JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – America’s pastime on America’s birthday: J.P. Small Memorial Park was filled with fans and baseball players on Sunday for the annual matchup between the Westside Giants and the Eastside Reds.
As part of the annual Fourth of July Throwback Baseball Game, residents from Springfield’s east side and west side -- divided by Main Street -- usually play at Henry J. Klutho Park, but because of rain, this year’s game was moved to the historic ballpark in the Durkeeville neighborhood.
Reds player Vito Martino said it was “awesome” playing on Independence Day at J.P. Small Memorial Park, to which the Jacksonville City Council voted in April to add Hank Aaron’s name.
“It just brings back all the old traditions we used to have, back when baseball was the No. 1 sport in the country,” Martino said.
It’s the same baseball diamond where Aaron played in 1953, leading the Jacksonville Braves to a South Atlantic League title.
“It was the original ballpark of Jacksonville, originally built in 1912. The very first Georgia Florida football game was done in 1915,” said Lloyd Washington, president of the Durkeeville Historical Society.
For Sunday’s game, players wore polyester uniforms that appeared to be from 1905.
“It’s just a regular, old-style mitt, not a lot of padding on it,” said Giants centerfielder Lewis Rogers.
Giants player Joey Blitch added: “It is almost impossible to catch a baseball with those mitts.”
For many, Sunday’s game was the perfect way to celebrate the Fourth of July.
“It’s super cool to be on this field in this neighborhood,” said Leah Rose.