If you love America’s sport, why not play (or watch) it as it was played when it first began? Now you can. Vintage Base Ball of Central Florida (VBBCF) is looking for players to join the team and welcomes anyone to come and watch.
Bill Pollifrone is the team captain for VBBCF’s Awkwards. In keeping with tradition, the team takes its name from a nearby team that played in the 1800s. The Awkwards played out of City Point, Florida, located just south of Titusville on the west bank of the Indian River. Other fun team names from the 1800s include Up and At Ems from Georgia and Whangdoddles from Hawaii.
Formed in 1996 by delegates from 13 amateur baseball clubs, the Vintage Base Ball Association (VBBA), of which VBBCF is a part, boasts approximately 200 teams across the country.
“The motto of the VBBCF is, ‘No stats, no stars, no shame,’” Pollifrone says. “It’s a perfect way to describe what we are about. We’re here to have fun and hopefully teach the community a little about what our national past time looked like when it first began.”
Central Florida’s vintage team was started in 2016 by Jeremy Blackwood and Ted Kopsaftis. Both had played vintage baseball before they moved to Florida and were disappointed to find no VBBA teams here, so they started one. Blackwood, who has since moved back to Maine but still comes down to Florida in the winter to play vintage baseball, says one of the best things about it is that it’s so inclusive.
“We have high schoolers and senior citizens playing together,” Blackwood says. “We are truly made up of the community.”
Vintage baseball uses 1860’s “Beadle’s Dime Base Ball Player Manual” rules. This makes it more conducive for vastly different players to play together.
The first noticeable difference between modern amateur baseball players and vintage baseball players is that vintage players don’t use baseball gloves. Barehanded catching takes some practice, Pollifrone says, but it also means balls are thrown with a lot less force. Additionally, only underhand pitching is allowed, and there is no foot-first sliding.
Sort of like a Renaissance Fair or a Civil War re-enactment, games can include off-field commentators who give the crowd helpful information on the game. Teams play in old-timey uniforms and some even have spectators that come in character. You might see men dressed in top hats and ladies wearing sun bonnets and Victorian garb in the stands.
While vintage baseball honors history, it has evolved to include co-ed and racially diverse teams—both things that would never have existed in the 1800s. For all the history preserved, Pollifrone says, it’s by far not the only goal of vintage baseball.
“It’s historical, it’s educational, it builds community, but at the end to the day, it’s just plain fun,” Pollifrone says.
To join the team or find out where you can catch a game, visit Facebook.com/VBBCF.