restricted access 2. The First Few Brooklyn “Home Stands”
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The First Few Brooklyn “Home Stands” Two days after opening day, while Brett and the Cyclones get ready for another game against the Scrappers, the scene is the same at the Coney Island Houses: Anthony and his friends are playing baseball. The approximately 120' x 120' square of blacktop that the kids have transformed into a baseball field in the aquatically named Nautilus Playground sits between the project buildings, which face out on Surf Avenue, and the seedier end of Riegelmann Boardwalk, which runs along the beach. Being far to the west of the rides, excitement, and crowds, this end of the boardwalk has few businesses and a predictable lack of sanitation or police presence. The area around the boardwalk, on both the beach and the playground sides, not far from the kids’ home plate, is littered with fast-food wrappers, wind-blown newspapers, and even the occasional item that was dropped off at high tide, pieces of trash so altered by their time at sea that you can’t guess what they used to be. As for the ocean, the dreariness of the projects and the presence of trash lessens some of its majesty at this locale. When residents of the Coney Island Houses go to the beach, they tend to walk a little east before setting up shop. The few pedestrians who follow the boardwalk as far down as these projects are often Russians who have taken a long walk west from their homes in Brighton Beach; occasionally, I’m told by some adults in the Coney Island Houses, the Russians’ walks involve fighting off mugging attempts from project kids. None of these young baseball players gives off any criminal vibe, however, and that’s probably not a coincidence. In fact, members of ◆ 29 ◆ 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ this group make it clear they play sports to counter interests in less savory activities. This thought process, which was mentioned by a couple of Anthony’s friends the other day, is very mature. One can only imagine how much more of a boost these kids could get toward sports and away from trouble once the Cyclones have the opportunity to improve community outreach. Geographical notes taken, it’s time to address the matter of professional baseball. The conundrum is that there’s a pro baseball team playing within walking distance of where these kids who love the sport live, and yet the same kids haven’t indicated an interest in seeing the Cyclones play. Eager to repeat and expand on my questioning from the other day, I engage Anthony, who’s sitting on the bench as his “team” takes its turn at bat, in a little Q and A. You told me the other day that you all love playing baseball, right? “Yeah, definitely,” says Anthony with an eager smile as his friends gather around, momentarily pausing the game. And are you all baseball fans as well? “What do you mean?” Anthony asks. You know. The Yankees, the Mets, watching games on TV? “Of course. I watch, like, every single Yankee game with my mom. Man, I love baseball.” So have you ever been to a Yankees or Mets game? “Nah.” No? Why not? “I think it’s, like, too far. Or it’s too hard to get tickets.” This is the answer of someone who was raised without the whimsy that extra money can provide, but also of someone who has been tragically cut off from the world at large. “Too far”?! No one who has ever been to these Houses and to the other projects around them would argue that they aren’t secluded from the city in a dismissive fashion. And, a ride from the Stillwell Avenue subway station to Yankee Stadium or Shea Stadium could take a good ninety minutes. But, still, we are talking about stadiums based in the same city that Anthony resides in, and yet he’s never been. ◆ 30 ◆ “HOME STANDS” Without the chance to really digest what he said, and from my own relatively spoiled perspective of attending fifteen to twenty Major League baseball games a year, I can only give Anthony a silent, quizzical look. To this, he says simply, “This is where we hang out. Every day.” Getting back to the original focus of this little interview session, the Brooklyn Cyclones, I tell Anthony and his head-nodding friends—twelveyear -old Anthony De...


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