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Welcome to Stickball Boulevard

By JONATHAN GOLD, 10/21/17, 12:30PM EDT


It is a sunny Sunday afternoon on Stickball Boulevard in the Bronx, and the future of a sport steps up to the plate.

Jayden Carrasquillo inches closer to the dry paint on the scorching blacktop and taps his stick once, twice, as his parents, Russell and Jennifer, look on. Jayden is a budding baseball player in his own right, but this is a family thing, a pride thing, and a hit here would mean far more than on a baseball diamond.

Today is Jayden's first game with the Silver Bullets up in the bigs -- the New York Emperors Stickball League. Later, he will also play in the NYESL kid's league, which was reinstated this year to get some younger blood excited about the game.

Stickball was once an integral part of the urban youth experience. Images of ragtag groups of children playing in the street became iconic depictions of New York City and helped shape the world's perception of New Yorkers as the street-smart, rough-and-tumble class of America.

Slowly, like so much of Americana, it has faded from the streets, cars and buses rendering the roadways perilous, Xboxes and iPhones commandeering kids' attention.

If not for the dedicated few who still come out to Stickball Boulevard and who populate a handful of other leagues across the country, the game would have faded away by now.

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