Stickball- Ybor City Style
Stickball is a street game related to baseball usually formed in pick-up games in cities that border the Northeastern seaboard of the United States. The equipment is simple, you need a broom handle, and a rubber ball. Normally the ball will be a spaldeen,, pensie pinkie, high bouncer, or a normal tennis ball. the rules of the game are governed by the area in which the game will be held. In most of the cities in the north, that might be the center of a street. If that was the case, then the bases would be manhole covers and cars, buildings and even tree lined sidewalks will act as foul poles.
But the surrounding did not look like the Bronx or Queens in New York on Friday. Could it have been the smell of fresh baked Cuban bread, or even using the background of an old cigar factory building in Ybor City, just east of downtown Tampa, Florida. This is a region not known for stickball the way they play it in the northern states, or is it? On Friday afternoon, the city of Tampa shut down a small section of 9th Avenue between Republic de Cuba and 13th street for some fun in the sun, Southern stickball style.
The event was the the brainchild of Yahoo sports!, who also had a film crew on hand to produce a 5 to 10 minute video that will run on the Yahoo sports website promoting their Fantasy Leagues. On hand was first baseman Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees, who is the Yahoo Sports cover player for the upcoming fantasy season. Teixeira, who signed a 8-year, $ 180 million dollar contract with the Bronx Bombers this off season. He stated he played mostly wiffle ball growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, but did not participate in stickball as a kid.
When he asked the crowd how many strikes he could have, they yelled in unison “One!”. the event rules stated that it was to be in a “fungo” style, or that the ball had to bounce at least once before he could swing at the pitch. So as Teixeira took his place at the makeshift plate, he looked down the cobblestone street and smiled before bouncing the ball once and swung the long thin broomstick handle and crushed the ball out of sight on his first attempt. This sent the partisan crowd into a roar and the ball was ruled a home run. the teams in this events were labeled “Old School” and “New School” and featured Florida stickball league players from Orlando, and Tampa’s own Lightings squad.
Teixeria took his turns in the field playing first base, but in this version he did not have the usual mitt to use as the ball was fielded with your hands and sometimes bounces like a racquetball so wild hops and 90 degree turns can happen routinely during the games. Teixeira took a second turn at bat and again crushed the ball for his second hit of the afternoon. I can not wait to see this video up on Yahoo Sports! website, and I look forward to my northern brethren to see how we play stickball in the Dirty South!
Photo credits: 1-3) http://www.TBO.com ( Scott Iskowitz )