Photography: Alex Goodlett
This past Sunday, September 18th, 20 teams and over 100 players took to the field for Vitilla supremacy at the 2016 Red Bull Clasico de Vitilla. Vitilla is a street version of baseball that originated in the Dominican Republic. Similar to stick ball, Vitilla is played with a broomstick and a bottle cap on a triangular field with two bases.
Despite the slightly different equipment and field of play, the rules mirror baseball. Each team is allowed three outs per inning and takes turns at bat and in the field. On Sunday, after nearly eight hours of competition, The Manhattan Tigers walked away with the Red Bull Clasico de Vitilla 2016 victory and over $1,000 dollars.
“It’s amazing man, last year I came and lost in the finals, but this year we knew we weren’t going to let that happen again,” said Jeffery Puente, 2016 Clasico de Vitilla Winner and Home Run Champion. “We just worked hard, we had a good pitcher, and we did it.”
The competition was fierce, as pitchers flicked their wrists and sent the disc-like bottle caps dancing through opposing hitters’ strike zones. Vitilla may seem like a simple game, but try taking an at-bat and you might have a different perspective. Making contact with a vitilla, let alone putting a hit in play, is no easy feat.
“To hit the vitilla you have to be very concentrated,” said Aldaberto Garcia, Red Bull Clasico de Vitilla Event Organizer and Founder of Beteeyah Products. “You need to block out the crowd and just focus on the pitcher and the vitilla. That’s the only way you have a chance.”
To no surprise, playing vitilla is one of the best exercises for honing a baseball player’s hand-eye coordination. Many of professional baseballs’ greatest sluggers from the Dominican Republic have credited the game with helping them to develop their hitting prowess. Playing vitilla exposes hitters to a wide variety of breaks and off-speed pitches. After playing or training with vitilla, hitting curve balls, sliders, and sinkers becomes a lot easier.
Players were strictly business while on the field, but when the games ended, there was a strong sense of celebration and community.
“This event was fantastic…so much of the community came out, and it was a celebration,” Said Tyler Fluke, Red Bull Clasico de Vitilla 2016 Event Organizer and Managing Partner at Beteyah Products. “We had food, music, Red Bull, and competition… it was a beautiful day for the culture of the sport.”