The four baseball fields of Hamilton Little League will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. I spent countless hours there as a kid, year-round. Whether my friends and I were riding our bikes there to play or run around, or I was tagging along with my father who was always involved in the management of the rec league.
I played rec league baseball for Hamilton from as young as I can remember to about age 16. Skill-wise, I think I was perfectly cromulent. Not an embarrassment, but nothing special. I almost exclusively played catcher, where I like to think I was one of the better defensive players in the non-competitive rec league. I've always had a strong arm, and being able to stop passed balls was paramount at those young ages. I enjoyed being a part of every pitch of the game. As a hitter, I was okay but definitely left a little more to be desired. I swung at everything and had trouble making contact because I would "step in the bucket" on my swings. I corrected this for the most part over time, but I enjoyed playing in the field much more.
The real reason Hamilton will always be special to me is because of my father. He played baseball as a kid and starred at Poly when he was in high school. He was a coach or manager on all of my teams. Baseball played a big part in our relationship, and his love of the game has made me the overarching fan that I am today.
He was always involved in the league in some capacity, taking volunteer board positions with the rec league and helping out wherever he could. I spent many days there with him cutting the grass, trying to help build the snowball stand, or helping with the Joe Corbi's pizza fundraisers. When I was 14, he was diagnosed with cancer and had to take a leave of absence from his job. Being the strong and stubborn father that many of you are probably familiar with, he refused to stay home and relax. Instead he became the president of the little league and devoted his time to running the whole show.
He passed away a few years later, so as you can imagine I'll never forget the time we spent together at that place. Even now I still meet people from that area who remember his time there. I believe they have a memorial for him at the clubhouse, though it's been too long since I've been back there to see it. Maybe this Fanpost Friday will inspire a trip in the near future.
Let's throw in some funny side stories so we don't end on a down note.
1. At the younger ages of little league, they had a 9 batter per half-inning mercy rule in place. As an overly cerebral little shit (I'm sure most of you can relate), I figured out pretty quickly that if 7-8 kids had been to the plate, we should intentionally walk batters to end the inning if there were open bases and we could do so without runs scoring. I got away with telling the pitcher to do this a handful of games before my dad figured out what were were doing and told us to knock it off.
2. My father encouraged me to try pitching a game once when I was maybe 10-12 years old. I didn't really want to, but I gave it a shot. I wasn't even close to getting the ball in the zone. After about six walks, I started giving my dad death stares into the dugout, begging to be taken out of the game with my eyes and he finally got me out of there. Not fun. It's weird though, because by the time I was a teenager I could throw strikes pretty consistently. I never pitched in a game that counted, but I routinely tossed batting practice for my teams when I was a few years older and throughout college in intramural's. I've still got a nice little 55 mph-ish, straight as an arrow pitch that is perfect for destroying in BP.