a catch that will be talked about for quite some time.
Following the championship, Cevyn, her teammates and local youth participated in an instructional stickball session and received free bat-and-ball sets. The entire afternoon, according to Yankees community relations director Kenny Leandry, was a rousing success.
“For the Yankees, anything involving youth is always high on our list, and any time we can go into the community is a huge plus for us,” Leandry said. “Glad to be here, it’s the third year we have hosted the event with Major League Baseball, and we hope to be here again next year.”
“Stickball is very similar to baseball, with hand-eye coordination, throwing a ball and making contact with a bat.” Lippold said. “But it’s simplified in that you don’t have to pay a lot of money for equipment. Playing with Yankee Stadium as the backdrop, in an organized setting, and being highlighted during the championship, this is [the kids’] Subway Series for their own game.”