In celebration of Red Bull’s Clásico de Vitilla, which took place on September 20 in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, we sat down with Adalberto García – the founder of the company Beteyah – to talk about the history of vitilla, its impact on modern baseball, and his role in the sport’s continued evolution in the Dominican Republic and beyond.
Through his company Beteyah, which sells the caps and sticks used to play the traditional Dominican sport, Garcia spreads his love for the game he grew up with and that has helped spawn so many successful baseball players from the island nation.
There’s no doubt that vitilla has become a part of Dominican culture. As our own Esteban Randel described, vitilla games in big city barrios in the Dominican Republic take on an almost carnival atmosphere, with music, dancing, and plenty of food and drink. It’s not uncommon to see entire blocks closed off to traffic for these extravaganzas.
But how did everything start?
No one really knows, but sometime back in the 1970s, young baseball fans on a Dominican street corner drew a diamond on the ground, grabbed sticks from the side of the road and a plastic cap from a five-gallon water jug.
You can almost picture it: the batter at the ready eyeing the pitcher. A skinny boy with Yankees cap, launching the bottle cap. The game is on. The pitcher is a magician; he makes that bottle cap dance. Sometimes it flutters, like a knuckleball, or sometimes it flies by at an astonishing speed. The hitter waits and waits some more, sometimes hitting, sometimes not. The boys laugh and run around their makeshift diamond again and again, always with their eyes on that soaring cap.
The essence of vitilla survives today from Santo Domingo to Washington Heights. What was once a national pastime has found a new home in the United States.