Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

The Clasico De Vitilla: A stickball-style tournament that just might be harder than baseball

The Yankees were visiting the Mets in Queens on Sunday, but there was an intense competition taking place right next to Yankee Stadium: The Red Bull Clasico De Vitilla, a "street baseball"/stickball tournament featuring eight amateur teams and eight experienced. And it's a game that might just be harder than baseball. 

But first, what is Vitilla? Adalberto Garcia, who's worked on bringing Vitilla to the U.S. since 2008 and helped organize the Clasico, explained the game:

"This is a game that started in the Dominican Republic. Kids in the Dominican Republic invented this game -- they didn't have the resources to buy a regular bat and a ball, so they started using this. This used to be the cap for the five-gallon water jugs in the '70s. So, they started using these caps to play baseball."

Vitilla doesn't look exactly like baseball: There are only two bases, plus home plate, and teams consist of a pitcher, catcher and two fielders populating a triangular field. Bats look more like broomsticks than baseball bats, and instead of a ball, there is the eponymous bottle cap.


But the skills are pretty much the same: You still have to hit, pitch and field.


"What happened, this game started developing [players], and these kids then jump from Vitilla to baseball, and they find out when they go to baseball they are very, very good because they're already developed. … It develops your ability to hit, your ability to pitch and your ability to field, because once the Vitilla hits the ground, you don't know where it's going to go," Garcia said.

Basically, Vitilla takes a level of coordination that makes baseball seem quaint: "If you are able to hit a Vitilla with those sticks, you will hit [a ball] like nothing," Garcia said.

Pitching is no easy feat, either. There are no walks, and to throw a strike you either have to get a batter to swing, or hit a target like this positioned behind the batter:


So, at-bats can go on for a while.


But when players do get hits, and eventually runs, it is really exciting:


The 16 teams that began the Clasico De Vitilla came down to two champions: The amateur Beteyah Bombers and the experienced Team Giants. But what if MLB players got in on the action? It's no surprise many MLBers grew up playing Vitilla and still do, according to Garcia, who says that for many, it's the secret of their success. But Garcia says there is one player he believes would outshine all the rest as MLB's top Vitilla player: Robinson Cano.

Watch the video above for more of the Clasico De Vitilla, and the clip below to see the MLB Tonight crew try their hand at it. And start practicing your hand-eye coordination.