Friday, May 7, 2010

"Play Ball" - The Arrival of Spring

“Play Ball” from bellowing voice of Umpire Martin "Bub" Daly signaled my official arrival of spring growing up in East Hampton. Little League season commenced.

East Hampton has had a famed and glorious baseball past, renowned in Middlesex County League play back to the 1880s. Its teams produced remarkable competitors who provided entertainment within our community and comradery between the players where factory workers or mechanics played along side the mill owners. Our baseball tradtions continue today involving nearly 500 boys and girls in this great American pastime. Saturday May 1st marked opening day at Seamster Park, named after my old friend Andrew Seamster, a man who had been deeply involved with youth baseball.

Most noticeable and evident Saturday was the lack of media attention. Here, enthusiastic kids involved in wholesome sport, with parents, grandparents and siblings rooting them on, didn’t even get a blip on the live eye evening news. If a drive by shooting had occurred or some kid was apprehended dealing drugs, news crews from Channel 8, 3, 30 and 61 would be competing to be first and live with the report. Such a poor commentary on what is really important and newsworthy!

But back to 1957 - remembering my first season – playing for the Cardinals. With my neighbor and best friend Bruce Tolhurst, we’d either bike or walk from our houses on East High Street just up from Thatcher's Drug Store, to Berwick Field or as known to the real oldtimers, Drury Field - now the location of Chatham Apartments behind St. Patrick’s Church. Governor William O'Neill Drive into the Senior Housing Complex was a mere walking path to our town's one little league field.

Our team's Manager, Ed Bazar or his eldest son Eddie, the Assistant Coach, would warm us up, hitting sharp grounders and deep fly balls before the games commenced. On that team were David and Tom Bazar, Bill Dennehy, Joey Kagerer, Alan and David Battit, Don Booth, Steve Clark, Bruce True, David Fortin, Frank Connolley, Harry McKinney, David Heckart and Batboy Jim McKinney, competing against the likes of the Dodgers, Giants, Reds and Cubs. Those summer evenings remind me of a time of innocence when the biggest trauma facing us was whether or not we would get a hit, or maybe get hit!

Maybe a prelude of my political career to come, I think they used my nick name in the caption above. Little League pitchers don't always have the most commanding control. I probably got on base more that year from being "beaned" than from hits.

I encourage you want to relive a little of that era. Some evening or Saturday morning, take in a game at Seamster Park next to Memorial School. With bleachers, announcer booths and food stand, it is a far cry from the wood plank benches of 1957. The surroundings have changed – these are among the premiere Little League fields in Connecticut – but the joy of the game has not.

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