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Yankee Stadium a Field of Dreams for NYC and Chicago High School All-Stars

By Dylan Butler | July 1, 2013 9:06pm
 Some of the best public high school baseball players in Chicago and NYC played in a first annual all-star game at Yankee Stadium.
New York City vs. Chicago All-Star Baseball
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BRONX — As a standout at Morgan Park, Johnny Stevenson has played at U.S. Cellular Field as well as Target Field in Minnesota.

But as he stood in the visitor’s dugout and took one more glance around, he realized Yankee Stadium was on another level.

“This is definitely the best one,” Stevenson said.

As part of a group of Chicago public school all-stars, the Claflin University-bound catcher capped a stellar high school career with a 9-0 victory over New York City public school standouts in the first annual all-star game between the cities Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Organizers are hoping to make this an annual event, with the game alternating between the cities. That means next year’s game is likely to be played at Wrigley Field.

“They got it this time, but next year we’re going out there and taking it at their home field,” said Kely Aponte, a junior left fielder at Beach Channel HS in Queens.

It was also Aponte’s first time inside Yankee Stadium, a special treat for the native of the Dominican Republic.

“It was a good experience,” he said. “Not a lot of players get this opportunity to play in Yankee Stadium. My family was very happy for me to get this opportunity. …I would love to do this every day.”

Marshawn Taylor, who helped guide Simeon to the Chicago Public League title, has also played at U.S. Cellular, home of the White Sox, and Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

“Yankee Stadium is sweet,” the Eastern Illinois University-bound shortstop said. “I like the dirt on this field. The White Sox field is way harder, but Yankee Stadium is nice. I want to play on it again one day.”

Taylor and his teammates almost never got that once-in-a-lifetime chance. A drenching downpour an hour before the scheduled 11 a.m. start postponed the game nearly two hours.

And with a 5 p.m. flight back to Chicago, there was very little wiggle room for the team, which took in a Mets game and had dinner with their New York City opponents at an Italian restaurant in Queens Sunday.

“I was definitely worried,” Stevenson said. “I was probably more sad than anything because I thought we wouldn’t be able to play on the field. But we just stuck it out and it was definitely worth the wait.”

The Chicago all-stars jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a single to left by Young’s Torrence Summerlin and a double by Stevenson, who added an RBI single in a six-run third inning. Jeremiah Figueroa from Clemente and Morgan Park’s Reggie Rogers both drove in two runs in the third.

“I just stepped into the batters box and felt it was a different world, we’re not in Yankee Stadium anymore,” Stevenson said. “We’re just playing on a ball field that looks a bit different. It was actually a little hard not to look at the big Jumbotron in center field.”

Chicago tacked on another run in the sixth inning on an error. That was more than enough offense for the stacked veteran pitching staff, which combined to toss a two-hit shutout.

“I’ve been to a couple of places, but never to New York,” Taylor said. “It was a great experience to play against a great team from New York public schools that are on the same path and journey we’re trying to get to.”

Despite the loss, playing at iconic Yankee Stadium was a dream come true for the New York City players, exclusively comprised of underclassmen. The Chicago team was a group of graduating seniors.

“It was incredible,” said Grand Street Campus junior pitcher Emanuel Castellano, who tossed a scoreless fourth inning. “It was a good experience. Coming out and playing a team from another state was wonderful.”

Castellano hopes to duplicate that next year in the Windy City.

“I would love to go over there and probably get the win over there,” Castellano said.