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
1965 Oscars? Thanks for the memories
Well, the 86th Academy Awards are over. And for the record, I did a pretty good job in my Daily Star Oscar picks. I got them all right except one. Cate Blanchett was the spoiler in my clean sweep. Not bad, if I do say so myself.Continued ...
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- Happy and sad memories of Jan. 7, 1966
- 1965 Oscars? Thanks for the memories
- Cary Brunswick
It's time for warmer relations with Cuba
It has been 55 years since Fidel Castro and his bands of nationalist fighters and supporters took over the government of Cuba. The United States immediately took issue with that regime change, and ever since has had serious problems with the tiny nation just south of the Florida Keys.Continued ...
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- Keystone XL pipeline is still a terrible idea
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- I'm pleasantly surprised by Pope Francis
- It's time for warmer relations with Cuba
- Chuck Pinkey
- Guest Column
State's budget gimmick is hindering schools
Recently, the Margaretville and Roxbury boards of education joined their colleagues across the region and throughout the state in adopting a resolution calling on the state legislature to end the so-called "gap elimination adjustment."Continued ...
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- Nimbys, shills and celebs: A morality play for our times
- State's budget gimmick is hindering schools
- 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 ...
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- A family era ends with close of Potter series
- Independent stores make up for loss of Borders
- A view from above
- Mark Simonson
Local pipeline construction stirred controversy in 1964
Unlike the proposed Constitution Pipeline project, planned to bring natural gas from northeast Pennsylvania through our region to a terminal in Schoharie County, another pipeline project built from Watkins Glen to Selkirk generated considerably less local controversy 50 years ago.Continued ...
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- Beauty, grooming took center stage in Oneonta in March 1964
- Local news, opinion often mixed in 1889 newspapers
- Gasoline, demons and baseball were 'trending' locally in 1974
- Local pipeline construction stirred controversy in 1964
- Rick Brockway
It's cold, but there's still plenty to do
This has been a tough winter. In fact, it has been one of the coldest winters on record. Now don't get me wrong, I love winter and I always have. I've always believed that people who don't like winter don't have anything to do when the snow flies and temperatures drop below freezing. But I've never had that problem.
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- Opossum is unique in many ways
- It can be too cold sometimes
- It's tough to say what you really did see
- It's cold, but there's still plenty to do
- Sam Pollak
Religion should be a comfort, not a weapon
Discuss politics or religion in any establishment that specializes in dispensing alcohol, and -- proprietors warn -- the discussion is highly likely to result in you waking up on the tavern floor and spitting out teeth, probably your own.Continued ...
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- Mistakes easy to take ... if they're not yours
- Celebrate 2013 with the annual 'Sammy Awards'
- The feds still aren't coming for your guns
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- 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