With several multi-use playing fields, 10 tennis courts, four basketball courts, a swimming pool, an ice skating rink and almost three miles of paved paths, Patterson Park offers many options for Baltimore’s athletic minded. For those looking for something more organized than a pick-up game, there are organized sports leagues for young and old.
The Baltimore Sports and Social League (BSSC), owned and operated by Mike Cray, started in 1998 and offers adults year-round opportunities to play in a variety of sports. Cray, whose inspiration for the league came from coaching sports teams since the age of 16 and attending the Preakness Stakes since the age of 18, wanted to combine the skills needed to compete on a team with a social atmosphere.
Starting the sports and social league came naturally to Cray, but his idea for the location? It came from a bar. “I was at a bar in Canton in Baltimore for a New Year’s Eve party and thought it would be a good sports bar to hang out in regularly. I opened up a map to see if there was any space around the bar, and a few blocks away was Patterson Park.”
View Patterson Park in a larger map
The BSSC offers seven sports including broomball, dodgeball and softball. But, it began with one single sport—football. Back in the fall of 1998, Cray began with 16 football teams. This past fall, he had 220 football teams.
And although participating in the sports are why people sign up initially, Cray hopes that they leave with something more. For him the league is less about the sports and more about the social interaction among members. “I want them to gain a sense of sportsmanship and camaraderie that is lost in today’s society. With the BSSC, they get a chance to personally interact with 3,500 people on a Saturday and hopefully make a few new friends along the way.”
Baltimore resident Lauren Waesche, an active participant in the BSSC, agrees, “It’s a great way to have some fun during the work week with friends, as well as a chance to meet new people.” She also appreciates the convenience of the location. “Patterson Park really gives everyone an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors without having to travel far, which is important to people’s health, both mentally and physically.”
For Cray, it’s not just about enjoying the park. He also sees the need to give back and sustain it. Through the BSSC, he has raised the funds needed to renovate the players’ benches in the softball fields and participate in the overall maintenance of the park. “I always heard that you should never go into Patterson Park when I was younger,” explains Cray. “Now with all of the activity in the park, and organizations like the Friends of Patterson Park, its image has changed.”