Skip to main content

Memories of the Baseball Past



A song can take a person back in time. The journey into the depths of the mind can be as short as to the car ride last week or as far back to the devastating moment of the end of a relationship. Some even trigger memories from a first concert or the exact place you were at when you first connected to a now favorite song.

And sometimes, that song is Puff Daddy's Can't Nobody Hold Me Down.

For no discernible reason, the song is on an iPod. The lyrics set forth a chain of events in the mind that go back twenty years.  It's early March of 1997 and this was one of the many songs blaring from the boom box at the back of the bus. The song was one of many that found its way into the rotation for that season's baseball team. Traveling by bus for sometimes upwards of nine hours, a lot of activities were needed to pass the time. Listening to music as a group helped build camaraderie, if only for a few minutes.

The desert of Nevada, a vast wasteland of sagebrush, mountains, and the occasional prison camp, offered very little in the ways of scenery. It became even less enticing considering many of us had been making these trips for four years.

Such was the life of an athlete in rural Nevada.

Outside of music, there was plenty of time for other activities. Sleep was near the top of the list, most notably after a double-header and a trip home done under the cover of night. The amount of sleep was dependent on the outcome of the day's games (or weekend), with a mood ranging from jovial to downright pissed off.

Journeying further into the recesses of the mind, the flood gates of memories of that season open up even more.  There were card games, quarters and dollar bills exchanging hands quicker than the Flash running to a sale on tights. Poker and blackjack were out. In was "Guts", a game where Aces, Pairs, and the occasional bluff dominated. There was a game involving '31'. Red dog? The barrel full of alcohol consumed in the intervening years has left sliver sized holes in the memory.

The 1997 season brought forth multiple games played in the snow. It was the risk of playing early March baseball in Northern Nevada and southwestern Idaho. Wind chills would often drop game time temperatures this time of year to below thirty. The sting on your hands from placing bat to ball could linger for innings and ear muffs might be spotted on the ears of a player or two.

The sound of cleats on the dugout cement. The metal ting of the bat to ball. The chatter echoing around the infield, carrying to the outfielders, where eventually it was lost to the weeds behind the outfield fence. Tiny moments of time re-entering the present day all thanks to a song. A song that may not seem so great in the present day, yet one that permits a stroll down memory lane to a time when the future was at our fingertips.

A promising senior season for a talent laden team ran into its fair share of hiccups. Slumps, late-inning defeats, and suspensions sent the team into the division playoffs as the fourth seed. The top three from the divisional round would advance to state that year. A matchup with the number one seed in the first round put our team behind the proverbial eight ball.

Another long bus ride was on the agenda, this time to the home of the regular season division champions and number one seed. All to face a team with the top pitcher in the north, a young man with a decent fastball and a devastating curveball. One loss would send us into the losers bracket and one game closer to ending our season early.

Two previous losses to this team in the regular season, by a combined three runs and both in the final inning, hung over our heads. Disciplinary action had sidelined our top pitchers from those losses. The senior left-hander, the man with the magic knuckleball and Tom Glavine changeup took the hill on that Friday afternoon. The task at hand was clear and simple: Win and advance to state.

An early lead by our team gave way to a 4-4 tie after a monster home run. Squandered chances left the game tied as we went to the top of the seventh. With a runner on second, a purely singles hitter, a 150 pound first baseman, slapped an 0-2 pitch for a double to left-center. A walk and another double later, we held a 7-4 lead.

In what seemed no time at all, the lead in the bottom of the inning had narrowed to 7-6. The bases were loaded. There were two outs. Ball one. Ball two. Ball three, a borderline call. Nerves were frayed. Anticipation ran high on both sides. Two strikes went by. The left-hander reared back, digging deep to fire one last fastball. The aim was true and wobbly legs gave way to pure elation.

The season might have ended a week later with two losses in state, but the memories of those years remain. The long road trips. The bickering. The gambling debt. The laughs. The camping trips. The games. Twenty years later, even with the natural progression of life, the marriages and the deaths, the injuries and the mistakes, a team is always that. Even if the communication is limited to smaller circles, friends reaching out to friends or following their life on social media, memories remain. On the field and off.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Bromance of Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Matthew Lillard

In the late 1990's and early 2000's, there was no greater bromance than that between Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Matthew Lillard. The two of them appeared in no less than five movies together in a five year time span. These two were meant to be. Two young stars destined to take the world by storm as a team. Hanging out, meeting women, and enjoying the good life. And then, just like that, stardom was ripped away from them. Though they continued to work, they would never appear together again in a film.
What was it that pulled them apart? Did they just choose to go different directions? Was it Sarah Michelle Gellar that drove a wedge between these two? While Lillard eventually went on to star in an Oscar nominated film (The Descendants), Prinze, Jr. went on to write for the WWE and occasionally show up as a guest star on television shows. While both have tried, neither has recaptured that joy that once displayed on screen. Tonight, I want to dutifully remind the world of t…

From Negan with Love

YouTube screenshot
*The following contains Spoilers from the season 7 premiere of "The Walking Dead"
"Pissing our pants yet? Boy, do I have a feeling we're getting close."- Negan, The Walking Dead

And people thought Ramsay Bolton was sadistic.


The much anticipated season seven premiere of The Walking Dead hit the airwaves last Sunday. Boy, was it a doozy.
I am not going to spend much time on what side of the liked/didn't like it/I'm never watching again spectrum I fall in. I will say that I was enraptured, on the edge of my seat for nearly the entire one hour, six minutes (including commercials) of the episode. This was an episode that filled me with a sense of existential dread for the characters inhabiting The Walking Dead world. It is a feeling that is still with me nearly two days later.
As a disclaimer, I am only through the first ten volumes of the graphic novels. I have yet to reach the Negan arc. I am also on the side of the court that didn't m…

NFL Referees Fail Cam Newton, Fans

If the NFL is serious about the safety of players and finding ways to limit concussions, the referees in last night's Denver Broncos/Carolina Panthers game had a funny way of showing it.
Instead of talking about what a great rematch of the Super Bowl these two teams put on, much of the focus was placed on the amount of hits Cam Newton took to the helmet last night.
And rightfully so.
There were at least three occasions during the course of the game in which Newton was on the receiving end of helmet-to-helmet hits. 
These hits were not of the "blink and you miss it" variety of hits. They were in the course of game action, delivered to Newton after a throw or in the midst of being tackled.
The Broncos were flagged for this infraction once.
Once.
For a league that is looking to protect its players, especially quarterbacks, these calls were not simply "mistakes" or "errors" by the referees. And to right it off as such is simply another loosening thread o…