It was just the other night, and it was pouring rain in Laurens.
Peering out from what passes as a dugout were a dozen or so morose softball players whose amateur careers possess far more yesterdays than tomorrows.
As the field began to resemble Lake Michigan, their spirits dropped as the gentle rain from heaven.
They wanted to play.
Well, all but one of them did.
That would be me.
It didn't seem to matter to my teammates that anyone venturing out to the pitcher's mound without a snorkel would be putting his life in danger.
They wanted to play.
The scene reminded me of Garrison Keillor's fictional Lake Wobegon, an old Indian word, he says, that means "the place where we waited all day in the rain."
The folks with whom I shared the dugout seemed perfectly content to wait all day in the rain, and all night, for that matter.
As for me, I decided to go home when I saw a bunch of different species of animals getting into a line, two-by-two.
It's a fascinating and quite admirable phenomenon, this willingness to suspend logic and squeeze each molecule of athletic experience out of bodies that deserve a nice rest.
My teammates come from many different walks of life, the only thing they really have in common being their sense of how wonderful it is when a ball somehow sticks in your glove or flies off your bat.
Some of my teammates in the age 35-and-older league are in excellent shape, but not many. One outfielder's back hurts so much that sometimes he winces even when he just walks.
Another gentleman almost got killed in a terrible motorcycle accident last year and had his neck in a brace for months and months. He still tries to finagle his way into games.
One of our best players had his aortic valve replaced a few years ago and has the huge scar on his chest to prove it.
Our third baseman customarily has a lighted cigarette between his lips when fielding practice grounders between innings.
During a recent playoff game, our first base coach was waving runners around with only one arm so as not to spill the beer he had in his other hand.
That was me, and that's the kind of league it is for all of us who play _ an informal but quite precious last stop on a bumpy road that began with Little League ambitions of baseball stardom.
Week after week each summer, they show up. They play the games with more grit than ability, knowing that the day will soon come when they won't be able to do it at all, and how sad that day and all those to follow will be.
It's a chance to feel alive, to razz a teammate and yell at an umpire, to be part of a group with the same goal.
Older major leaguers commenting on their bodies breaking down say, "the legs are the first to go." That may be true, but I'm certain about the last thing to go.
One of our guys got a bit carried away last week when he thought he heard a player on the other team say something nasty. Amid various ensuing threats and gestures, violence was only narrowly avoided.
The ump kicked our guy out of the game and suspended him from the next one.
The last thing to go? That's easy. It's the competitive fire in your brain telling you that you can, even as your body is telling you that you really can't, or at least, shouldn't.
As for me, I'm the oldest guy on the team, and each year before the season starts I tell myself I won't be playing, that it's time to hang up my Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars.
But _ against my better judgment _ I play.
It's like that scene from "The Godfather, Part 3" when Michael Corleone bitterly mourns his inability to escape a life of organized crime:
"Just when I thought I was out," he cries, "they pull me back in!"
Something keeps pulling me back in, and I think I know what it is.
First of all, my teammates are a splendid group, inordinately kind and patient with my waning abilities. I've evolved into sort of a combination of Yoda, giving sage strategic advice, and the team mascot.
I am definitely not one of the better players. My role is to be kind of a utility infielder, playing first, second or third when a superior player can't make it to the game.
I'm always pulling this muscle or that one, and during the summer, you're likely as not to find me limping around. If you do, please don't tell me I should stretch more. I stretch plenty. Then I pull another muscle.
But for a couple of hours once or twice a week, I'm able to escape to the same mental field of dreams I discovered when my father gave me my first baseball glove.
I don't worry about family or work or even if it's raining a little bit. As far as I'm concerned, only one thing is really important.
That the batter hits the ball to someone other than me.
Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208.
It was just the other night, and it was pouring rain in Laurens.
- Big Chuck D'Imperio
Gilbert Lake a jewel among N.Y. parks
New York does quite a few things right, and misses the mark on things almost as many times. But nobody does a state park quite like New York does.Continued ...
- Baseball cards: Different spokes for different folks
- It's just a short drive down my memory lane
- Sept. 11 Museum is sobering, inspiring
- Remembering the singing cowboy
- Gilbert Lake a jewel among N.Y. parks
- Cary Brunswick
'Insurgent' or 'patriot' can be hard to define
A common perception may have been that writing human history is a mere description and explanation of events. We know better now, however, that even the driest facts are colored by the language and ideology of those doing the writing.Continued ...
- Gaskin and The Farm filled a void
- We shouldn't be surprised by Iraq's turmoil
- Brunswick column on hiatus
- Two-tiered Internet is a bad idea
- 'Insurgent' or 'patriot' can be hard to define
- Chuck Pinkey
- Guest Column
Baseball Hall of Fame evolves, but remains as relevant as ever
I am often asked how the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum continues to be successful, year-in and year-out. The answer is simple: relevance. Our methodology to remain relevant is straightforward: preserve history, honor excellence and connect generations.Continued ...
- Guns only dangerous in wrong hands
- Like it or not, the curriculum needed reform
- Police must crack down on motorcycle noise
- SAFE Act won't help get the lead out
- Baseball Hall of Fame evolves, but remains as relevant as ever
- Lisa Miller
A view from above
Fire towers in the Catskill Mountains have always been destination points, built to capture some of the region’s best views. These sentinel stations served an important role for the earliest possible sightings of forest fires in the remote mountain ranges. But the fire towers and those who manned them fulfilled a multitude of other roles as well.Continued ...
- Being a parent is a constant learning process
- Healthy doesn't have to mean expensive
- A family era ends with close of Potter series
- Independent stores make up for loss of Borders
- A view from above
- Mark Simonson
Lure of local off-track betting gained little foothold
From now until Labor Day, many from across our region will take a trip to Saratoga Casino and Raceway. Some will go to take in the sights and sounds, others for the "swag" that's given away, and of course some will place their bets on a favorite racehorse.Continued ...
- Future Hall of Famer Mack visited Oneonta in 1924
- Successes, train derailment were newsmakers in July 1984
- Oneonta street boomed to prosperity in 1893
- Local landmarks, new conveniences made news in summer 1954
- Lure of local off-track betting gained little foothold
- Rick Brockway
Good old days revolved around a good old swimming hole
As I've told you many times, I grew up on the family farm outside of Laurens. During the summer, we spent many hours each day putting hay in the barn for the cows. It was hot and sweaty work, stacking the bales in the mow when temperatures were in the 90s and the humidity was about as high. But at the end of the day, we headed up the creek to a favorite spot â€" the old swimming hole.
- Sometimes hungry animals just come with the territory
- There's plenty to do at the Ellenville Fault Ice Caves
- Fireflies never cease to amaze as nature's night-lights
- Waterfalls are worth the trip
- Good old days revolved around a good old swimming hole
- Sam Pollak
Garagiola shows that nice guys can finish first
Through the long decades, I have managed to retain the ability to really, really annoy people, especially, it seems, nice people.Continued ...
- Macho, crazy America sticks to its guns
- My father is in my mirror, my dreams
- Being president doesn't look like much fun
- Some changes are just style over substance
- Garagiola shows that nice guys can finish first
- William Masters
Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues
As the time to vote draws near, we need to remember how money can run politics more than we can. Raising funds is a prominent (if not the dominant) task of getting elected. Raising issues is also crucial, but those efforts are subject to distortion and fear-mongering.
Republicans feelentitled to allthey can garner
An entitlement is a legal benefit available from the government to individuals who are within a defined category of recipients, such as needing insurance for unemployment or health services.
Romney focuses on self; Obama emphasizes unity
Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama for saying a person's success is rooted in his community, and is not all his alone. Romney belittles this with his belief in individual initiative. He is better at the put-down than the push-up.
Romney shows little regard for common man
The Republicans in Congress have voted over and over, 33 times, redundantly and uselessly, to rescind what they call Obamacare.
Scouts' gay ban creates problem where none exists
The Boy Scouts of America's "emphatic reaffirmation" of its vow to exclude any and all homosexuals from its hallowed ranks is ill-considered and pathetic, especially in view of its having reviewed the matter for two years.
- Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues