“Baseball is what gets inside you. It’s what lights you up, you can’t deny that.” This was a quote from Tom Hanks when he played the role of Jimmy Dugan in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own.”
This was a movie about a women’s professional baseball team that was formed when the men who played in the pros went off to war.
For us who love the game of baseball know this quote is true and can now get excited because it’s almost here. As the season of America’s pastime approaches I can’t help but think about memories of my own that this sport brings to mind.
There were memories I have from playing this great game and also those I have from working around the game. I remember back to age 11 and 12 when I was not only playing Little League but a time I held my first job in this great pastime of ours.
During those two years of my life I held a job as the scoreboard operator for the Greenwood (South Carolina) Braves, then a single “A” affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. I don’t quite recall how I managed to land this job, but it was something I’ll never forget.
There were no electronic wireless scoreboards in Legion Stadium where my best friend and I worked. There were only metal squares with numbers painted on them that we would hang under each inning on a huge scoreboard that sat on top of the left field wall. We accessed this scoreboard with a ladder that was attached to the outfield wall and we would sit in chairs on a wooden platform just beside this long scoreboard. We had access through a very small opening to climb inside to place each inning’s score similar to what you might see at Fenway Park in Boston but much smaller.
It wasn’t just the memories of placing those old metal numbers behind each inning that made this job fun. It was our involvement with the game and players we met during those two years — some that actually made it to the majors later on. I can remember the old public address announcer that sat in a booth high above the old grandstands trying to get the crowd pumped between innings.
I would think of how great of a game baseball actually was and how lucky I was just to be part of it even if my place was sitting on an old metal chair some nine feet above the field.
Often times my friend and I would get to the ballpark early enough just to talk baseball with the players and even talk them into giving us baseballs or cracked bats. Former Atlanta Braves like Steve Bedrosian, Brett Butler, and Rafael Ramirez were our everyday favorites that we would chat with prior to the game. Just to sit and listen to them talk about the game and how much fun baseball was to them. We’d also hear their individual stories of how hard it was to make it to the point of where they were at that time in their career. These were stories and times my friend and I would have given up any night on the little league field just to be part of. This was an experience for us that went beyond the game itself and one that we understood the importance of taking in each moment we had with those players.
I guess we knew deep inside that they pretty much used us as runners at times in the early hours before batting practice but we didn’t care. We got that hint when they would send us to get them a hotdog from concessions before the stadium opened to the public. We didn’t mind because we were always awarded with baseballs or bats that might have had a small crack and were unusable to the players. Needless to say, I had a box full of baseballs and several cracked bats at each season’s end.
Baseball is a great game, but for two young boys it was more than just a game. It was an experience and memories that will last for a lifetime.
Dallas Bordon is a regular contributor to The Madison County Journal.