In what has become an annual event, the Van Cortlandt Baseball League hosted a daylong tournament against teams from the Antonio Concepción Baseball League, whose young players hail from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
This is the fourth year the tournament has been held, according to Van Cortlandt Little League president Johnny Arias. The first two years, the VCBL teams travelled to the Dominican Republic. But since then, the boys from Santo Domingo began visiting the Bronx.
This years games were held at Van Cortlandt Park on Saturday.
“These are friendly games,” said Arias, noting that the VCBL players now travel to Santo Domingo in the spring and host the Dominican teams in the summer.
Arias believes that the trips benefit the local players in ways far beyond the baseball diamond.
“I got of a lot of kids with parents from the Dominican Republic who have never been there themselves,” he said. “Bringing kids to the Dominican Republic introduces them to the culture baseball has created there, and it lets the kids from the Dominican Republic to see how we play baseball as well.”
The VCBL has been in existence for about 10 years, said Arias, a native of the Dominican Republic. The league currently has about 400 players and the vast majority of them live in the Bronx. The league plays its games from May through August. It also has a fall league as well as a baseball camp in April.
In this summer’s matchups, the locals were defeated by the Antonio Concepción League in two of the three games. The Dominican boys beat the VCBL 8-6 in the 10-years-old and under division and blanked the 12-years-old and under team 10-0.
However, in the third and longest game of the day, the Van Cortlandt Dodgers, the VCBL’s 15-years-old and under team prevailed 14-8.
Dodging a sweep
Concepción’s team was up first and scored a run. A single, plus a series of walks led to the bases loaded with 1 out. Estiven Lantigua of the Dominican Republic got a base hit, allowing Joan Cavaballo to score from third. The runner on second tried to score, but was caught between third and home and eventually tagged out. Although the runners on first and second advanced to second and third, the top of the inning was ended by a clutch strikeout out by VCBL pitcher Edwin Rodriguez.
The locals struck back in their half of the inning, when leadoff hitter Joaquin Morel walked and promptly stole second. John Rondon then smacked the ball into right field for an RBI-double. Rondon then stole third. A walk and another steal put runners on second and third.
Edwin Rodriguez followed with a double to bring in Rondon. Enmanuel Rodriguez’s base hit scored another run.
Another walk again loaded the bases. And when Edwin Veras was beaned by the pitcher, the locals racked up their fourth run of the inning. Steven Santana’s single ended the very satisfying inning for the Bronx boys.
The Dominicans responded in the second inning with Cavaballo’s second hit of the game, a double with two men on base. With 2 outs and runners on first and second, Cavaballo hit a double and eventually advance to third on a throwing error. Concepción tacked on 2 more runs, by Felix Taveraz and Rolando Martinez, before the final out at first base.
The Dodgers got a single and a walk in their half of the second. Both runners then stole bases, putting them on third and second. On a foul tip, Edwin Rodriguez was called out at first, after a foul tip, but Rondon, sprinted home from third and Lebron advanced to third. Lebron came home on a throwing error.
Rodriguez walked and then was taken out for pitch-runner Edwin. He stole second and then came home on a base hit by Angel Cabret for the final run of the inning. The Dodgers led 8-5.
Neither team scored until the fourth inning, when the Concepción team tied the score on a triple to centerfield by Wilmer Thomas.
Jose Cabrera came in to relieve Rodriguez on the mound for the VCBL.
In the bottom of the fourth, Rondon walked, and stole second and ultimately scored on a throwing error. The locals scored again, when Edwin hit a double, stole third and was brought in on a base hit by Enmanuel. Marvin Garcia came in to run for Enmanuel, stole third, and on a passed ball, ran home to make the score 11-8, Dodgers.
The Dominican team was unable to rally, while the Dodgers scored an additional 3 runs in the fifth inning, as Rondon’s hit scored both Rikifel Cedeno and Morel. Lebron then hit a double and came in on a base hit by Edwin, making the score 14-8.
The score went unchanged through the rest of the game, as Dodgers’ reliever Cabrera tallied 5 strikeouts by the end of the game.
After the game, the presidents of both leagues said they were happy with the tournament.
“Every year they want to come,” said Concepción, who said he sees baseball as a possible future for the boys in his league. “Sometimes, players have to be left behind due to financial restraints, as each player pays for his own trip.”
Though his teams lost two of the three games, Arias happily awarded medals to the visiting players after the games, commending them on their performance.
“Remember me when you’re in the Major Leagues,” he beseeched them, “so you can get me tickets.”