Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"With Yanks in the Bronx, home teams hit the road" Metro NY 4/3/7

With Yanks in the Bronx, home teams hit the road

by patrick arden / metro new york
APR 3, 2007

SOUTH BRONX. Hideki Matsui went down swinging to end the fifth inning of the Yankees’ opener yesterday against the Devil Rays. Four blocks away Brother Jim Hamilton was plotting strategy on his cell phone, herding junior varsity baseball players onto a bus parked in front of All Hallows High School.

All Hallows occupies a four-story brown brick building at Walton Avenue and 164th Street, near Grand Concourse. A banner in front proclaims it “One of the Top Fifty Catholic High Schools in the U.S.” The 590-student school had always used the track and athletic fields at Macombs Dam Park, before the Yankees began to build a new stadium there. Now it has to drive teams 20 minutes or more to play “home” games at another city park.

“With the new stadium going up, we lost our fields — they’re gone — and we’re still waiting for the fields that were supposed to be in place before the stadium broke ground,” said Hamilton.

He couldn’t say how many of the neighborhood’s 18 other schools also relied on the park, but he had noticed “lots of schools” still use the two remaining public fields next to the stadium. Those baseball fields — as well as the adjacent basketball and handball courts — will soon be gone to make way for an underground parking garage.

On Opening Day, Hamilton looked on the bright side: “We wouldn’t have been able to practice today anyhow, because the baseball field was always turned into a parking lot for the big games.”

All Hallows Principal Sean Sullivan said his day “began with an argument,” when police blocked off 164th to traffic and wouldn’t allow faculty in. The school has “zero” relationship with the Yankees, Sullivan said, and the Parks Dept. hasn’t been helpful in locating new athletic fields. The current strategy of putting the soccer, track and baseball teams on buses and “searching for a field” has become too expensive.

“We’re a small little school — there’s not too much money around here — and we have to pour money into the buses every time we take the teams out,” he said. “We’re a bunch of gypsies running around the city looking for a field.”

Parks Dept. spokesman Warner Johnston explained an interim track and field have been delayed by weather — the final layer of the track’s artificial surface can be applied only when temperatures climb above 55 degrees for a full week. “We are aiming to have it open by the end of the month,” he said.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” scoffed Sullivan.

Field day

All Hallows High School Principal Sean Sullivan brought members of the track team to a city ceremony in December to mark the groundbreaking for an interim track and athletic field on 161st Street. The students complained to Metro about the unorthodox configuration of the track. “You’d have to have a great imagination to put a track in there,” Sullivan said. But the facility will still bring relief to the school’s teams.


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