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Dominican Stickball Tournament Will Return to The Bronx on Sunday

By Eddie Small | September 16, 2016 4:22pm | Updated on September 18, 2016 3:19pm
 Red Bull's Vitilla tournament will return to the South Bronx on Sept. 18 at Macombs Dam Park.
Red Bull's Vitilla tournament will return to the South Bronx on Sept. 18 at Macombs Dam Park.
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Rob Tringali/Red Bull Content Pool

CONCOURSE — The Dominican stickball game Vitilla will return to the South Bronx this weekend for an even bigger tournament than last year's.

The tournament, hosted by Red Bull, will again be held at the Joseph Yancey Track and Field in Macombs Dam Park on Sept. 18 starting at 10 a.m., but this time it will feature 20 teams instead of 16.

"We have four more people that want to participate, and last year we didn’t have enough spots," said Adalberto Garcia, a Vitilla expert who is helping to organize the tournament, "so we decided to add four other spaces for more people to get involved."

Competitors will include the Team Giants, last year's champions from the expert league, and the Betayah Bombers, last year's champions from the amateur league, he said.

Vitilla is a popular form of stickball in the Dominican Republic played with a broomstick and a plastic bottle cap that was started in the 1970s by athletes who could not afford real baseball equipment, according to Garcia.

The ability of the bottle cap to curve, dip, rise and slide makes Vitilla a particularly difficult sport to master, and Major League Baseball players including Robinson Cano and Jose Bautista grew up playing the game, Garcia said.

Differences between Vitilla and baseball include the fact that there are two bases instead of four and that there are no walks. Rather, pitchers continue to pitch until they throw a strike or until the batter gets a hit.

Carlos Baez, 35, will captain a team from Boston at the Vitilla tournament and said he played the game growing up in the Dominican Republic.

He said he is good friends with David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox and plays the game with them every chance he gets, but they will be too busy playing the Yankees during the Vitilla tournament to help out his team.

"It’s very competitive," Baez said of Vitilla. "It’s extremely difficult to play, so it’s just a good feeling when you succeed."