Chapter 5: The spectators
The Central Park Softball Leagues – A BLOG SERIES BY ALEC RILL
Locals and tourists watching the games
Florian and his family were visiting New York City. They came from a small town in Germany. He had been here before and brought the children this time to show them the city—not just the touristy places, but to see how real New Yorkers live and enjoy their summer. They visited the Empire State building, 5th Avenue, and the Statue of Liberty.
Florian is a sports marketing executive in Nuremberg who loves sports and was drawn to the games because he could be so close to the players that he could see the action, reactions, and interactions between the players, their families, the spectators, their friends, and the various tourists and passersby.
He saw the scene as a genuine microcosm of how people in New York live and play, so close that he felt the energy of the city through the people in the park. He told his children that the scene represented, in his view, the essence of New York: the diversity and camaraderie of everybody who gathered to play the game they love.
They spent several hours watching the games, no shopping, no going on a boat around Manhattan, not 42nd street. This was New York at its best, and they will remember this scene for many years.
Florian and sons – German tourists
Rebecca and Mathew live in Manhattan and have demanding jobs. Since the pandemic, they work from home. Rebecca works in fashion, and Mathew is a personal financial consultant. They follow the Big Apple league that plays on Sundays.
They don’t know anybody in the Sunday league; they don’t know anybody in any league. They started going to the park during lockdown because they needed to go out and get some fresh air. They didn’t know—and nobody knew then—how dangerous or not it was to go to the park at the height of the pandemic, but they were desperate to be outside, so they went and were careful.
For an entire year, the first year of the pandemic, there were no softball games at the park. When the games finally started, it was mandatory for the players to wear masks, even when they were running around the bases or pitching.
Rebecca and Mathew were delighted that they could go out to the park on Sundays, and they fell in love with the game. It was the only league they knew, and they kept following them religiously every Sunday. This is where they found solace during the pandemic. Watching the games made them feel safe, and the feeling persist today when they watch a game.
Rebecca and Mathew watching their team
Here are some other spectators, showing the diversity and inclusiveness of the park’s ecosystem: