Volume 74, Number 14 | August 04 - 10 , 2004


Villager photo by Jill Stern

Recent action from a game of G.V.L.L. parents and youths at Hudson and Clarkson Sts.

In summer, parents get last licks at J.J. Walker

By Jill Stern

In the summertime, there’s nothing like joining in on a pickup baseball game to waste away a day. Baseball and summer go hand in hand. They complete each other. Many Village parents want their kids to truly know this. Many parents reminisce about goodtime games from the past. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of green ball fields in the Village.

Pickup games are not that easy to play around here. The Village is not Iowa, where there’s space galore for a “Field of Dreams.” We have only one true field, J.J. Walker, and it is usually booked all of the time. Here is a story of how a bunch of Greenwich Village Little League families committed to playing ball have been able to get in a couple of pickup games this summer.

From March through to the end of June, G.V.L.L. uses the J.J. Walker field to host many games. According to Carlos Sandala, who manages a G.V.L.L. 11-12-year-old team (this is his 13th year managing!), G.V.L.L. gets a permit from the Parks Department for Thursday and Friday after school hours and all day on Saturday and Sunday. The schedule is tight so as many games as possible can be played. Free time at J.J. Walker during this season is unlikely. However, once Little League ends, the chances of getting the field increase.

So, for the last few Sunday mornings, some baseball dads — all of them volunteer in some form or another for G.V.L.L. — decided to show up at the field early. All agreed that the opportunity to play ball outweighed a Sunday morning in bed. They risked the chance of being thrown off the field by a scheduled game. All agreed that if you were in town for the weekend, you would show up. So far, luck has been with them and they have been able to play.

So, dads like Arthur Perez, Larry Stern, Art Simon, Steve Kaufman, Peter Bakst, and Carl Pucci have been spotted there. They come with kids in tow, but the dads themselves are playing, too. Word hasn’t spread yet, though the group is welcoming to those who show up. Recently some older boys — judging by their 6-ft. frames, in their late teens — appeared at the field at the same time as the families. They were asked to join and a good time was had by all. The little kids were thrilled to be pitching (and striking out!) these big guys. The dads joined their kids in the outfield when the older boys were up to bat.

Anywhere from 16-24 parents and kids have been showing up for each game.

Art Simon, G.V.L.L. coach and father of two, told me, “The games are great, in large part because the adults can try hard, and the best of our younger players can also participate.” Art used to play pickup games in Central Park but hasn’t gone up there for years.

“Having a field Downtown makes it all that much easier,” Art said. “The games fill many functions, not the least of which is allowing the G.V.L.L. parents who coach during Little League season, but who really want to be playing, to get some baseball competition at some point during the summer. It also lets the Little League kids extend their baseball play well into the summer.”

Will the kids remember these games fondly? Whether or not they do, at least they have this chance to play with the adults.

“As a kid I did not play softball with my folks’ generation, but I would hope that for our kids it is great fun to watch and play with the parents,” recalled Art. “Hopefully, it allows them to see how excited we still are about being active and how, even as you get older, you need not turn strictly to being a spectator — that learning the game and developing the skills we are teaching them now, can be put to use their whole lives.”

As the summer continues, these families will continue to try to get some playing time in at J.J. Walker. Hopefully, by next summer, the new fields at Pier 40 will be ready for some action and playing time will come easier in the Village.

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