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
There's no tough sledding when you're a youngster|
Winter weather is here. And so are outdoor winter activities.Continued ...
- Vroman's Nose hike is no walk in the park
- Being a grandpa will be better than just OK
- Some hits from the soundtrack of my life
- Some book picks from an avid reader
- There's no tough sledding when you're a youngster|
- Cary Brunswick
Instead of boycotting, buy locally
Buy Nothing Day, that international day of protest against rampant consumerism, is traditionally reserved for Black Friday in the United States and for the next day, Saturday, in other countries.Continued ...
- Don't expect high scores from hungry students
- Obama's stuck between a rock and a hard place
- Common Core had little input from educators
- This shutdown stuff is making me nauseated
- Instead of boycotting, buy locally
- Chuck Pinkey
- Guest Column
Attitudes are changing on gas drilling
With elections over, the candidate lawn signs are gone. Otsego's permanent signage has once again returned. "For Sale" signs have reclaimed the lawns -- people attempting to sell and leave.Continued ...
- Balancing the city budget on kids' backs
- Dude, where's my socioeconomic class?
- Congress playing hunger games
- Election choices: what are they, really?
- Attitudes are changing on gas drilling
- 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
It could be difficult to get around Oneonta in late 1888
In getting around Oneonta in 1888, there were pretty much two seasons for the streets -- summer and "mud" season. To add to the misery of "mud" season that year, the bridge over the Susquehanna River on lower Main Street was taken out of use for a short time, replaced by a new one.Continued ...
- Professional basketball exhibitions played at armory
- Railroad, related developments expanded Oneonta in 1863
- Famous hobo discouraged youths from becoming wanderers
- Local college students pushed for equality in the late 1960s
- It could be difficult to get around Oneonta in late 1888
- Rick Brockway
Gray squirrels bring back some fond memories
I was on my hill sitting in a tree stand about a month ago when a large, gray squirrel ran across a branch not far from me. I was actually surprised. There hasn't been a gray squirrel in my woods for many years, at least none that I've seen. I watched him go from branch to branch and then down the trunk of a large, red oak tree.
- Whitetail bucks are as smart as they come
- DEC makes deer season even better
- If you happen to come across a lynx, the DEC wants to know
- It's the right time to hunt, but you won't be alone
- Gray squirrels bring back some fond memories
- Sam Pollak
The feds still aren't coming for your guns
"Tuck this column you wrote away in your scrapbook ... it will one day prove to be a source of great embarrassment for you."Continued ...
- 50 years can't fade a day to remember
- Getting robbed of my untapped potential
- Here's what I've learned about the next generation
- I blame the liberals for America's mess
- The feds still aren't coming for your guns
- 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