Sunlight pours through the fresh budding leaves and the dull boom of the 32-ounce Gatorade bottle cuts through the chirping of the birds. The main viewing area is a hefty picnic table plastered with graffiti about five feet from the driveway, or outfield as it is rightly called on a day like today.
The Recycaball field is loaded, as are the bleachers, with all types of characters; sun-bathing girls glaring over glasses and shirtless bystanders baiting on the batter. The umpire sits in a leather lounge chair relaxed but exact, ready to quell any disputes among the games’ restless young players.
“I always like to say it’s not your average backyard sport. It’s extreme yet resourceful,” third-year Recycaball MVP Luke DiCola said.
The game’s name was coined by former New Paltz student Sam Lachow, who also serves as designated commissioner for Recycaball. While visiting New Paltz on the weekend of February 4, Lachow blasted the first bottle. As one of the few non-student players, he has watched the game develop with each visit.
“At first I had no idea this would become a game, I just loved cracking the bottle,” Lachow said. “But it was really all luck, the field is perfect and allows you to hit as hard as you can. Recycaball couldn’t be played anywhere else.”
Three-man teams face off in this baseball takeoff. A foam bat is used to batter a Gatorade bottle across the 75-yard field which encompasses the majority of 22 South Oakwood Terrace’s property. All obstacles — a 20 foot piece of PVC pipe, the raised driveway and tool shed — make for some seriously technical base running.
The field must be diligently guarded despite its miniature status. One man roams the outfield waiting for a pop fly, or the coveted home run, which is any direct hit to Apartment B1. “Ball” handling is key and the bottle’s awkward shape can prove to be an obstacle. However seasoned players have come to understand its ways.
In the end, Recycaball is about mastering specific skills and specific terrain never before honed in the realm of amateur sports.
“It takes basic baseball skills and the team who makes the least mistakes usually wins,” Captain Taylor Yedvarb said. “If I was to pick a team to take home the championship it would of course be my team, Midnight Thunder, but the Cool Blues are 2-0 and looking good.”
After two at-bats, shifting foul lines and replacement bases, the game finally started to find its momentum by late April. The seven teams have been competing since the league’s development in mid-March, sporting names like “Berry Rain,” and “Riptide Rush,” tributes to different flavors of Gatorade. The rules have yet to fill a book, but everyday the league gets closer to perfecting their guidelines.
Neighbors and pedestrian traffic attest to Recycaball’s spirit and so can the New Paltz police who recently responded to a late night game noise complaint.
“We explained all the rules to them,” DiCola said. “They said it sounded fun, and if they were off duty they might have taken a crack at it. But 12 a.m. was a little too late to be playing I guess.”
On April 29, the landlord of 22 South Oakwood Terrace put an end to the Recycaball league due to the commotion and unwanted neighborhood publicity. The grass on the baselines is now beginning to grow back, and the umpire’s chair has found its way back inside.
With the closing of the field comes to an end to this unique sport, and crushed dreams for these one-of-a-kind athletes.
“In a day and age when young people are inclined to sit inside and just watch T.V., it’s sad to see there’s no room for an original game that kept us active all day and was such a good time” Cool Blue Coach Ethan Kramer said.
For more information on the game and its pioneers, search “Recycaball” on Facebook or visit recycaball.webs.com.