If Ybor City's backbone was its cigar factories, Cuscaden Park was its heart. The park still exists today, though it is a faint shadow of its former self. Its 500-seat capacity grandstand was demolished, and its baseball fields gave way to soccer fields. To drive past the park today, some would never know that this field was once Ybor City's Field of Dreams.
As a young man, Giuseppe R. Ferlita dreamed of immigrating to America and becoming successful. In 1905, Giuseppe, with only a third-grade education, arrived at Ellis Island as a teenager. Emigrating from Santo Stefano Quisquina, Sicily, with his family, he joined relatives who had previously settled in Tampa. Giuseppe first worked as a cigar maker until his father purchased a bakery in West Tampa. During this period, he married his childhood sweetheart, Maria Paola Ficarrotta.
Before city leaders envisioned Ybor City as a residential and shopping district, they boasted about bullfights. "It was how we were going to save Ybor City," explained former Mayor Dick Greco.
Travel down 7th Avenue in Ybor City far enough, and eventually, you'll come to a rough-looking neighborhood by the train tracks. The warehouses in the area stand empty, and a few convenience stores pop up every couple of miles. The grass needs cutting, the bushes need trimming, and some low-slung buildings must either be demolished or rehabbed.
Tommy Stephens sat on the patio by his house, watching the first of many nightly visitors to arrive in Ybor City. Leaning back in his chair and nursing a beer, he points to a couple of tourists as they watch a chicken try to fly up a tree next to their car.