If the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton then it could certainly be said that any number of corporate squabbles, neighborhood rivalries and personal grudge matches have been settled on the ball fields of Central Park. Maybe it is the state-of-the-art-fields themselves that draw thousands every year to hear the crack of the bat and feel the “thrill of the grass”. Or maybe it is the nearby promise of dozens of Manhattan’s best pubs and cafes in which to kick back and celebrate (or commiserate on) the afternoon’s competition.
The creation of Central Park coincided with a boom in sports in general and baseball in particular. Because of this fact the majority of post Civil War ball clubs were populated by citizens possessed of (Gasp!) somewhat less than the best pedigree. So the park commissioners came to the peculiar conclusion that since the park could not accommodate all the local ball clubs on its new fields they would make it unavailable to everyone. Except local schoolboys that were able to produce a note from their teacher. (Really.)
In any case the park now boasts 26 ball fields in total which are all open to the general public. The only requirement now is that the note from your teacher has been replaced by obtaining a permit.
Where: Great Lawn: eight ball fields, restored in 1997; North Meadow: seven baseball and five softball fields, restored in 2000; Heckscher Ball fields: six ball fields
When: Permits for baseball and softball are issued from mid-April through mid-September. Opening and closing days will be posted.
CentralParkSoftball.com Link to site that gives information on forming teams and joining leagues.
Permit Requirements : NYC Department of Parks/Recreation issues permits to league, teams, and other groups, to reserve specific athletic fields at specific times. Athletic permits cost $8 per session. Permits are free for applicants who are supervising a league composed of players under 18. The public can obtain athletic field permits for a session on one of the fields by submitting a permit application to the permit office at the Borough Office (16 West 61st Street). For additional information, or to request a permit application you can call the Permit Office at (212) 408-0209. Anyone wishing to join or set up a league should also call or stop by the office.
To mail in an application send it to:
Re: Ball field Permits
Arsenal West – 5th Floor
24 West 61st Street
New York, N.Y.10023
FYI : Please remember that a red flag posted on a ball field means that the field is closed. Red flags are posted when lawns are closed for maintenance or adverse weather conditions. For field conditions, call 212-628-1036; for Heckscher, ext. 807; the Great Lawn, ext. 806; and the North Meadow, ext. 808.