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Red Hook's "Field of Dreams" Moment

FAHIMA DEGIA, HOST 1: Red Hook Brooklyn is going through a bit of its own Field of Dreams “build it and he will come” moment… A group of community members has started a Sunday morning baseball clinic in hopes of getting neighborhood kids to come out and play ball on their own fields. 

KLARA BAUTERS, HOST 2: With the help of some sponsors, the Red Hook Baseball Champions hosted their inaugural training session for local youth this past Sunday – and as Desiree Nikfardjam reports it’s going to continue. 

(SOUNDBITE: “What hand do you throw with…?”)

DESIREE NIKFARDJAM, BYLINE: The Sunday morning quiet is about to be disrupted. 

(SOUNDBITE: “We’ve got bats and baseballs…”)

NIKFARDJAM: On the northeast corner of the newly refurbished fields – a group of kids – ages three to eight – are picking out baseball gloves. 

(SOUNDBITE: “Where is mine…”)

NIKFARDJAM: For most of them, this is their first time trying on a glove. Jonathan Landreth is their coach, and once they are sorted, he gets them on the field to warm up. 

(SOUNDBITE: “Let’s go…come with me, come with me.”)

NIKFARDJAM: Landreth lives nearby in Windsor Terrace. 

JONATHAN LANDRETH: My league frequently comes to play on these fields, and we noticed there were no kids from the neighborhood playing on these fields.

NIKFARDJAM: Landreth looked for someone who might know the score. And he found Imre Kovacs – a neighborhood booster. Kovacs is in his 80s and has lived in Red Hook for 16 years…. He’d also noticed that local kids weren’t using the fields – and he’d seen how a little league team in his nephew’s town in New Jersey brought the community together.

IMRE KOVACS: Looking at the stands in little league games. You see what it does to the people from the town. They go nuts. I said this place needs to go nuts! 

NIKFARDJAM: Landreth and Kovacs teamed up – and recruited a Park Slope youth league, 78 Youth Sports – which donated bats and baseballs. 

LANDRETH: Some kids said “I like football better.” Some kids have never watched baseball. Some kids love baseball, and clearly have a talent for baseball. Everyone here is welcome.

NIKFARDJAM: But before the kids start playing – they need to warm up.


NIKFARDJAM: Red Hook has the largest public housing development in Brooklyn…and it’s far from any subway. The area around the fields is pretty industrial with an Ikea and an Amazon warehouse right around the corner. 

KOVACS: Amazon comes in again and ptth…stuff that happens here, this is sort of a dead end spot for the city.

NIKFARDJAM: Most of the kids are shy at first – usually looking over to their parents on the sideline for reassurance from time to time. Vijay Iyer lives in Red Hook. He’s watching his 5-year-old son.

VIJAY IYER: There he goes look at that. He has good hand-eye coordination.

NIKFARDJAM: His son’s tossing a ball back and forth. 

IYER: I’m just interested in having him do sports generally so and he's been interested in doing baseball, so this is nice. 

NIKFARDJAM: Iyer says he’s happy the kids are getting a chance to use their own field. 

IYER: “It’s also great to invest in the Red Hook neighborhood. I think that that’s something that, you know, they closed the library because they’re renovating it. We don’t have that here its just harder to get investment in this neighborhood”

NIKFARDJAM: And if the kids end up liking the game – maybe they’ll continue.

LANDRETH: Some kids said I like football better. Some kids have never watched baseball. Some kids love baseball, and clearly have a talent for baseball. Everyone here is welcome.


NIKFARDJAM: Around 11 AM – older kids start to take the field, the young ones get together for a photo. One of the adults is handing out flyers for a summer camp – it has a QR code on it. Iyer’s son Rahm is eager to get one!

RAHM: It’s a minecraft maze!

NIKFARDJAM: But before letting the little ones go Landreth – the coach – gives the rookiest rookies a helpful tip to break-in their gloves. 

LANDRETH: At night when you go home…Take this glove and this ball…and you sleep on it….and put it under your mattress and sleep on it. 

(SOUNDBITE: “Do you think you’ll sleep on the glove…?”)

NIKFARDJAM: It’s unclear how many will make it to the Majors, but for the next few Sundays they may learn to love the game.

(SOUNDBITE: “Baseball!”)

NIKFARDJAM: Desiree Nikfardjam Columbia Radio News.


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