Newcomer Omar Yapor and veteran Steve Feeley are finding the Saints & Sinners Softball League fulfilling for the same reasons.
Seven Catholic parishes in Manhattan fielded teams in the eight-team Saints & Sinners Softball League that played on Saturday afternoons on the Great Lawn in Central Park this spring.
“I was pleasantly surprised how fulfilling and satisfying it is to get out there and play with these people and be part of the league,” the 43-year-old Yapor, who is in his first season with St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, told CNY.
“The people in the league are nice, amazing and funny. You’re playing in Central Park in the best city in the world, the best park in the world.”
Feeley, 59, who first joined the league in 2001, is a member of St. Ignatius Loyola.
“I enjoy the people I play with and against,” he said. “It’s a nice way to enjoy the spring season in a great place. You can’t beat playing on the Great Lawn. Afterwards, just hanging out and socializing—I’ve enjoyed it. It’s given me my fix on the competition side, and it’s expanded my network and social contacts from the people I’ve gotten to meet on my team and other teams.”
Saints & Sinners, a co-ed slow-pitch league, began in 1999. This spring, eight teams played on two fields on Saturday afternoons in Central Park. The league has a spring season from April to June and a summer season in July and August.
Ten players compete per team on the field—pitcher, catcher, four infielders and four outfielders. At least three women per team must be in the lineup and on the field at all times. Pitches are delivered with an arc of six to 12 feet off the ground.
The league champion receives a trophy to keep until a new champion is crowned and a cash prize from a sponsor—Trinity Pub in Manhattan—to be donated to a Catholic charity of the team’s choice.
“We’re a big family,” said Dan Gartner, a league co-commissioner for four years and a member of All Souls, a Unitarian church, since 2010. “It’s really friendly and it’s what a lot of people like about (the league).
“It’s been fun to watch relationships develop over the years. When you’re out there, you’re making friends.”
St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral was a new team in the spring league this year. Yapor first learned of the parish starting a team at a Sunday night Mass.
“Our record is horrible,” Yapor said. “Members from other teams are encouraging us. They’re very encouraging to keep at it and develop the team.”
“The league is competitive but also forgiving in the sense that it’s a new team. We have players from varied backgrounds. We have a cricket player and at first he couldn't get the whole baseball thing. Now he’s acclimated, and he’s a great outfielder.”
Feeley has two younger siblings and had the opportunity at one time to compete on St. Ignatius Loyola with his brother, Brian, and his sister, Susan.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “The age difference was such that we never really had the chance to play together. This gave us the unique chance to play together.”
Cassandra Martin, 25, grew up in Warwick and now lives in the Bronx where she’s a fourth-grade math teacher at P.S. 76. She heard of the Saints & Sinners from a colleague at the school and decided to join.
“I love it. I’m so glad I joined,” she said. “I love the people. They’re all awesome, friendly, welcoming and they always invite me out after the games.
“That’s why I joined—to meet people, get out of my apartment, be active and also be in Central Park on a beautiful day playing softball.”
Ms. Martin said players in the league are helping her become accustomed to life in New York City. “A lot of them are from the city and are able to give me advice,” she said. “They’ve helped me out here. I’m really grateful for them.”
The summer season is just beginning for Saints & Sinners. Gartner, who remembers when the league fielded 12 teams, is hopeful the league will be able to add teams soon. “We hope to keep this league going for another 20 years,” he said.
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