Tag Archives: baseball

Thankful Because “It” Was

The winter season is still upon us here in New Hampshire. Yesterday’s temperatures actually made it into the 50’s here, and even though I love winter, it was a really nice day. It was a reminder that spring is nearing, a reminder to me of the renewal of the seasons that I love so much. It also gave my brain a little nudge down the steep mountain of snow that is everywhere around here still, and as my mind gained speed and momentum, I thought more of spring, and in turn, baseball. Ultimately, some 24 hours later my mind and body connected at the keyboard, and the words you read now were funneled here despite my lack of typing skills. My thoughts, converted here to words, ran in sequence, something like this.

Every once in a while I get so ingrained in the here and now that I think the scenario, or the window of time I am in, will be there again in the future. As if to say that the unfolding of events that led to the opportunity at hand would be easy enough to recreate, manipulate, earn again, or in some way come back around because they did so this time.

There are a number of times I can recall in both cases, where things never did materialize again the way that I had hoped or thought they would, and other memories that did recur more or less how I would have thought or wanted them to. I think in these terms, particularly as it relates to sports, athletic achievement, as well as team sports and in individual competition.

Instead of kicking myself for the past and, or, the things I would have, or could have, done differently, while wondering if any of it would have mattered anyway, I change gears.

I move in the direction of thankfulness, appreciation, and the savoring of the moment, big and small. The moment, in this piece, also known as, “it”. I think back to a summer not too long ago, a summer I will never forget. I could choose to remember the summer of 2007 for what didn’t happen and the pain that accompanied moments during that summer, but I choose rather to luxuriate in the memory of what was accomplished and to remember the family and friends I was so fortunate to be surrounded by during that time.

As life would have it, time never slowing for any of us, we waltz in and out of people’s lives. Time marches on and forces much bigger than ourselves apply their weight to our day-to-day lives, and we react however it is that we react. Sometimes community participation brings folks together, or it could be by choices we make, or just plain old happenstance. Either way we all get there at the same time, in the same place, and take an experience with us that may never be forgotten regardless of where paths lead each of us from that particular time and place.

So, while I will never forget the Summer of 2007 as a whole, I have already begun the fading of details that comes with the lapsing of time. Furthermore, pain and joy both have their ways of shaping the view our mind’s eye sees and the ability to see clearly all the way back to the details that were so pertinent in a different time. Regardless, I am so thankful for the people who came together that summer and experienced with me, with my family, with our team, and with our community, the pure joy sometimes found in the spaces created while drafting behind the vehicle that is a post-season run by the boys of summer. I am not talking about the 2007 Boston Red Sox and their run to another World Series Title. I speak of the 2007 Goffstown Babe Ruth 13 Year Old All-Star team. This team was near and dear to me. This team meant a lot to many of us in this community.

In the end, the results on the field that summer did not lead us to the completion of our goals. But, wow! did we have a great time?!?! What a run! The sheer joy and enjoyment of our time on the field together was only outdone by the time we all spent together doing so many things off of the field. The people who wandered in through life’s revolving door that summer, the door that dumped us all out in to the same place at the same time, from where ever it was that we had been prior, were some of the nicest, warmest, thoughtful, engaging, and committed people you could ever meet. I am so thankful to have been a part of this group of folks. The run was truly magical but the experience it created for all of us was a time that I will forever be grateful for.

I wrote in an email that I drafted the day after our collective summer of baseball had ended, “…Next year when we’re the first team in GBR history to go to the Babe Ruth World Series…”. Well that didn’t happen, and not only that, it didn’t even come close to happening the way I envisioned it might have while writing from my laptop at Allard Park on August 9th, 2007. Here’s the thing though, I am so thankful for the experience. I am thankful for the people. I am thankful for the relationships that developed. I am thankful for the opportunity to be in the position I was in. I am thankful for the renewed perspective that experience instilled in me. I am thankful for that elongated moment, thankful for “it”.

Over the years, I have written or even spoken on the topic of being grateful for the here and now; being thankful for the moment, and understanding that it may never present itself again. Live the moment, soak it in, and know it is so very special even if it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to this time, or any time.

From a personal standpoint I have been fortunate enough to play and/or coach in pursuit of Division titles, District titles, State titles, Regional titles, World Series berths, and even National titles. Even though I (we) won at almost all of those levels, I (we) still lost more than my fair share. Then, even more important than that, I gained perspective as I got older and as I was in more of those situations. Perspective and experience taught me to thoroughly enjoy those moments as I was going through them. I learned to step away, at least intellectually, and try to see the bigger picture, or more effectively to comprehend the significance of that moment in time and how unique it was unto itself. Such moments are more likely not to happen more than once, and no matter how young, bold, skilled, or invincible I may have felt in any moment, the likelihood of its reproduction was not good.

For the boys of summer, these years, those years, whenever “it” happens, they should be the times of our lives. Summer nights, sunny days, longer daylight, warmer temperatures, the beauty of the game and the green, symmetrically perfect canvas on which to paint the mural of our youth. Even into my 40’s (years, not temperature) the youthful exuberance that started somewhere in my childhood which still dwells within, bubbles towards outward emotion in the execution of the outstanding defensive play, the perfectly executed slide, or the ‘weightlessness’ (some people call it a blackout moment) moment when the perfect execution of mechanics all come together in the exact perfect sequence to launch the batted ball as fast, and as hard, and with as much conviction as I could muster. When these things do happen, and they do, embrace them. Understand it for what it is. Maybe it’s a brush up against perfection. Or maybe it’s the timing of all we thought could be, coming together, and eclipsing even our own wildest dreams. Maybe it’s a period of time when the right people, with similar goals, and a like-minded approach to achieving those goals, all come together so that you, so that I, can forever have the experience and memory to carry with us. Deeper into the maybe’s; perhaps “it” existed not only for the experience of the present, but more so to be called on in the future. Either way, no matter why, be present. Be engaged. Recognize the moments. Fully savor them and let them wash over you. For if you ask me, it’s better to have engaged fully with all of the senses even for a second than to wish I had been paying closer attention, after the fact.

We never do know when these moments in time will start. We certainly don’t know how long they will last. We know even less about when they will end. Then, we don’t know if they’ll ever come our way again. Don’t miss your moments. They could be years, or even seconds, but all of us experience some moments that we wish would never end. Or we wish again for those moments to return to us. Accept them for what they are, moments that pass us by, or even moments that exist around us, and once in a while we are fortunate enough to pass through them. Again, I make the point that I am thankful because “it” was.

Baseball Then and Now

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the game of baseball. I still do. I don’t just love the game play, but I love the strategy, the gamesmanship, the personal effect, the unwritten rules, and perhaps most of all, the measurement by which all eras can correlate with one another.

I watched last night as the San Francisco Giants punched their ticket to the World Series by ousting the St. Louis Cardinals in five wonderful games. (Yes, I watched the Bruins and the Patriots too. Sometimes technology is my friend.) During the series, and last night’s broadcast, history was made. Things that I love about the game like…SF Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner joined Bob Gibson and Mike Mussina as the only pitchers ever to submit five consecutive playoff starts of at least seven innings with seven or fewer base-runners

Or perhaps it was the ties to history such as…the Giants advanced to the World Series by way of a walk-off home run for the first time since Bobby Thomson’s unforgettable ‘Shot Heard Round the World’ in 1951

Then there was the mention of Bumgarner and Carl Hubbell in the same sentence…Bumgarner is just the fourth Giant to toss at least seven innings in four straight postseason starts, the first since Carl Hubbell between 1933 and 1936

I know a lot of things are different about the game now than they were then. Then again, with each moment bigger than the last, a pitcher holds the ball while a batter waits. The battles are won and lost pitch by pitch. It’s a beautiful thing.

Thank you Baseball

To Coach Hartwell and Coach Dodge:

This morning I woke wishing we still had games left to coach, or even tournament games left to organize. Excuses for me to be at Allard Park are easy to come by. Mostly though, I wanted to thank you both for welcoming me into your dugout. You two were selfless in regard to our pecking order and were very open minded regarding discussion, thought process, and decision making. I appreciate it very much. I enjoyed battling alongside you two over the past week as well as preparing in the weeks before, and yes, I miss it already. It was both a joy and a pleasure to be announced with you and the Goffstown team at Allard Park this week. The anthem still gives me goose bumps. I closed my eyes yesterday as we stood on the 3rd base line while the anthem played and I thought of how fortunate I was to be a part of the team and to represent my town. I sang the words silently to myself as the sun shone down, pondering the thousands of past baseball heroes who had been so lucky as me. Thank you guys. It was wonderful to pace the dirt floors of the Allard Park dugouts again, and to look up and down the bench at kids playing for their home town community spelled across their chests. Thank you.

Local Baseball Trivia ~ What town?

In 2012, during the NCAA Division II Baseball College World Series a player from this town hit the first home run of the tournament. Then, this year, 2014, during the NCAA Division III Baseball College World Series, a player from this same town hit the first home run of the tournament. What is the town?

 

Answer: Goffstown, NH

The Wide-Eyed Boy and The Game

This is a short story I wrote because even after all of my years in baseball, playing it, watching it, writing about it, coaching it, dreaming about it, and teaching it, I was genuinely inspired. The source of my inspiration doesn’t know about this story, and neither does anyone else, so I’m hoping everyone enjoys it.

I have a tendency to romanticize things here and there I suppose. And yes, I know that reactions and intensity sometimes overtake us when we face adversity and failure, and we show a side of us that might not be so pretty, perhaps because it exposes others directly to our hearts. The truth I see though is the thousands of times that we bounce back almost immediately, pulling ourselves to our feet, to love and compete again, for the love of the game. So, romanticized, or not, there is not much that’s more beautiful to me than the wide-eyed boy and the game. Inspired by #8 and the #9.

If you look really close and let your mind travel along memory’s checkpoints, the past reverses, flashing head-on towards the present and the visual collides with the picture in front of you. It’s the wide-eyed boy, full of wonderment, completely engulfed in joy, participating in a boys game, now in a grown man’s body. The names have changed, the neighborhood kids are gone, the dimensions have expanded, the style, the look now seem to matter, and the canvas on which this picture unfolds is viewed by many. Beneath it all though, is the boy. The boy who still cannot soak up enough of the game or the atmosphere found inside the lines separating the player from the spectator.

The sky is perfect blue. The lines, bases, home plate, pitching rubber and baseballs are bright white. The grass cut short, and symmetrically shaped, is green and beckons all to sample its run at perfection. The Stars and Stripes wave gently; perfectly against the blue backdrop. There’s no actual stage, but still it’s set, for the boys of summer.

Enter, the man, in body and mind he’s a man now. But in pure joy, and jittery excitement, he is, and always will be, a boy. Especially in this setting. There’s something that’s perfect about all of it. It all adds up. The pieces all fit. And, it’s as if all things have come together in this place at this time as they were meant to be.

The man may appear this way, or that way, but there’s more to him than meets the eye. He’d rather be in no other setting, he’s home right here, right now. And when this moment passes, if one were to ask, he’d most definitely fondly remember hours spent on an old field, less kept, working on his skills many years before. He’d probably agree to go to that former place now, and continue to work on his game.

Herein lies the beauty, not just the boy in the picture, but also, the picture itself. This is where baseball has that effect, linking all that was right, pure, and innocent with the golden years; linking directly to right now. A kids game being played by a big kid like all of his heroes did decades before. Over the years sand lots gave way to school fields or town fields, the quality of which were far less relevant than the time and effort spent in honing skills. Generations passed and kids are kept closer at hand, the outdoors simply becoming a place through which we must pass. But not in baseball. Baseball encompasses the outdoors, the fresh air, and the things that come with it. As kids in passing generations are outside less, enclosed in an imaginary box of constant pacification, baseball is outside and is just as wide open and grand as it was when kids took to the places they played a hundred years ago.

And so it is. The lines are the same. Baseballs sail by, spinning, bending, dropping, carrying, curving, all in the open spaces that transcend time. Just like they always have. The crack of the baseball against wood still tells the story of direction, quality of contact, and the speed in which the wooden tool was used. As it has been from era to era. Look closer to see that gaps are a mirage, closing quickly, the pawns shifting and moving in premeditated harmony. Distances appearing either closer or even farther depending on how these boys of summer manipulate the tools of the trade.

Then my wandering gaze catches the source of the encouragement loudly aimed at a teammate taking his turn at hitting a round ball with a round bat, squarely. It’s that same wide-eyed boy pulling for his fellow mate, his tone and intensity leave no clue as to his recent level of success or failure. For, with him, it’s not about him for more than any second or two at a time, but about the game. It’s about the game. It’s about the joy of competing in the same spaces between the lines as any player in history ever did. A smile is never far from his lips because it’s not work when you’re engulfed fully in your passion. A gleam in his eyes, like he’s getting away with something that must be wrong because it’s too much fun. It couldn’t be more right, this game, this symmetry, and this wild-eyed boy.

 

8 and 9

Goffstown in Baseball, and the NCAA Tournament

Yes, I have lived in Goffstown, NH for the better part of 20 years. I am quite proud of the sports teams in our small town (population of roughly 17,700), especially in baseball. New Boston, NH (population of roughly 5,300) is part of the Goffstown School District and is very much a part of our community.

This is just an update of some players from the Goffstown School District or Goffstown Baseball Districts playing college baseball this season. There are a few more players who have either missed this season due to injury or are playing Club Baseball in the NECBA for their respective college or university.

Goffstown’s Riley Palmer and the SNHU Penmen won the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament and earned the #1 seed in the NCAA DII East Regional which SNHU is also hosting. Palmer earned Second Team All-Conference Honors and leads the team with 9 HR’s, 91 Total Bases, and a .479 Slugging Percentage. He also tied the SNHU Single-Season HR mark with this, “Good Grief! That ball was hammered!…”  Baseball to host NCAA Regional

Goffstown’s Ryan Smith and St. John Fisher did win 31 games and their second straight ECAC Metro Conference Championship but did not earn an at large bid to the NCAA DIII Baseball Regional. Smith led the team in saves with 6 and struck out 24 batters in just 16 1/3 innings pitched. Baseball Crowned ECAC Metro Champs

Goffstown’s Adam Routhier and Franklin Pierce University did earn an at large bid to the NCAA DII Baseball Regional. FPU is making their 10th consecutive NCAA appearance. Routhier is hitting .323 with half of his base hits being the extra base variety in limited playing time thus far as a Freshman. No. 21 Baseball Named #2 Seed in NCAA Regional

Goffstown’s Jake Glauser and the University of Southern Maine Huskies are in the NCAA DIII Baseball Regionals. They lost their bid for a 3rd straight Little East Conference Title despite Glauser’s heroics but did earn an at large bid. Glauser is hitting .282, has played in every game this season and has scored 33 runs thus far. USM Receives NCAA Bid

Goffstown’s Connor Shaw and the UMass-Dartmouth squad had a feisty run in the Little East Tournament and won 21 games this season. They did not qualify for the NCAA’s this year, but Shaw is off to a fine start in his career having collected 77 career hits in 69 games and accounting for more than 80 total runs thus far.

New Boston’s Mike Bisceglia and Wheaton College won 27 games but lost in their Conference Tournament Finals. They did not get an NCAA bid this year. Bisceglia batted .302 on the season with an On Base Percentage of .417. He also went 3–1 with a 3.14 ERA in 21 appearances on the mound.

New Boston’s Nick Nalette finished his 4-year baseball career at Merchant Marine this season, averaging nearly an RBI per base hit over his career.

New Boston’s Tyler Barss and the URI Rams are wrapping up their season. It has been a tough season for the Rams, but Barss, a Freshman, has allowed just 18 hits in 22 2/3 innings pitched while also earning a save.

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.