Monday, February 8, 2016

On summer’s playgrounds everyone wins

By Felix Holoszyc-Pimentel and Raphael Sugarman
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Keith Scally, center back for Westmeath, chases Adrian Wynne, half forward for St. Barnabas in a Gaelic Football Championship game on Aug. 11.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Raymond Rivera, 14, John Jaquez, 14, and Emmanuel Bisono, 14, shoot some hoops at Bailey Playground on Aug. 11.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Rifat Hadbbeth, 14, Jose Pantoja, 11, and Kenneth Espinal, 15, above, shoot some hoops at Bailey Playground on Aug. 11.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Robert Castillo, Jr., 14, and Brian Carmona, 9, play touch football at Van Cortlandt Park on Aug. 11.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Alfred Merini returns the serve in a game of racquetball with Cesar Benitez, Tony Martin and Carlos Rivera at the handball courts at Van Cortlandt Park on Aug. 11

Robert Castillo slipped out of a family wedding so he could play a game of pickup football with his son, a nephew and a stranger at Van Cortlandt Park. 

It’s not that Castillo wasn’t enjoying the nuptials, or the precious time spent with his other relatives.

But the wedding was in mid-August, as the languid days of summer were beginning to dwindle. How could any respectable dad not seize an opportunity to rumble on the grass with a 14-year-old son who carries his name, and his 7-year-old nephew?

“It’s exciting, it brings out the kid in me,” said Castillo, 44. “I like being out there with these kids and know that I can hold my own.”

The Castillos are not the only Bronxites clinging to the final weeks of summer, relishing every chance to get outside to compete in their favorite sport, or just get some exercise. 

On a recent Sunday afternoon of tempered warmth and dankness, The Press visited several neighborhood parks and playgrounds to watch some locals at play. 

At the courts on Bailey Avenue, there was a group of kids playing basketball. There were about eight or 10 players on the court, another three kids sitting on the sideline and four more shooting at an adjacent hoop. All of the players seemed acquainted.

Carlos Villa, 14, said he focused on football growing up, but started playing hoops on these courts last year because he wanted to improve his “speed and hops.” Though Villa said that football is likely to remain his primary sport, he has developed a real connection to basketball and the Bailey Avenue courts. 

“It’s a good place to chill with my friends,” he said. 

Allan Martes, 16, was one of the stronger players on the court.  He’s always had a love for basketball, and he especially likes playing local pickup games. 

“When I play with people I don’t know, it’s about winning,” Martes said, “Here, we’re about having fun.”  

Eddie Rodriguez said that on most weekends, a devoted group comes to play paddleball on the courts at Van Cortlandt Park. 

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