Monday, June 4, 2012

More Baseball - the Cow Palace

Perhaps it's the success of the Giants over the last week, but I seem to be on a baseball kick!  In response to my last post, a family friend and fellow auctioneer Steve Scofield (a Red Sox fan who lives in New Hampshire) wrote this:

"We could probably write a book called 'Everything You Ever Wanted to Know You Learned Playing Baseball.' As meaningless as the game is, playing with the other kids only taught us negotiation, teamwork, friendship, sharing, winning, losing, you're not perfect, you make mistakes, so does everyone else, you are responsible for your decisions. If only we knew enough to go for beers afterwards."

I've been thinking about my own baseball "career" lately.  I played "organized" baseball from the age of 6 through my sophomore year in high school.  I decided not to play varsity ball because the varsity coach at Sonora High School while I was there let the seniors vote as to which juniors to keep on the team.  Even at 17, I didn't care much for those kind of politics!

Some of my fondest memories about baseball involve what we called the "Cow Palace."  As I recall, I played Little League for the Standard Cascaders and Colt League ball for the Standard Braves (it's been quite some time, so my memories of team names could be faulty).  Regardless, I do remember the field where we played our home games.  Standard was the last company town in Tuolumne County - home to Curtis Creek School and the Pickering Lumber Company.  Our ball field was provided by the sawmill.  With the vast expanse of outfield grass, Pickering Lumber Company was also in the cattle business.  Before every home game, one of our fathers would chase the cows off of the field before we took infield practice.  The home team was responsible for scooping cowpies off the infield.  Any hit to the outfield that landed in a cowpie was deemed a ground rule double.  By the fifth inning of most games, the cows had overcome their fear of people enough to creep back into the outfield.  Usually, a dad drove his truck back out onto the field to move the cows so we could finish our game.  Today, the site is home to a sports complex called Merlo Field, but I suspect there are a bunch of guys my age who still call it the Cow Palace!

As a seventh and eight grader at Curtis Creek Elementary School in Standard, most of my spring recesses were spent playing baseball.  My 8th grade basketball coach, Jack Lackey, had played baseball in the Yankees farm system.  During one lunch period, he bet a bunch of us that we couldn't catch a pitch from him.  He was right- until I tried to catch his curveball, I didn't realize how much a thrown baseball could move!

Tonight, Emma and I took our gloves out to the back pasture and played catch.  That's the beautiful thing about baseball - you can play it anywhere!  Looking at Steve's thoughts, I realize that baseball did teach me many things - accepting a lack of perfection being perhaps the most important lesson.  Related to this lack of perfection is the desire to get up and try again AND the reminder not to take myself too seriously - maybe that's why baseball (at least to me) remains our national pastime!  I think it's time for a beer!

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