Beginning this weekend, a clear indicator of spring’s approach will appear at Van Vorhees Park on the Brooklyn Heights waterfront: the Brooklyn Heights Athletic Club opens their 20th season of adult co-ed softball play. Appealing to adults distracted by the many complications of urban living, for a mere $120 the BHAC offers local players a respite from the New York City rat race by appealing to their desires for competition and camaraderie.
According to Tony Lacitignola, who has presided over BHAC softball for its entire existence, prospective players are invited to participate in a one day “spring training” that is essential to the spirit of BHAC play. The tryout begins promptly at 10 a.m. on Sunday at Van Vorhees, an Astroturf field located at Columbia Street and Atlantic Avenue. “The Commish”—as Lacitignola is fondly known—scouts all players who appear for this session, evaluating how best to construct as many as six teams in preparation for league play the following weekend.
Critical to the BHAC’s popularity is parity created by Lacitignola’s machinations. The Commish seeks an even balance of player skills so that not only will almost all teams qualify for the BHAC playoffs, but also that a spirit of friendly competition pervades throughout. A co-ed league, female players are required to hit every fourth batter, and Lacitignola believes this insistence on consistent participation by the fairer sex has resulted in women players whose skills are equal to—and in many instances, superior to—their male counterparts.
“Women players get as much chance as men” to succeed, said Lacitignola, who cited “sensational” women who have played in past BHAC seasons.
Play is designed to be even—no BHAC team has ever gone through a season either winless or undefeated—as the league’s fair and balanced approached to crafting teams results in highly competitive play. The upshot is that the league’s two most important games—the BHAC semifinal and final playoff games—are almost always evenly contested, with third and fourth qualifiers regularly swooping in to capture the league title.
Key to BHAC success is the ironclad principle that “everybody plays, everybody bats,” said Lacitignola. There are rarely forfeits in the league’s weekly Sunday doubleheaders, as rain and player shortages are dealt with through stoicism and by swapping players as needed. “For anyone who wants to play [softball] it’s a great place to go,” added The Commish, formerly an active participant forced to the bench by injury.
Most important to BHAC softball are not wins and losses or hits and strikeouts: it’s the friendships developed among Brooklynites who enjoy the game and their teammates. According to its website, the BHAC “is a league where life time friendships are formed. We’ve had marriages, our players have had children—in fact parents and children are now actively playing and competing together.”
Don’t be fooled by the spirit of friendship that pervades league play; the BHAC is as competitive as any co-ed league in the city. In fact, 199y saw Lacitignola’s charges enter and unexpectedly win the Randall’s Island Tournament of Champions, featuring top squads from all over the city.
After Sunday’s training day the BHAC nine-week season will officially begin on March 23 with games at 9 a.m. 10:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Players interested in joining can visit the BHAC website or contact Commissioner Lacitignola at 917-714-5966.