Bringing back the good old days.
It was Stickball Day in Brooklyn U.S.A. on Sunday, July 8 as the popular Third Annual Stickball Hall of Fame Game took place at MCU park.
The throwback sport was once a fixture on New York City streets. Game organizer and filmmaker Jay Cusato and company have brought it back to present it to the younger generation.
The friendly — though competitive — game saw the Brooklyn Stickball Team take on the Staten Island Stickball Team, which was followed by the Brooklyn Cyclones hosting the Staten Island Yankees.
Before the game started, a screening of Cusato’s award winning documentary “When Broomsticks were King,” was shown, which gave attendees a closer look at the game of yesteryear.
Once the action started, Staten Island took an early lead and, although Brooklyn rallied, they fell short and lost 6-3.
Cusato was thrilled to continue the tradition.
“Except for losing, it was great,” he said. “Win or lose, it’s great to be here and play stickball out here on the field. It’s an honor for the Cyclones to have us and keep remembering us every year to play the film, have us play stickball, and to bring awareness to the sport.”
“Gotti” co-star and actor/director in the upcoming series “The Neighborhood” Will DeMeo also played for the home team.
“It felt amazing to play especially in Coney Island on the field that the Cyclones play,” said DeMeo, who stars alongside John Travolta in the recently released mob flick. “I wish I practiced a little more before I played. The last time I played was in the movie ‘Wannabes’ in 2000.
Still, he said, “It was great to be out there and play on a field like this.”
Player Mike Stapleton also lamented on a simpler time when the sport was in its peak in the borough.
“I’m 60 years old on paper, but I’m about 16 years old today,” he said. “The body still feels about 60. But [playing] makes you remember everything when you were growing up as a kid. Not that we were poor but we had a lot less, so a simple bat which could’ve been your mother’s mopstick or broomstick and a rubber ball and chalk lets you play all day. And that we did.”
Stapleton also hopes that playing the game in front of a sold out crowd in Coney will bring attention back to the sport.
“If it grows one percent, it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “I know the world’s changed. We played in streets where there were no cars. That’s a big difference. But it’s still a game that can be played and I’d like to see it reignited.”
Sixty-year-old Raymond Goffio also enjoyed the annual event.
“It’s always great to be playing ball and what a beautiful day it is at MCU Park,” he said. “It’s always a privilege to play with Jason and the guys and play the game of stickball. It was a great day.”
Goffio was inducted into the stickball Hall of Fame in 2007.
“I’ve been playing since nine years old,” he added. “I play with a guy named John Candelaria. He went on to play 22 years in the major leagues. I played my first game on East 10th Street.”
Bobby Kearns from Park Slope was also recently inducted into the Stickball Hall of Fame.
“It’s a great honor. They give you a big trophy. It’s a kid’s dream from Brooklyn,” he said. “We’ve been playing since we were kids and we play over here once a year. We try to get everybody together and it brings back a lot of memories and a lot of comradery seeing everyone come back to the old neighborhood.”
Even younger players were in on the action. Among them was eight-year-old Daniel Sullivan.
“It was fun,” he said. “My favorite part was that I get to play with my uncle and my brother, and that I have my family watching me on the field.”
All players hope the game will get youngsters to play.
“It brings everyone together from the neighborhoods,” said first time player Nick Calandra. “It’s good to connect and stay in touch with everybody. It’s not as popular as it used to be so hopefully bringing it out, more kids will want to play and continue the tradition.”
Chuck Reichenthal, who helps organize the games, handed out copies of Cusato’s documentary.
“I’ve been saying, ‘Let’s get some teams going,’” he said.
“It’s an amazing game,” added DeMeo. “I wish people still played stickball. People don’t even play wiffle ball anymore. It’s not what it used to be.”
But, Goffio said, “To be out here with some children is what it’s all about. We live in society with so much change and it’s good to hold on to some of the relics of yesteryear.”
Following the stickball game, Mets all-star starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard took the mound for the Cyclones in a rehab stint. He looked sharp, striking out seven in just five innings in the Cyclone 2-1 victory.
“It was great. I had those first time jitters like I always do,” Syndergaard told reporters. “The mound wasn’t the easiest the pitch from but I made due with it and overall, my finger is holding up nice. It feels good and I can’t wait to get back in a big league setting.”