and couldn’t hit the ball, so it got boring. And we were kinda far from Mom’s Kool-Aid and lunch and our parents didn’t like us hanging where they couldn’t keep an eye on us. So, if one kid couldn’t play because the folks were being edgy, we’d usually just stay on our street because we all mostly liked each other and had loads of fun.
Playing “organized” ball was another story.
Obviously, my Pop was into the local league but it was kinda falling apart at the time in Colgate. The rival league was the Eastwood Little League and that was just the bomb. Like something out of “The Bad News Bears,” complete with stage parents, hoods hanging around the fields just sans the “super-ultra-cool” home run fence. I remember when that movie came out I didn’t think the girl pitching was cool, or the storyline was particularly cool. The kids were fresh and uppity, but that wasn’t the sell for me.
There were two unique marketing events in that movie that stole my heart:
1. I thought the fact that the “bad guys” went to Pizza Hut when they won was AMAZING! The Pizza Hut in Middle River — to a kid from Colgate — was the most “exotic” place in the world to get pizza. Right up there with Shakey’s!
2. I also thought that the mere notion of an actual home run fence (I STILL had NEVER EVEN SEEN such a thing in person until I was well into my 20’s in Florida for spring training!) was completely over the top and the greatest thing I’d ever seen. I thought it was so good and so cool, that it probably only existed in the movies…and in the Little League World Series!
And when they hit the Astrodome in the second movie with Tanner Boyle?
Well, you had to have actually played Little League to get it. It’s a complete over-the-top fantasy thing you’d really have to be a 10-year old boy to understand!
Our Little League when I was a batboy at Colgate had two food groups: hot dogs and snowballs. My Pop, though, did get pretty damned close to the Pizza Hut-quality of party when we would take the entire team to the newly opened Friendly’s at Eastpoint Mall for our end-of-the-season team party. Andy, who was the coolest kid on the team to me, always got the Jim Dandy. There is also a guy who played on that team named Tom Duni, who I still see at WNST events all the time.
But even with the big party, Eastwood was the Rolls Royce of eastside leagues and it was just a short bus ride or a long walk for my Pop and I.
I did play just one year at Colgate when I was 6 and it was only instructional baseball on a tee.
The first day I played “tee” ball — and I swear to God this is a true story — I threw the ball over my Dad’s shoulder through the plate glass window in our living room. First throw, he missed and BOOM…glass everywhere! My Mom was PISSED!
And then it was off to the field at Colgate Elementary where I played first base because I was the only kid who could catch and that’s what you do when you’re