The Spirit tries to make a point with soccer clinic in Little Italy

October 18, 1992|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

Kids were playing in the street in Little Italy yesterday.

Big kids and little kids kicking a soccer ball up and down the 900 block of Stiles Street.

The grown-ups were members of the Baltimore Spirit, the city's new indoor soccer team. The little ones, the few of them who were around, are some of the last being reared in the old Italian neighborhood on the edge of downtown.

"This is a chance to bring people together," said Vince Fiduccia, a team official. "We've become a divided people in the city. Little Italy's been good to Baltimore soccer, and this is a day to show them thanks."

A publicity event staged in response to a flurry of neighborhood street crime over the summer, the afternoon soccer clinic didn't bring together too many people.

For most of the afternoon, the dozen members of the Spirit, including coach Kenny Cooper, outnumbered the few children on hand and the residents who stood around to watch.

"They didn't do any advertising, nobody even knew they were coming," said Rose Apicella, a resident who helped get the permit to block off the street. "I told them they ought to get the people from Highlandtown, they're all soccer players up there. There's no more kids here, all you got is older ones now."

One of the older ones who stopped by to watch was 80-year-old Anthony Marinelli, whose father started the family bakery on President Street in 1912. Mr. Marinelli happened upon the exhibition on his bread rounds to the restaurants. "I played a little soccer growing up but I was a hothead, I'd get kicked in the legs and get mad," Mr. Marinelli said.

Nine-year-old Erin Scalia, who lives on High Street, got to kick the first ball of the day in the sunshine of the crisp October afternoon.

"I like sports, I'd like to play soccer on a team," Erin said. "It's fun to play in the street."

Which is how local soccer phenom Tim Wittman grew up in Baltimore.

A former star for the defunct Baltimore Blast, Mr. Wittman said the kids in his old neighborhood near Herring Run Park played all their games in the alley.

"I just got back from San Diego, and they don't have neighborhoods like we do," Mr. Wittman said. "I'd go anywhere in Baltimore and do this for people. It's a shame that folks have to think about crime so much in the city, but you can't just walk around scared all the time."

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