Nestled in a sea of row homes, Clemente Park and Playground is usually booming with kids of all ages enjoying after-school activities. Named after legendary baseball player Roberto Clemente, the park is a safe place for people to get away from hustle and bustle of the big city.
Once seen as an eyesore to the community, the park is now renovated and dedicated to neighborhood recreation and unity.
Clemente also offers various activities for both kids and adults. No matter what someone would be interested in, the park probably has a program for it. The recreation center offers a wide variety of activities aimed at uniting the community, including gardening, yoga and a large number of organized sports.
The park gained notoriety in the 1990s when it appeared in the opening credits of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It is now currently the home for the Sunday night sector of Philadelphia Sports Network’s softball league. As the largest organization for recreational adult sports leagues in Center City, PSN provides an easy and fun way for local Philadelphians to connect with others in their community through sports.
Alexandra Hakes, a California native who recently moved to Center City, uses the league as a way to build her friendship network.
“Everyone is kind of in the same position as I am, so it’s a great way to feel more comfortable and learn more about your neighborhood,” said Hakes. “I met someone who lives a street away from me and now we can hang out and figure out what there is to do in the city.”
Hakes isn’t the only one using the league as a way to connect with others in their community. Sunjay Jagirdar moved to Philadelphia from North Carolina and has been playing in the league for the past four seasons.
“I figured it was a good way to meet people around my age that live in the city or are interested in the same things as me.”
https://vimeo.com/90176043]For league participants, Clemente Park is a safe and fitting place to play some softball Sunday nights. Located in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, the park is gated and is only accessible during its hours of operation between eight a.m. and 10 p.m.
“It’s super convenient and there is always a bunch of kids playing here, so in comparison to where I live it’s one of the reasons I chose [this league],” said Hakes.
Jordan Snavely, a senior cheerleader at Temple University, prefers Clemente Park to the several other locations that PSN has to offer.
“Its convenient and it feels safe so I like coming here,” said Snavely. “There are options to go to other fields but we chose this one because it’s closer and nicer.”
Most of the amateur athletes enter the league having not met one another and with little experience in the sport they are participating in. The leagues do not hold practices, but participants are welcome to get together and practice on their own time.
While the team members get to bond during the scheduled game times, friendly connections aren’t just limited to the playing field. In most cases, participants enjoy a pint or two at local bars such as Irish Pub and Tavern On Broad before or after the games. In fact, each league is treated to specials at some of the best bars in the city, but only if you wear your seasonal team shirt.
“I think when it gets nicer we will hang out after the game,” said Snavely. “Since PSN is sponsored by a lot of local bars and pubs, I’m sure we will do that when it gets warmer out.”
PSN Is committed to making their leagues convenient, easy and cheap. With dozens of locations all-around the city and a variety of sports, such as dodge ball, bowling and soccer, participants are treated to top of the line facilities and are provided with the best equipment.
Even after the extremely snowy winter that Philadelphia has been graced with, the PSN grounds crew evaluates all field conditions and does extensive maintenance when needed to avoid canceling games.
As any Philadelphian knows, parking in the city can be one of the biggest hassles you’ll have to deal with. Luckily, PSN has worked with Central Parking to provide its members with exclusive discounts on parking throughout the city.
Even though you have to pay to become a member, PSN is all about giving back to the community. Parts of all profits collected from its members are donated to city recreation centers and local community organizations that focus on neighborhood improvement and youth athletics.
With all that PSN has to offer, Hakes and others on her team, said they would continue to explore the other programs available to members.
“I definitely would suggest this [to others],” said Hakes. “I’m going to sign up for as many [programs] as I can just to meet more people and do fun things to keep myself preoccupied.”
– Text, images and video by Breland Moore and Gwen Begley