Memorial Day stickball tournament brings community together
Published: Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 23:06
Memorial Day stickball tournament brings community together story:
(NEW YORK CITY) – Every year, the stickball community joins together during Memorial Day weekend for the annual Steve Mercado Memorial Day Stickball Tournament in the Bronx. Teams from all over the country come to the tournament for a chance to win the championship.
Stickball was originally started as a sport for children that could not afford to play baseball in the little league, but now, stickball is a popular game for all ages.
The street is the field for these players. The bases are painted on the pavement and the sport is played similarly to baseball. Each batter bounces the ball and has one swing to hit the ball in play. If the batter misses, he is out and it is the next players turn. After three outs, it is the other teams chance to bat. The team with the most runs at the end of the game wins.
Richard Marrero, NY stickball league president and commissioner, said the sport originated in the 1930s when the Hispanics immigrated into the States.
"They couldn't afford to play little league. So they got together, bought a rubber ball, broke ma's broomstick and played baseball in the street," he said.
This year's tournament marked the 26th anniversary of the start of the Memorial Day tournament in the Bronx. The teams also compete in a Labor Day tournament that rotates between Florida, California and Puerto Rico.
"The tournament is now dedicated to a firefighter that was our president in 2001 and passed away in 9/11. So, it's a Memorial Day Classic in honor of Steve Mecardo," Marrero said.
John "Powerhouse" Franco was a part of the stickball community in the 1980s when the sport was brought back to the Bronx.
"Its part of our culture. We grew up playing stickball, we have been playing stickball since we were 10 years old," Franco said. "It was a way for us to keep active and stay out of trouble. Instead of being in gangs, we were in teams. It meant a lot for us."
Franco said he comes to the Memorial Day tournament each year to catch up with old friends who he only gets to see once a year.
"This is part of how we grew up. We got to keep on supporting [stickball] and make sure they keep on doing it as long as they can," he said.
Many of the players said they continue to return to the field because of the community, friends and family there to support them.
Isaiah Blas, member of the San Diego Whompers, came all the way to the Bronx to compete in the Memorial Day Classic. He said he has been playing stickball since he was 12 years old and he learned the sport from his father.
"I like the family aspect. I like that we come back every year and we go wherever they are at. Whenever we meet up it is like family. You see the little kids playing now, you see its new additions to family and the new additions to the league is just fun to see," Blas said.
Jose Martinez, member of the Heat, helped umpire the games after the Heat was out of the tournament. He said he enjoys coming to the tournament every year to catch up with old friends and that he enjoys to company of the entire stickball community.
"It's a family game. It is an exclusive sport and anyone is welcome. I have been playing since I was a kid and I am 29 now and I love this game," Martinez said. "There are a lot of great people out here. It is a great sport."