In schools where sports may be most vital, New York City offers little help

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The pitch screamed through the muggy late-afternoon heat of Rainey Park in the Bronx, and the batter, an infielder with International Community High School, just managed to tip it so that the ball flew over the backstop, in the opposite direction of the field. A toddler, legs churning, grabbed the ball and handed it to Stanley Hernandez, an assistant coach. He gave the boy a big smile.

International was playing Banana Kelly High School, a playoff game in a renegade public school league that has grown to include 100 teams in four sports: baseball for boys, softball for girls, coed soccer and volleyball for girls. The league, the Small Schools Athletic League, was created three years ago with virtually no money from the Education Department when a new generation of high schools could get few or no sports programs through the long-ruling Public Schools Athletic League, known as P.S.A.L.

Mr. Hernandez, 20, entered International in 2008, when the school had no teams whatsoever. “We had fights and gangs and drugs,” he said. “Me and my friends got on a team outside of school, so we would go straight to the field as soon as the day was over.”

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