Tag Archives: baseball

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.

About these ads

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.

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.

001 (2)

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

001 Stitch

A panoramic view of sorts.

005 (2)

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

007 (2)

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

017 (2)

Ryan unleashes his swing.

019 (2)

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

022 (2)

And the runner goes …

023 (2)

… The runner slides …

024 (2)

… He’s safe! Ryan steals second base.

027 (2)

Getting a secondary lead off of second.

034 (2)

Ryan pulls a ground ball foul.

036 (2)

Another foul ball.

039 (2)

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

041 (2)

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.

Allard barn fire 2

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.

053 (2)

GBR, where champions are made.

054 (2)

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

055 (2)

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.

056 (2)

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

058 (2)

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.

IMG_3093 (2)

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.

IMG_3293 (2)

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