HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
September 24, 2007, Herald Journal

Baseball, camaraderie and connections


Hats off to the Winsted Wildcats town baseball team for their recent top four finish in the 2007 class C state baseball tournament.

The state tournament is the big show for town team baseball, and it is every club’s goal to try and make it to this elite tournament.

The Wildcats this year made more than just an appearance in the tournament, they made it to the final four out of the elite 32 teams across the state that qualified for the tournament.

I am a baseball fan and a Wildcat fan, at that. I could say that baseball is in my family’s blood, and it runs thick and across generations.

My father, who would be 90 years old if he were still living, taught us all about the game. He was a pitcher and pitched in whatever type of ballgames they had in the 1930s and 40s.

Our family has kept that pitching tradition alive. Two of my brothers were pitchers, and my oldest brother was on the other side of the plate as the catcher. I have three nephews who are or were pitchers, also.

On the softball side, my older sister did some softball pitching, as well as two of my nieces. I also was a softball pitcher and continued to play in some leagues until my children were born.

I learned how to pitch from my dad. He had big hands and could wrap his whole hand around the ball, which helped him with some of the pitches that he could throw. He could put a “mean” spin on the ball.

Although my hand size couldn’t match up with his, I still learned the techniques of how to throw different pitches.

My dad also enjoyed watching any type of baseball and was a Wildcat fan until he could no longer physically attend a game.

I can’t go without mentioning my mom, who also continues to be a Wildcat and Twins fan. As baseball and apple pie are deemed American icons, my mom’s apple pie was deemed the “best in the world” by former Twins owner Calvin Griffith.

Years ago, Griffith along with Swanney Landin of Lester Prairie, stopped by my parents’ house for a taste of apple pie and were sent off with a whole apple pie to enjoy; another memory we will never forget.

That is how baseball got in our family’s “blood.” It’s in our family history.

I, too, enjoy watching town team baseball, where no one gets paid, they just play for the love of the game. I also enjoy watching a Twins game and can talk ball with the best of them.

Watching baseball, football, basketball, and the list goes on, are really more than just spending a Sunday afternoon watching a game or activity. These pastimes provide a forum for people to share common interests, camaraderie, communication and connections (with some caution that one doesn’t engage in these pastimes in lieu of other important activities on a regular basis).

Some of my best family memories have stemmed from baseball. It’s not really about baseball itself or any other activity for that matter, but it is what is created from the sharing of it.

My dad and I connected and spent quality time together when he was teaching me how to throw the ball. It was more than just about ball and pitching.

Baseball has always provided a forum for our extended family to engage in family fun, camaraderie and connection.

For many, many years, our large extended family always played a game of baseball as part of our annual Fourth of July celebration.

Everyone participated, young and old alike. If you didn’t play, you cheered, watched and provided moral support and snacks as well as getting some good chuckles.

We had enough family members to form two complete teams and then some, but my dad was always the designated pitcher. One summer and game in particular will always stand out in our family’s Fourth of July baseball memories; in fact, we still talk about it today.

My nephew who is now an adult, but was about four years old at the time, hit the baseball and ran the bases in the wrong direction, running to third base first.

My dad who, of course, was pitching got such a chuckle out of this. This started the trickle effect, and our whole family broke out in chuckle-hysteria, while my nephew just kept running the bases until he reached home – all from third base.

When my nephew who now plays for the Wildcats goes up to bat, I still chuckle to myself every now and then thinking about what a wonderful memory he helped create for our family. And, I can also say, he has never run the wrong direction as a Winsted Wildcat.

I hope that your family shares in some family memories and chuckles that may stem from some common hobby or pastime.

So, credit goes to the Winsted Wildcats for the “wild” run in the 2007 state tournament and providing us some extra weeks of shared camaraderie, connections and memories. That is really what it is about.