Finding renewal in Baseball when things come to an End
On Saturday morning, I left my house at 6am. I was driving two hours north to Monterey to play in my last baseball game of 2022. It’s often bittersweet when you know it’s your last game of the playing season. You are on your way to play baseball which is a beautiful thing. At the same time you know your days of playing for the year are ending. That can cause conflicting emotions.
It’s compounded when the trip takes a while. While driving to the Monterey Peninsula, I was excited, sad, anxious and hopeful. A lot of thoughts where going through my mind. The upcoming game, my baseball related projects and my dad.
I played in this same game last year, at the same field and around the same time of year. I had an absolute blast and expected to again. My teammates from the SLO Hogs are a fun group to play with. Our opponents, Lumber Co., bring great competition and are very welcoming. This game, which started as a one off exhibition game last year, is on track to become a regular event.
As I was driving to the game, my dad was on my mind. It was the second anniversary of his passing. Driving alone for a long trip on such a day leaves a lot of time for reflection. My dad was always my biggest supporter. Whether it was related to family, work, or sports, he was always there to encourage me.
Though baseball has always been a love in my life, after his death, the game took on a bigger role. It was what helped me heal and move forward. Very soon after he was gone, I started my bat company, 805 Bats. A year later, I started my blog site, The Middle Age Amateur Ball Player, and this year, I created this website, Adult Baseball Central. Through each challenge, I’d often reflect on my dad and his constant support.
Even if it hadn’t been the anniversary of him being gone, the place I was heading was another big reminder of him.
Reflections of the past
My uncle lives in Seaside, CA, near Monterey. As a kid, anytime we would go up to visit my uncle, my dad would take me and my siblings to a park he always enjoyed as a kid. Dennis the Menace park in Monterey was always our favorite part of the trip. With a large, spread out play ground and even a train engine to play on (you used to be able to play on it, now it is only for display), going to this park was a highlight of every trip to Monterey.
Every time we went though, the baseball field connected to the park always drew my eye. Whenever we would pull up to the park, I’d see the field and wish I could play a game on it. I was in awe of it. I often felt that way when I’d see any full size ballfield, but this one was special. It was right there with the batting cages, stands and press box. The dirt was well dragged. The grass was green and mowed. Seeing that crisp field and not being able to play on it was like having a brand new baseball glove and nobody to play catch with. Playing there was always something I daydreamed about.
Can you guess what field I was heading to Monterey to play on?
That’s right. I was going up to play on that field, Sollecito Ballpark, that I always wanted to play on when my dad would take me to Monterey. It’s since been converted to turf, which makes it even more fun.
How this game came about
At the end of the Fall season, the Monterey 30+ adult baseball league holds it’s All Star at Sollecito Field. The game starts at 1pm, but the field is reserved for the day. Last year, a member of Lumber Co. contacted the president of the Central Coast MSBL, based in San Luis Obispo county, and asked if a team was interested in playing a game in Monterey, before the all-star game. A cookout would follow so both teams could hang out and watch the All-Star game together.
He agreed and his team, the SLO Hogs made plans to go up and face Lumber Co. The Hogs are not my regular league team, but I’ve subbed for them numerous times over the years. About a week before the game last year, the manager was trying to fill out the game roster and invited me to join them for the game. Of course I said yes. I never say no to bonus baseball.
So we travelled up to Sollecito ballpark, and all the feelings I had this year were there, only stronger. It was my first time playing on the field I coveted so much. It brought good memories with my dad. It was my first time playing on a turf field. And it was the Hogs first time playing against Lumber Co.
Lumber Co is a good baseball team. They have won the Monterey League Championship many times. Last year was a fun game, but Lumber Co. had it won almost from the beginning. Their starting pitcher shut us down for the first four innings. And their batters were hitting all of our pitchers hard. Though we started scoring later in the game, it was too little, too late. The final score didn’t reflect Lumber Co.’s true margin of victory.
Even though the score was uneven players on both sides had a blast. After the game, we moved up to the picnic area. We ate and drink and watched the game. We made new acquaintances and friendships. And we watched the Monterey all-star game together.
It was such a fun experience that everyone agreed that we should hold a rematch the following year.
The second annual “TBD” Classic
Around 8am on Saturday, players from the Hogs and Lumber Co started arriving at the field. It was an overcast morning with the temperature hovering in the low 50s. A surprise was waiting for the Hogs. One of the players from Lumber Co. had a trophy made especially for this game. Before the game, players from both sides took turns checking it out. It was the prize for the victor.
Game time was at 9am. We were batting first as the home team Lumber Co. took the field. We went down quickly in the first inning. in the bottom half, a couple errors and hits allowed Lumber to score. Early on, it was looking like it might be a repeat of last year’s game.
But it wasn’t the game remained close with both squads trading the lead back and forth. Errors cost both teams. That’s often the case in adult baseball. At the same time, bats for both squads kept finding the holes in the defense. The clouds started to part, and by the second half of the game, there was a beautiful sunny sky, though still crisp.
Going into the bottom of the 9th inning, we had a two run lead. It was looking like taking home the trophy was a real possibility. The first play in the bottom of the 9th was a ground ball in the 4 hole that was scooped up but then thrown away by yours truly. Don’t ask why its harder for me to be accurate from 20ft than 100ft. I couldn’t tell you.
That error gave Lumber the spark they needed. After a couple of hits, the game was over. Lumber walked it off on a hit over the left fielder’s head. We lost.
I don’t like losing, but it’s part of the game. And if we had to lose, losing to Lumber Co. isn;t something I’ll hang my head over. They play hard, with class and good sportsmanship. And they are a group of good guys.
After the game we shook hands and posed together for a joint squad photo. We started to pack up our equipment bags. Most of us made our way to the picnic area beyond right field. The trophy went along to be a part of the fellowship.
discussing a new tradition
Our teams gathered under the eucalyptus trees on the hill. We drank. Ate burgers and dogs. Chatted about our game and watched the All-Stars playing below. We made new friends, and talked about baseball. I spoke with many players from both teams that were interested in getting and 805 bat.
Going forward, I’ll bring a new 805 Bat for each annual game. Both teams will sign it and it will go along with the trophy to the winners.
We also started discussing the “TBD” Classic. Now that we’ve played this game two years in a row, it’s a tradition. And traditions need a name. So we’ll be working on a name. A few possibilities are “The battle of the bays” “831 vs 805” or the “Central Coast Classic”. Nothing is set in stone yet. So for now, this friendly annual rivalry game is just the “TBD Classic”.
Both squads agree that it would be great for the Hogs to host a game down in San Luis Obispo. So that game is in the works for the spring. But be sure, the Hogs will be returning to Monterey next year in hopes of winning that trophy.
Baseball has a way of making things better
When my dad passed, it hurt. He was an everyday part of my life, in the truest sense. He lived across the street, and I saw him everyday. Once the shock of his death began to fade, I had to find a way to fill the void it left.
I’m grateful that baseball was there. More than anything else, it helped me to heal and to see that I could use that sense of loss in a constructive way. Believe me, to have my dad back, I gladly give up 805 Bats, the blog, the website. Even baseball. That’s not possible, but the support he gave me continues to fuel me as I pour myself into these entities.
Likewise, the end of the baseball season is a sad time for me. It too is a loss. The end of something good. But out of the end of things can come something new, like an annual rivalry to extend the season for just one more game.
I’m grateful to Lumber Co. for inviting us to play. I look forward to seeing on the field again when you come to SLO in the spring. Until then, I’ll be working on my throws to first and wondering what that trophy will look like on my shelf.
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