Tag Archives: baseball

Baseball – I

Close your eyes. I mean, really close them. Let yourself drift off to another place. Clear your mind. As Billy Chapel says in For Love of the Game, ” clear the mechanism.” You’re sitting outside, leaning back in a rigid but somehow, tolerable seat. As you let your eyes close for a moment, your other senses heighten. You feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Somewhere a switch has been flipped and your sub conscience seeks out all that is right with the world. Now smiling, you notice that your seat is more comfortable than it was a minute before, and you slouch a little easier into the seat you are glad, now, that you chose. You smell the renewed fragrances of spring. Your senses come alive as if recovering from a long winters nap. Birds nearby sing their spring song and only now you notice. You hear the enthusiasm in voices from a distance, but those are merely background for the unmistakable sounds of wood meeting rawhide in a full-speed collision. If the trained ear listens close enough you can tell which direction the rawhide sphere is headed without even opening your eyes or disturbing your sun-seeking perch. For a split second you want to open your eyes but you decide better of it as if opening your eyes would end this pleasant dream state. So, you clench your eyes tighter still and put your favorite ball players faces from yesteryear into this dream. The sounds are the same in so many ways. And the crash of the round bat into the round ball echoing around the old yard could be the sound of Ted Williams ripping a long home run, or its Henry Aaron sending a line drive through the box, or maybe its Mickey Mantle launching a towering blast, from either side of the plate, that requires patience and a good ear to hear if it ever comes down.

You are at a ball field, it is spring, and every player, every team, shares in the renewed hopes of spring. It’s a new season. It’s fresh. It’s refreshing. It’s spring. And then it all hits you, there is no place you’d rather be. Your eyes close a little more tightly, and the sounds fade a little further into the distance. Images appear in your mind as your body shifts and gently jolts almost voluntarily when the memories behind your eyelids appear larger than life. You feel like you can reach out and touch the vivid scene you see, but then you remember for a millisecond where you are, and you think better of raising your arm to swipe at the warm empty air. And you drift back into the scene that hides behind your sun-warmed eyelids. Now you’re smiling from ear to ear, eyes still closed. It’s baseball, in some elementary ways, the same as it’s ever been. A stranger makes his way to a seat nearby, he notices your smile with eyes closed, and he understands. He hurries along to his seat so he too can dip himself in the warmth of the magical transformation that only ball fields bring and clasp tightly the memories of boyhood dreams.

There you are back in your yard, at your school field, or sandlot, wherever you first dreamed of the game and played in the spaces you could find, to win all those World Series titles. When you played everyday because you loved the game, you couldn’t get enough of the game. You knew all the stats, who batted 1 through 9, who would hit for whom in the 7th, and every member of the bullpen. You knew who would pinch-run, whether it was to steal second base or score from second on a base hit. You remember the uniform you wore, right down to the trim, and the wayward stitch or two. You lift your leg for second and shake your foot remembering how fleet afoot you felt every time your old spikes were securely fastened to your stirrup laced feet. Somehow it seems like just yesterday when you would wipe the sweat from your brow and tug the bill of your cap a little lower to shield that bright game day sun. Your hands and fingers fidget slightly as you recall your ability to grab a baseball time after time and have your index and middle fingers perfectly aligned across the seams. Now your palms practically ache just to hold that old wood bat you took thousands of swings with. You can still feel the grain and the way the barrel tapered back to a handle that was much thicker than today’s bat handles. Listening closely to the sounds you fabricate in your mind, you swear you can still hear the ‘swoosh’ your mighty swing once created as it carved through the warm air.

Then, sitting a little more upright now, you roll your shoulders a few times, still clenching your eyes shut as not to disturb the calm and comfort found inside this daydream. Today there are no aches and pains, tightness won’t be thought of here, or at least not until you have to rise from your seat the next time. You recollect the days when you felt so strong, felt so right, you felt like you could throw all day, even throw hard all day. And you did. You think for a moment, trying to figure out how difficult it would be were you to try to calculate how many pitches you threw on any given summer day. Then you just smile, knowing it was in the hundreds, and it was nearly every day. A rest day back then was eating dinner, going to sleep, and going to school for several hours the next morning. Then it was a sprint to the ball, glove, and bat as soon as time would allow.

For me, it was my yard. After school it was the place I couldn’t wait to be. I recall thinking about scenarios that were soon to unfold in my yard while I was still on the bus riding home. Actually it started when I was a young boy and it continued throughout my school years. Often times, my desk in some classroom was just the place I dreamed from. My teacher could have just as easily been any Major League public address announcer. My reality was more often a slice of my imagination playing out the details of me playing, competing, and winning, than not. It’s almost all I ever thought about, and it would have been 100% of my thoughts were it not for school, church, and the occasional conversation. In my mind, in my yard, I was the greatest there’s ever been, yet I revered and respected the greats who came before me. I shook hands with Babe Ruth on the field at the old Yankee Stadium. Hank Aaron was there to acknowledge my gracious demolition of his home run record, and maybe we chatted on the field at the old Tiger Stadium where my record homer was still climbing as it crashed into the overhanging upper deck in right field. Ted Williams marveled at my swing while we talked baseball in South Florida in between his fishing days. At the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore I sat in the seemingly vertical upper deck behind home plate and talked with Brooks Robinson who couldn’t believe my range, and I was a lefty, to boot!

On rainy days, when I could throw the ball from just inside the dry cover of our garage roof overhang, I was being congratulated by Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton as a pitcher that was among the all-time winners and clearly the most accurate of all time. Walter Johnson and Bob Feller asked me just how hard did I throw. Ron Guidry asked me my nickname, because even though he was a Yankee, he had a pretty cool nickname in, Louisiana Lightning. After I had twirled yet another complete game, especially on those rainy days, I would grab my wood bat and start to swing. I remember vividly looking down at the broken cement of our garage floor and checking out the shadow of my swing. My swing had to be perfect, both left-handed and right-handed. I would swing at top speed. I would swing in slow motion. I would swing that bat hundreds of times over. I imagined the ball jumping off of my bat and clearing fences all over the major leagues.

After church on Sundays it was a battle for me. I had to decide whether to take the extra few minutes to change my clothes or just go for it in whatever I was wearing. I knew full well that within minutes a ball would carom off of the garage door, too far to my right, and I would have to dive headfirst on the green grass to make the spectacular play. Then I would immediately regret the choice I made, not to change my clothes first, at least for a second or two. Of course, had I not hustled right out to make the play, then someone else would have been in the lineup, so, I was right, get out there and play. Worry about the clothes later. I mean, that was just a double that I robbed down the line. Shouldn’t that cover a for a few grass stains? Some how my mom never put as much stock in my defensive genius in the yard as I did, and as my thousands of fans in the imaginary stands around my yard, did. Neither were wrong, I was, but what’s a boy to do? Somebody’s gotta go out and win the World Series, and I felt that somebody had to be me.

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Figure it out!

As the baseball season winds down and new names are written into the great history of post-season baseball, I can’t help but grow increasingly upset with the NHL. After all the momentum hockey has seen in recent years, with HD TV, original six teams winning Cups, TV contracts, and young stars emerging, they shoot themselves in the foot…again. Three work stoppages under one regime? For all the positives, players playing the game of hockey is whole reason there is a league. C’mon guys! Figure it out! Under Bettman there has been the equivalent of 1.5 full NHL seasons not played, cancelled, or otherwise lost. It starts at the top, with leadership, or at least the people in leadership positions. I know these professional leagues are a business. Remember, without the games itself, there is no business.

So, as baseball’s Fall Classic moves into the home of Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, and Nicklas Lidstrom, I will continue to enjoy our national pastime, trying not to think of the NHL season that isn’t. If, there is a hockey season, I will watch my Bruins, maybe. I love hockey that much. I won’t be buying the NHL Center Ice package, I won’t go to any games, nor will I buy any NHL merchandise. For now, it’s still baseball season and I hope this series is epic, while reminding Detroit and every other NHL city that within the competition of sport greatness is achieved.

A day of fall baseball at CCSU

Yesterday was the last day of fall baseball scrimmages at Central Connecticut State University. I went down to see Ryan (my 19-year old son) play. He caught all 12 innings of the intra-squad contest, as he has done in almost every game this fall. He was 1 for 3 at the plate, including two sacrifice flies (each ball traveled more than 380 feet), was hit by a pitch, stole a base, knocked in two runs, and scored two runs. His final at bat, the only one I didn’t photograph, was a base hit. He ripped a line drive double off of the top fence in right field, just to the right of the 375 foot sign. He came around to score the deciding run, and five hours of batting practice and scrimmage came to an end.

The sun was warm, it was bright, and the day was perfect for baseball. Every once in a while a nice breeze kicked up out of the south and made matters that much more comfortable. The field is all turf, enclosed by fences and nets, and it sits at the north end of campus. Trees line the right field fence and continue as a backdrop even out past the scoreboard in center field. It’s not the most intimate field I’ve ever seen, but it’s a nice facility for a quality baseball program.

I enjoyed sitting in the bleachers watching all the details unfold before me. One of my favorite pastimes is our national pastime, and I added five more hours of taking in this great game while sitting in the sun on a gorgeous fall morning. Ryan had a great fall of baseball, hitting well over .400 in more than 60 plate appearances. I am so glad I was able to see Ryan play and spend time with him last night and then again this morning. It some small way it seemed like old times, watching Ryan on the ball field, completely in his element, playing in a day of fall baseball at CCSU.

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The view while walking up to Balf Savin Baseball Field at CCSU.

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A panoramic view of sorts.

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Ryan about to make contact on a sac fly that was caught on the warning track by the 400 foot marker.

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Ryan gets set to throw down to second base between innings.

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Ryan unleashes his swing.

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This breaking pitch hit Ryan in the back foot and almost bounced into hitting position.

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And the runner goes …

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… The runner slides …

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… He’s safe! Ryan steals second base.

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Getting a secondary lead off of second.

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Ryan pulls a ground ball foul.

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Another foul ball.

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Ryan elevates the ball, trying to get a run home from third.

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The stance becomes interactive.

Here we go, MLB style

This afternoon the baseball season continues, the post season. This season marks the first time in Major League Baseball history that 10 teams, yes one-third of the teams, made the playoffs. Now, for two of those teams, the post season will be done today. Today, the first ever Wild Card Play-In games kick off the post season. The two winners will advance to play the #1 seed in their respective leagues, the Yankees and the Nationals. Now, if this were set up like it was through 1969, then we would proceed directly to the World Series with the Yankees and Nationals being the pennant winners. In 2012 though, we start with the winner-take-all play-in round. The defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals play at Atlanta versus the Braves. Did you know that Atlanta is home to Major League Baseball’s third highest elevated ballpark? Only Colorado and Arizona play at higher elevations. The second of these games showcases the amazing Baltimore Orioles at the downward spiraling Texas Rangers. The Rangers led their division for 178 of the 192 days that made up the regular season, but find themselves in a sudden death game right away.

Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) became the first player since “Captain” Carl Yastrzemski to win the Triple Crown, leading the American League in Batting Average, Home Runs, and Runs batted In. He’s also the first to win it since the evolution of the five-man rotation, closer’s, and divisional play. It’s a pretty impressive feat really. He’s only the tenth player to win the Triple Crown since 1909. Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams both did it twice, Babe Ruth never did it. Now the question has become who will win the AL MVP award, Cabrera or sensational rookie Mike Trout (Angels). Trout just completed one of the best baseball seasons ever played by a Major League Rookie. Personally, I would take Cabrera in my line up over any other player in the Major Leagues. Trout was amazing this year, but I don’t think his season, when looking past the rookie part of the matter, was any better than the season Jacoby Ellsbury had last year for the Red Sox. Ellsbury finished 2nd in MVP voting to Justin Verlander last season despite effecting the outcome in 124 more games than Verlander. If Cabrera does not win the MVP, even as a Triple Crown winner, it wouldn’t be unusual. Four of the last nine Triple Crown winners, WERE NOT named MVP of their league. We will have to wait and see.

In the National League, the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw became just the fourth pitcher since World War II to lead the Majors in Earned Run Average for two straight seasons. You may have heard of the other three pitchers on this list, Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez. Despite his efforts, and the blockbuster addition of Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers missed the playoffs.

Then there’s my beloved Red Sox. I don’t know how deep I can go into this subject without subjecting myself to the necessity of counselling. For me, emotionally anyways, this Red Sox season started last September, when it would be hard to argue to the contrary that a collection of players showed up everyday, physically at least, doing barely enough to collect a pay check. They mailed it in. They quit, on each other, on the coaching staff, on a pennant race, and got the manager they all wanted, fired. They missed the playoffs on the last day of the season. The organization removed the best manager they ever had. Their GM left, obviously learning from the events of 1912 in the North Atlantic. They named a new GM which was received as an outrageous joke by the Fenway Faithful (pre-pink hats). Then, the humour continued as Thanksgiving passed, after every other living managerial candidate was turned away, unavailable, or otherwise not chosen, the Sox named Bobby Valentine as their new manager. Personally, I thought his name was being mentioned as a joke. I thought he made the list because he fit the lofty criteria of the job search. One, he was currently alive. Two, he had managed a baseball team before. Three, he was not already under contract managing another team in the same division. And so it was, the Red Sox had a new manager.

To sum this last portion up, the Sox spent the last 13 months showing the world a few interesting, if not maddening or hilarious things, depending on what team you cheer for. First, it became increasingly clear that the ownership group not only took their eye off the ball regarding the make up and character of a championship caliber team, but they clearly meddled in to baseball operations and failed miserably. Second, although the team was hampered with injuries and displayed a toxic make up in the clubhouse, Valentine showed his true colors early and often as adversity followed him and the team like beat reporters around the ballpark. Often times even, he created his own adversity out of virtually nothing. Honestly, I think I could have managed the Sox to a better record this season, even if only by a game or two. But with the power that the ownership holds in baseball matters when they feel like being involved, it’s hard to say if any of the personnel hired into their titles actually make decisions in their roles. Third, and this may be the most maddening point of all, the players played terrible! As a competitor and an athlete who has put in thousands of hours of practice, training, and preparation, how can you come out and not play with the intensity and urgency that shows how bad you want to return to the top of your profession?!?! The Sox broke camp this spring and played like everything that had happened last year was just okay. Are you kidding me? Players quit. They stopped working. They stopped caring. They looked at themselves instead of up and down that bench. They took the reigns that Francona gave them and used them to construct a noose, expediting his demise. Oh man this subject gets me fired up.

So, without a hockey season to bring a smile to my face beginning next week, I will follow the MLB playoffs a little more closely. I look forward to the games later today. I will try to regroup after witnessing one of the ugliest Red Sox seasons I have ever seen. Next February when pitchers and catchers report, the glimmer will again begin, I hope. Enjoy the post season.

Summer of 2007

 

Fortunately, and unfortunately at the same time, I came across this little email I wrote five years ago. It still brings tears to my eyes when I read this and reflect on that summer of baseball. I was not able to come back and coach the team in 2008, so we didn’t get to make another run at the Babe Ruth World Series, although the team did advance to Regional’s in Orange, CT. I know this piece might not mean a whole lot to those folks outside of the Goffstown School District, but this is about the kids, the game, the passion, and in my opinion, the right way to play our pastime.

This was a special team in many ways, a special group of players, parents, and coaches. In 2010 Goffstown’s American Legion team won the NH State Tournament, and four of these players who were still eligible 16-year-old Babe Ruth players, played key roles on that squad. One of them led the team in Batting Average and On Base Percentage. Another one led the team in Hits, At Bats, Runs Scored, and Triples. Two others tied for the lead in Saves, combined to go 5-1 on the season, and struck out 55 batters in 55 2/3 innings pitched. They were key players for sure.

This summer, 2012, marked the end of something very special that had started well before 2007. This group of kids, now young men, will never play baseball together again. Not as a town team, not as youth, not again. Although many of the 2007 team were no longer playing baseball by the time this season rolled around, the reality still hit me hard on the evening of July 31st this summer. Goffstown lost in the NH American Legion State Tournament Championship Game, and the game, the season, the era ended. Like that.

It started to hit me as I sat in the stands waiting for my son to come up from the field so I could chat with him and say good-bye before heading home. I heard a parent or two in the distance talking about getting “the 13′s” together one last time, in uniform, for a picture. Unfortunately, the picture didn’t happen. As I sat there and one player after another came up the cement steps, I fought back tears. I remembered the Goffstown on their chests when many of these kids started playing all-star baseball together when they were just 9 years old. I remembered the battles we endured together as 12-year-old’s in 2006, and of course the amazing run in 2007. You can read more about the final night of an era here if you would like to.

So here it is, as I wrote it in 2007 on the evening after one of the toughest days in competition that I have ever had, with only a couple of grammatical errors corrected.

 
Sent: Thursday, August 09, 2007 6:18 PM
Subject: Summer of 2007 – 13-year-old team
 
Good evening to all -
 
This has been difficult for me to write and I hope I didn’t miss anyone or anything.
Please be patient as this might take a while.To the parents of my players:
Thank you for your commitment to the kids, our team, and our coaches. Thank you for re-arranging vacations, work schedules, and personal commitments for all of us. We all know the commitment to baseball in Goffstown is a big one, and I hope you all found its value this summer. We truly could not accomplish any of these things without your commitment and flexibility. I hope the boys are up for a run at the World Series next year. New England will be expecting us in the 2008 Regional and look to take us down, as it should be. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all. You made it very easy for me to coach this team this summer. I saw many different parental influences throughout the Regional, and all I can say is that I am grateful and fortunate to have been the manager of Goffstown and not another team. You folks were tremendous.To my coaches:
Tony and his stats. Do any of you know many times Danny Diaz ( Norwalk ) struck out against us, and on what kind of pitch? Tony does.

John and his ‘what are you thinking of going with here’? Good question John. Sometimes he had to tell me what I was thinking, and he was usually correct.

Matt and his trips to Burger King in Tilton. Not that any of us are superstitious or anything.

You guys are the best! Thank you for all your support, your words of advice, your time, and your hard work. Thank you for reeling me in when I was completely unconventional; ok, that’s all the time, but you kept me in check for the most part. Thank you for all the pitches you threw, the ground balls you hit, and the fly balls. Thank you Matt for pitching to us so many times, in the dugout or not, you are part of this and I appreciate your help and support. I am proud to have been announced along side Tony and John and our team 12 times this summer. I would be hard pressed to find a finer group to go to battle with the than the 2007 13-year old Goffstown Babe Ruth All-Stars and staff. It has been my pleasure and my honor to be at the helm of this group. Every coach should be so fortunate. My sincerest thanks to you.

To my players: (the best 13 yr old team in NE)
Thank you guys for your hard work and dedication to the team concept. Team concept is a nice thing to talk about and to throw around with coaches and reporters, but it takes on an entirely different meaning when it’s implemented, understood and executed. Our team was a very good example of how this works. Only 9 players get to start the game and only 9 get to play at a time, and as you know, with 12 players, the math doesn’t work. I am proud of how you all handled yourselves, in the good times (many, many), and the hard times. For each of you who came out of games, sat and waited to get into games, or just didn’t play as much as you wanted, please know this. I fully believed and trusted in every single one of you to get the job done, no matter what that job was. I know Vermont and Goffstown were the only teams in the Regional to play every player in every game, even if it was just an inning. Thank you for being ready to contribute (anywhere at anytime) and support your teammates. Several opposing coaches throughout our tournaments were impressed/amazed how well our players played from top to bottom. This is a compliment to each of you for being prepared physically and mentally and for taking pride in your own game.

I still believe we are the best 13-year-old team in New England . I don’t think I am alone on that statement either. The best team doesn’t always win as we all know. The best team does rebound and continue to be the team to beat. We will rebound, and we will be very difficult to beat in years to come. I love you guys, I really do, and I have enjoyed (very much) spending so much time together over the last 2 months. Baseball is my passion and you all let me have some fun in the sun and be a kid for 56 days this summer. I sincerely thank you for that. I hope you each have a similar passion and pursue it to its fullest. Dream big, never give up, be willing to work harder than anyone else, and success will follow you like a shadow on a sunny afternoon.

All Stars is about the kids and that’s the part I enjoy the most. Seeing the development, the friendships, the support and camaraderie of coming together and achieving success while overcoming adversity. Call me crazy or old, or both, but that sentence will mean more to you later in life. Remember what it felt like to walk into St. A’s and see your opponents for the first time. Remember what it felt like to have your name called for all to hear (except in Laconia where nobody could hear the announcer). Remember what it felt like to come home and be announced as a team in the New England Regional opener this past Friday. Remember how great it felt to watch the other outstanding players and teams, and to know you were every bit as good as they were. Remember the feeling of watching the Blue and Gold celebrate their achievement in the final, and work hard to never taste that again. Remember how it felt to put on the Red, White, and Black with GOFFSTOWN across the front. Remember too what I told you from the start, respect the game, respect your opponent, and respect yourselves. These are the days of your lives. Don’t forget these days, don’t forget these friendships, don’t forget to pat yourselves on the back, don’t forget what you achieved together. I sit here proudly to say that you 12 boys achieved more this year than any single team in Goffstown Babe Ruth Baseball history. That is something to be very proud of. Next year when we’re the first team in GBR history to go to the Babe Ruth World Series, we’ll have this chat again.

In Summary:
I have rambled on enough I am sure. I will close by saying this. I am truly honored and proud to have been selected as the manager of this years’ 13 yr old team. I hope that my coaches, my players, and I, represented our town, our program, and ourselves with class and dignity. I know I made a lot more mistakes than the kids did (thanks guys for bailing me out time after time).

I look forward to seeing you all soon. We will have a team party in the next week or two. I had to come back to the park today to shake the feeling I had leaving the field yesterday. We should be out here starting to throw and loosen up. I miss it already.

Respectfully,
Steve Beal
Manager – Goffstown
13 Yr. Old All-Stars
Goffstown Babe Ruth
2007 District 3 Champions
2007 NH State Champions

The 2007 NH State Champion 13-year-old’s having a little fun in Laconia. Sorry guys, but I had to throw this picture out there. This moment will always be ours.

Ryan and I after his last game playing for Goffstown. He will continue playing baseball at Central Connecticut State University, and I will continue to watch, cheer, and be more nervous than him. Thanks for taking a moment for the picture with me. Photo by Kris Shaw.

 

 

Thank You to Youk’s Kids

On Saturday, August 4th, 2012, lightning struck Allard Park. It certainly wasn’t the first time lightning struck Goffstown’s hidden gem. For the most part the lightning strikes have been of a baseball nature when kids pull greatness out of the improbable. This strike, however, momentarily turned the storied Goffstown Babe Ruth Baseball program upside down. Lightning caused a fire to ignite and ultimately destroy the building we all know simply as, ‘The Barn’.

The Barn. This old building with so many stories tucked away in every nook and cranny. The building offered by the Allard family for baseball use year round. The Barn, where players worked to get better. The Barn, where so many took shelter in thunderstorms past, like the one that was its undoing. The Barn, where coaches met to get their season’s equipment. The Barn, where GBR All-Stars felt a little more important. The Barn, where any reason for a meeting was good enough. The Barn, where uniforms, equipment, first aid kits, and all things GBR Baseball were housed. The Barn, where each of us has memories we will hold forever.

Amidst the rubble and the disbelief that our baseball icon was gone we came in for a look at the fire ravaged building. I went over on a quiet morning or three to visit one of my all-time favorite spots. I sat down on the ground and just remembered the scenes playing in my mind. I remembered countless times in and around The Barn. I wrote a poem inspired by the history we shared, The Barn and I. It came out in the moments I sat there, next to the rubble of The Barn. The spot where I sat, I have shoveled snow from that spot, I have parked in that spot, I have played catch with players in that spot, I have retrieved foul balls from that spot, I talked with baseball friends in that spot, I have welcomed shade from The Barn in that spot, and it was the spot I reflected from.

So, this little baseball program, from not such a baseball hot spot in Southern NH, lost it’s baseball storage and workout facility. Just another New Hampshire weather related, sad story, for a little baseball program. I dare say, this is not your average, everyday, little youth baseball program. I could be wrong, but I think that this community has, does, and will come together and rally around our national pastime unlike most. People here plan their vacations for the end of August, or not at all, so that baseball can be completed. This often times means that Goffstown has teams playing post season ball through July and into August, competing at the District, State, and Regional level. As the pictures show, there is a history of winning in this program. Over the years, I have heard many local sentiments that unknowingly refer to the Goffstown Babe Ruth baseball program as ‘too competitive’. First, as it should be, it is competitive. What meaningful part of life isn’t? Second, I have also heard many praises from many of those same folks, who did sign their teen up to play, and were blown away at how much they loved it, how much the kids learned from it, and how wonderful the experience was, even if their player wasn’t an all-star. It’s a youth baseball program, a very good baseball program, but it’s still about the kids. Kids who enjoy baseball, want to get better, and even enjoy competing. As it should be.

So, with all that said, the emotion felt and shared, the stories told, the memories shared, and the reality of loss setting in, from the smoke and the smoldering, emerged one of the good people. Kevin Youkilis. Well, Kevin Youkilis and his foundation, Youk’s Kids. Almost six weeks after Youkilis was traded some 850 miles (in a straight line) away from this area, he still responded. He wasn’t asked to respond. He, and his foundation reached out to Goffstown Babe Ruth President, Kevin Baines. The phone call they made that Monday morning is one of the biggest reasons the GBR program was turned upside down only momentarily. Youk’s Kids offered to replace the lost baseball equipment up to $20,000, as I understand it. Wow! That’s incredible. One phone call in response to the Boston and Manchester news stations that had picked up on the story in this little baseball community.

In a day and age when too many people dismiss most things as, ‘not my problem’, it would be easy to dismiss this story from a Time Zone away. Dismissed? Not a chance. Youk’s Kids stepped up to do what they do. They help kids in need. Goffstown, New Boston, and Dunbarton make up our school district and also many of our youth athletics programs, and these kids aged 13-15 were in need for someone to help. Thank you Kevin Youkilis and Youk’s Kids for stepping up and helping this baseball rich community in a time of dire need. This baseball program means everything to many people each summer and with the thankless help of people like Kevin Youkilis and organizations like Youk’s Kids, this program will rise from the ash and be strong again. Thank you to Kevin Youkilis and his foundation.

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Once this smoke cleared and the remains were left to stare at in disbelief, Kevin Youkilis and others emerged to help GBR move forward.

Allard barn fire

It’s hard to believe that this very real picture played out in our own backyard.

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GBR, where champions are made.

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Championship teams from this little community bonded together forever in triumph.

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These pictures don’t capture all the history and success, but they give you an idea of what this program means to so many people in town.

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The pines. The pines that shielded The Barn from hundreds of foul balls. The pines looking different without the back drop of The Barn.

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Our little gem took a hit, but will carry on, thanks to so many caring, wonderful people.

Dr. Moe and the group showing off the bat at Allard

Dr. Maurice Allard shares a commemorative bat with us. This picture, at the time, shows GBR players and coaches from past and present. We were there practicing baseball for the love of the game.

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Jake Glauser, now playing baseball at the University of Southern Maine, works out in The Barn a few years ago. Not much of a view in The Barn, but hard work isn’t always pretty.

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Ryan Beal, now playing baseball at Central Connecticut State University, hits in The Barn, offering a different view of this place we cherished.

These Sox don’t deserve the likes of Pesky

As if we needed any further proof of the character (lack there of) among this current Red Sox club, this week’s embarrassment takes the cake. This clubs collapse last season was tough to handle but not a shock as information became available. This club got Francona fired, as if he were the one losing the games. Oh, I know, he wasn’t fired. Face the facts, he was fired. No thanks to this collection of elevated, entitled nobody’s. The list of things contributing to the growing dislike of this team during 2012 is too long to list here. Ownership would rather entertain, sell bricks, delve into futbol, and sleepily address the public from behind their smoke and mirrors show, than win baseball games.

Today, I write about the players though. This week, this team essentially blew off one the most likeable, true gentleman, and talented members of the Red Sox organization, ever. Yes, ever. Johnny Pesky broke in to the Majors in 1942 at the age of 22. All he did was set a rookie record, leading the American League in hits with 205. Over the next three seasons he went off to war, serving his country in the Navy during World War II. He returned to the field for Boston and led the American League in hits and at bats in 1946 and 1947. In each of his first six seasons, Pesky finished among the top 8 players in the Major Leagues in runs scored. This during an era where the only guys scoring more runs than him were the likes of Williams, Musial, Ott, Kiner, and DiMaggio. He even finished in the top five in MVP voting twice. He had a lifetime .307 batting average (ranked 138th all-time of players with 3000 or more plate appearances) and an on base percentage of .394 (ranked 79th all-time). Among the storied history of Red Sox baseball, Pesky ranks in the club’s top ten of all-time for at bats, batting average, and on base percentage.

Those are measurable stats that anyone can look up. Pesky, though, may have been better measured by the number of smiles he gave and received. Or maybe it was in the number of years he represented his beloved Red Sox. Maybe it was the number of players he shared his experience with over the years. No matter how you slice it up, Pesky measured up. This roster of Red Sox players don’t come close.

Pesky came up when Major League players walked to the ball park. They actually mingled with the common man. They were common men. They worked jobs to earn a living when the baseball season was done, even the best players did. They weren’t entitled to anything. They were guaranteed nothing. They even went to war defending our freedoms. Freedoms that included playing the greatest sport on earth, our national pastime, baseball. He played when, God forbid, players were paid year by year, based on performance. They signed one year contract after one year contract. They didn’t save their best work for a free agent year because every year could have been their last.

I guess you can’t blame this current roster of Red Sox players for not relating to the descriptions above. You can certainly blame them for not knowing better though. All but four current players blew off Pesky’s funeral this week. They couldn’t give back a couple of hours of their precious time to honor a man who was a better player than most of them, a better man than maybe all of them, and who was more or less a part of Red Sox baseball since he was drafted 72 years ago. Pesky played his rookie year with Williams, Doerr, DiMaggio (Dom), Cronin, and Foxx, among others. I apologize for even mentioning this current Red Sox roster with Mr. Johnny Pesky in this piece. It’s not fair to him.

Embarrassing. Ridiculous. Selfish. Disconnected. Spoiled. Soft. Clueless. Entitled. Disrespectful. These are just a few words that come to mind when I think of these Sox blowing off Pesky’s funeral this week. Fitting as fitting can be, the Sox blew a 6-0 lead, en route to another loss tonight as I wrote this.

I’m happy that I had a chance to meet Johnny Pesky long enough to shake his hand years ago. I still have his autograph upstairs in my closet. I always paid special attention when I heard him talk about today’s ball players, especially when assessing their potential. After all, this man played along side Williams and Foxx. He faced Feller, Sain, Spahn, Lopat, Trucks, Newhouser, and Roberts, among others. He knew the game and he knew talent. Hearing him talk the game was worth listening to. Paying last respects to him at his funeral would seem obvious, especially for those playing for the organization that Pesky proudly represented for nearly 70 years. I mentioned earlier that Pesky and the players of his era were common men. If I’m right, then I’ll take a league full of common men over this group any day of the week. It’s clear to me, these Sox don’t deserve the likes of Pesky. Rest in peace Mr. Pesky.

They left it on the field

It didn’t really hit me until I was caught off guard after most everyone but the parents had left the ball park. I had come over behind the dugout to say hi to Ryan and to congratulate him on his efforts. Then it hit me, this final moment hit me, I realized that I did not have my camera, so I asked a friend if they had a camera to get a picture of Ryan and I. That’s about the time that things slowed down just a little bit and when the emotion really started to tug at me.

To me, maybe a little bit selfishly too, a number of these kids will always be known to me as part of ‘my team’. When the friend asked about getting a picture of the 13′s after taking my picture with Ryan a lump started to grow in my throat. The 13′s. Goffstown’s 13 year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars from 2007, those are the 13′s. The team that came within one win of going to the World Series in 2007. The team made up of players who now have spent more than half of their young lives playing baseball together every spring and summer in little old Goffstown. Tonight that run ended. Forever.

The flood of emotion hit me like the recurring surf of the incoming tide as one player after another came up the steps from the playing field. I was totally unprepared for what happened next, but I was willing to oblige as this group is so special to me. A player who moved to our town in his 13th year, had tears running down his face as we gave each other a long hug like only those who have gone into competition together can do. We talked of the effort and emotion left on the field. We talked of the commitments made to get this far, and the commitment needed to move past tonight and on to greater things. I appreciate him taking the time to talk with me on an emotionally difficult time for him. Then it was a player I’ve known since he was 9. More tears. More hugs. More talk of the focus and determination to move forward. It’s nights like tonight that ignite a fire in the beings that want more in competition and personal standard than any dousing of water the pain of losing can throw on their flame.

Still more players, up the stairs, greeting me, hugs from each of them. Sincere, somber chats, with each of them. One of ‘my team’ had left the ball park before this unscripted moment took place but I hope I can catch up with him soon, another player I’ve known since he was 9 years old. Then a return visit to my son. A big hug, a manly embrace with my son who turns 19 this week. I told him how much I enjoy watching him play and how proud he makes me. I told him its been my pleasure to watch him. I told him that I love him.

Then it was time to go. For the second season in a row I watched a son of mine play his last baseball game for Goffstown. I know this piece won’t mean much to many, but it sure mean’s a lot to me. My boys, now young men, and I have spent countless hours together in and around the game of baseball. These players that I talked with tonight; I have spent hours and hours with, in dugouts and on ball fields competing together as a team to be the best.

I guess I knew this could happen tonight, but like any true competitor, I hadn’t planned for it or even really thought about it. I always believed, played, and coached with the idea that we play, we compete, until someone tells us the competition is over. After that, and only then, do we sort out the emotions and realities our playing future. Maybe that’s naive, or just dumb, but I never thought that competing, with the inkling of a thought focused on anything but winning and moving on, was a good idea. Tonight it ended. These guys all turn(ed) 19 years old in 2012. There’s no more town team to play for after Legion ball ends. At least four of these players who finished playing for Goffstown tonight, have already played, or will be playing, college baseball.

Finally, it was very apparent to me that these players left everything they had, on the field. There was no effort or emotion left in these guys. They played hard, they played until the final out with all the effort they could muster. As a father, and as a coach, I filled with pride watching these young men compete like there’s no tomorrow and putting it all on the line. It’s only baseball, right? Yes, it’s baseball, and for all of us, players, coaches, parents, it’s been close to everything at some point each summer for many years. Tonight baseball ended as we’ve known it. Some of my best friends have come from the parents of these kids who are talented and driven enough to play together year after year. They start playing together because they happened to have been born in the same year, and live in the same school district. The parents come together as a result of the kids’ groupings. All these years later the same kids, ‘my team’, came off the field together, and these same parents, my friends, were there as always. Somewhat selfishly perhaps, I hope that in some way I was a positive influence in their baseball careers or even gave them more reason to continue playing. Most definitely though, these guys have positively influenced my love for the game and demanded my best when I have coached. These are two more reasons why this means so much to me. Among my most sad days, the days when I have to say good-bye to another season.

A Night at Alumni Field

Saturday night 19 of us (friends and family) made our way to Keene, NH for a night of fellowship, food, and collegiate summer league baseball. Oh, and yes there were fireworks at the end of the evening.

Dinner was nice. We had six kids under the age of 10 in a restaurant, together. It went fairly smooth, considering. Everyone ate their fill.

Then it was off to Alumni Field to watch my 18-year-old son Ryan playing for the Keene Swamp Bats. The Swamp Bats play in one of the premier summer collegiate leagues in the country, the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Keene is also one of the top-notch organizations, not only in this league, but in the entire country. Ryan is playing catcher and getting time as a designated hitter ( DH) when not catching. He’s on a temporary contract, but hoping to be picked up for the entire summer. His team, and the entire league, recruits and signs collegiate players from all over the United States to play summer baseball in New England. It’s good ball. It’s fun to watch, with good pitching, maximum effort, no commercial breaks, and the sounds of baseballs colliding with wooden bats, it’s a throwback, and it’s beautiful.

Saturday night it was about the family (and friends) coming together to see one of their own, Ryan Beal, playing baseball with the other collegians. Ryan ended up 0-for-3 at the plate, while hitting the ball hard a couple of times. The Swamp Bats lost the game, but we got to spend time together, outside, watching our national pastime being played by ball players living their ball playing dreams.

During the evening that could easily be mistaken for a casual night at a small-town ballpark with no particular interest in mind, a more personal story unfolded. Ryan’s brothers and sisters got to see him in his larger than life uniform along side his teammates. We all saw him being asked constantly by youngsters for a high-five, for a ball, or for an autograph. We heard him announced in a batting lineup between players from the University of Georgia and the University of Louisville. We watched him warm up hard throwing pitchers in the bullpen, receiving the ball like it was a simple game of catch in the back yard. We saw him respect the game, and hold his brand new teammates in high regard, as it should be. We saw our son, our brother, our nephew, our grandson, our cousin, our family friend, our role model, playing a child’s game that eventually passes each of us by. We saw a young man pursuing his dream, living in his moment, and doing gentlemanly battle on the symmetrical stage that was there before all of us, and that will be there long after each of us has passed. And maybe in an instance we saw ourselves in number 28 wearing purple, and we longed selfishly for a moment to ourselves.

It was a fun night together with our favorite people in the world, our families and friends. The weather was beautiful. The kids had some room to roam. The entertainment was real, experienced first hand, nothing was virtual. The show on the field was excellent. And as minutes disappeared into innings, and innings became an hour or two, somehow I think we were all better for it.

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Ryan at bat

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Ryan takes a pitch

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Ryan warms up a pitcher in the bullpen

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Ryan watches the ball into his glove

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Ryan catches. Brother and sister watch.

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My beautiful daughters

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My oldest and youngest sons

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Ryan hits a line drive

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Theodore shows off his balloon

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Ryan Beal, #28, Catcher, Keene Swamp Bats, 2012

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You guessed it, fireworks

Goffstown In Baseball

Goffstown, NH was incorporated in 1761. Goffstown ranks as just the 14th largest municipality in the state of New Hampshire. The 2010 Census put Goffstown’s population at 17,651. Roughly 15% of the population is between age 18 and age 24, or approximately 2,648 people. I am going to point out some more details from this age group a little later on in this piece. There are roughly 4,000 folks in Goffstown that are under the age of 18, in this group, nearly 10% of this group play baseball in the Goffstown Jr. Baseball organization. I point these numbers out because I find these things interesting enough to share.

Goffstown is a small town. There are 202 municipalities in New England that are larger than Goffstown. For this piece I refer to Goffstown baseball based on the towns the school district pulls from. Goffstown, New Boston (2010 census pop. 5,321), and Dunbarton (2010 census pop. 2,758) make up the school district. I will also point out which town the individuals mentioned in this piece hail from. Even though I consider Goffstown a small town, it is one of the reasons I chose to live here. Goffstown, however, is not small on baseball. Which is ultimately the point of this post today.

I have coached baseball in Goffstown, and I have followed Goffstown baseball passionately for a few years now. Somehow, year after year, this little town competes for baseball State Championships in numerous age groups.

  • Since 2000 Goffstown High School (GHS) has competed in four State Championship games and won three of them.
  • The Goffstown American Legion baseball team which was re-founded by Pete and Mary Jane Kiro in 2005 after a nearly 30 year absence, qualified for the state tournament in just its fourth season. By 2010, the Goffstown Legion Baseball Club won the NH State Tournament and finished 3rd in the Northeast Regional.
  • In Babe Ruth baseball since 2000, Goffstown Babe Ruth teams have won no less than six NH Championships between ages 13 and 15.
  • In Little League baseball play, Goffstown Jr. Baseball has won two State Championships since 2000 in the age 12 division. The 2000 team went on to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. Since 2004, Goffstown’s Little League teams have won two State Championships in the age 9-10 division, while adding a runner-up as well. The age 10-11 squads have amassed four State Championships while playing for the title six times. Those four titles were consecutive.

As you can see, recent baseball history in Goffstown has been pretty successful as it relates to play within NH. Championships aren’t easy to come by. And there have been hundreds more good ball players to come through Goffstown that didn’t win a State Championship. Every year there are successes in baseball here in Goffstown, title or not. But we figure, if you’re going to keep score, and measure results, then we will track our titles. As it should be. Be the best you can be, and set the standard high, someone’s always watching.

Now let’s go in a different direction. This direction relates strictly to the school year of 2011-2012. I may point out some of the individual’s past achievements while covering this season. I think it’s safe to say that baseball is a pretty big deal in small-town Goffstown. This piece, however, is called Goffstown In Baseball. Here is why. As the college baseball season winds down and post-season tournaments fill some teams schedules, Goffstown, again, shows up on the radar. Of the some 2,648 people aged 18-24 in Goffstown, here are 5 that have played, or are still playing post-season college baseball this season.

Kory Kiro, Goffstown, NH, Senior Pitcher, Daniel Webster College. DWC was both regular season and conference tournament champion in the New England Collegiate Conference. Kiro was named NECC Pitcher of the Year and named First-Team All Conference for the 3rd straight season. What is even better, is that DWC has advanced to the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament. They will travel to Lakewood, NJ to play their Regional.

Ryan Smith, Goffstown, NH, Freshman Pitcher, St. John Fisher College. St. John Fisher finished second in the Empire8 Conference but earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Smith saw limited time on the mound, but did impress when he was given a chance to pitch. Smith and St. John Fisher will travel to Marietta, OH to play their Regional.

Jake Glauser, Goffstown, NH, Freshman Outfielder, University of Southern Maine. The USM Huskies also won their regular season title. They made it stand up by coming out of the loser’s bracket from game one to win the Little East Tournament Championship. Glauser was a finalist for Conference Rookie of the Year, and had an outstanding freshman campaign, earning a starting spot and finished the season batting second in the line up. Glauser and the Huskies will travel to Mansfield, CT to play their Regional.

Riley Palmer, Goffstown, NH, Sophomore Infielder, Southern New Hampshire University. The SNHU Penmen didn’t qualify for the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament, but they were ranked as high as #4 nationally this season. On selection day they earned the top seed, and will host the East Regional of the NCAA Division II Tournament. Palmer was a spot starter in his first season with the SNHU program.

Ryan Beal, Goffstown, NH, Freshman Catcher/DH, Ohlone College (Junior College). The Ohlone College Renegades won the regular season title in the Northern California Coast Pacific Conference. Ohlone won their Regional and advanced to the Super Regional before losing this past weekend. Beal played sparingly behind a third year catcher but did bat cleanup when he played and had a huge RBI in their Regional win. Beal will attend Central Connecticut State University this fall on a baseball scholarship.

St. Anselm College, Goffstown, NH. While the Hawks play their games on campus in Goffstown, this years squad does not have a player from Goffstown. St. A’s earned their second ever bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament and will be competing in the East Regional at SNHU.

Goffstown baseball recent achievements for this group:

  • Kory Kiro, 2008 NH State Champion Class L (now division I), Goffstown High School
  • Ryan Smith, 2010 NH State Champion American Legion Baseball, Goffstown Legion Baseball Club
  • Jake Glauser, 2010 NH State Champion American Legion Baseball, Goffstown Legion Baseball Club
  • Riley Palmer, 2010 NH State Champion American Legion Baseball, Goffstown Legion Baseball Club
  • Ryan Beal, 2010 NH State Champion American Legion Baseball, Goffstown Legion Baseball Club

Thank you for getting through this with me. I know that for most of the world this information means nothing, but here in our world, it means an awful lot. I have simply covered some recent history here. I will add another segment to this in the near future. It will contain some player history and statistics, as baseball is always measured. I remember only so much, have witnessed more than I remember, and research is my friend. We are a small town in a small state. We are nowhere near the baseball belt which I just may have made up, but if there is one it wouldn’t be in the Northeast. There’s a lot of baseball in Goffstown. My hope is to see more Goffstown in baseball going forward.