A good game of catch requires a few things: warm weather, at least two people, a ball, and an uninterrupted stretch of field. But not all fields are equal. Read on for five of our favorites. By Jessica Allen.
All told, Central Park has 26 baseball and softball fields, and you need a permit to host a game. But you can throw a ball around any time, assuming you have enough space, of course. Playing catch, Hacky Sack, or Frisbee in sight of some very tall buildings, as you can do on the 15-acre Sheep Meadow, makes for a fun, albeit slightly surreal time. And although the area was designed for military parades, from 1864 until 1934 actual sheep did indeed roam the grass.
What was once the world’s largest landfill is being reclaimed and re-purposed as park land, an ambitious project that will likely take at least 30 years. At three times the size of Central Park, Freshkills Park will be huge, so you’ll eventually be able to play catch with abandon. In the meantime, parts of this Staten Island park have opened (by reservation and organized tour), offering tremendous views of Manhattan and plenty of space to go long, very, very long.
Stretching for about a mile along the western edge of Prospect Park, Long Meadow really lives up to its name. The seven ball fields host both scheduled games and pick-up games, which means you’re likely to always find someone around to toss the ball with. Or you can just run around the large lawn, scampering up the tree-covered embankments, dodging kite flyers, sunbathers, medieval re-eanctors, dog walkers, bird watchers, and strollers as you go.
How about throwing a ball where Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio once ran, slid, and homered? Heritage Field is one of several parks that were created or refurbished when the Yankees tore down their stadium and built a new one immediately next door. In addition to the regulation Kentucky Bluegrass and sod used by the nearby MLB players, the ballfields here boast a 12-ton lump of the old stadium’s frieze, a 130-foot-high, baseball bat-shaped chimney, and paving stones with key dates in Yankees history.
Of course it’s fun to play catch on the Red Hook Ball Fields. But the best part comes after the gloves have been put away, when you’re faced with an all-important choice: should you swim or eat first? Starting on April 28, vendors sell all kinds of Latin American snacks, from pupusas to empanadas to arepas, near the fields. Across the way, the Red Hook Recreation Center has one of the city’s largest pools; it opens for the season toward the end of June. Until then, the choice is easy: play ball, then gobble up.