NEW YORK - When one thinks of baseball in the Bronx, the Yankees of course come to mind… but NY Sluggers is focused on developing the stars of the future.
"NY sluggers is about opportunity," says Eladio Rodriguez, who is the founder and president of NY Sluggers as well as a coach. "I get a lot of kids from the street--and it’s about the opportunity to play baseball, I only want them doing good in school and the rest--we will help the kid to have a different life."
Eladio who was a professional catcher for 14 years spending time in both the Red Sox and Yankees organizations adds it was his dream to open a place to develop young ball players after his retirement.
"This community is hungry," says parent Rafael Ulloa. "This is a Spanish community -- as you know Dominican -- we breathe, eat, sleep, and sleep baseball. So all of our kids this is what they see and this is what they wanna do in the future."
Established in 2011, NY Sluggers serves as both an academy and training facility for baseball and softball players ages 7-16. The outside of the brick building where NY Sluggers is discrete -- one would never know it's a space where hundreds of kids from all over the 5 boroughs come to hone the fundamentals -- if it weren't for the small sign on the front door.
"I think it's great," says 5th-grade utility player Emmett Ulloa who has been training at NY Sluggers for just two months daily from 7-10 pm and has already noticed improvement. "The training is tough and I like that."
Ball players in warmer regions are often seen as having a competitive advantage because they can train all year round – but practices are never canceled to due the elements with a facility like NY Sluggers.
"To me, it's one of the best facilities I’ve ever seen," says parent Edward Garcia. "I played baseball my entire life here in the Bronx and I played at John Jay college, but when I got to see his place -- it was like 'oh my God,' this is like a dream come true for any baseball player -- especially a youth player that wants to learn."
"When we go to any tournament... they’re gonna compete," adds pitching coach Ricardo Rodriguez who pitched for the Rangers and the Indians. "They're prepared to compete with any team."
Sluggers NYC also boosts of coaches with Big League playing experience.
"It’s a great outlet for these kids. it’s a great resource to come down and get better," says hitting coach Roberto Bravo. "We have a great staff here -- fully experienced all the way to the major league level so I know the knowledge we provide to these kids is impeccable."
And no child who is ready to put in the work is turned away.
"Sluggers are welcoming," says volunteer and parent Jessica Morales. "They do charge for their services. The families that are able to pay -- can pay, but there are many, many families that aren't able to pay. They want to get their kids off the street, they may work long hours and they need someplace so their children can learn other skills and be a part of a community and they may not have the finances to pay for something like this. So Sluggers does a wonderful job of subsidizing a lot of fees, whether it's fees for uniforms, the fees to play for the season, travel baseball... they do not turn away anyone. If you wanna play baseball, you're committed -- they are accepting."
"The environment, the coaches... we work so hard to here," adds 5th-grade catcher Edward Garcia. "It’s just a great place to get better and make friends."
There will be 11 academy teams representing NY sluggers set to compete this spring. For more info, check out nycsluggers.com.
Give the gift of Baseball in the South Bronx: