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All Honor To Jasper High School Baseball

  

I joined Jasper nation on the long voyage up to Victory Field in Indianapolis, the epicenter of Indiana and of Indiana baseball, to support and applaud our young stalwarts, the Jasper Wildcats, at State, a great team from a great town with a great tradition and legacy.  My family and I were among the more than one thousand fans that made the three-hour journey so that our team, the best of their year, the pride of their families, the glory of their school and community would know they were not alone. Twenty years ago, when I first settled in our little hamlet, the notion of making such an excursion to watch a high school baseball game would have been unthinkable.  But no longer, for I have seen the light.  Wildcat baseball is simply the best-damn baseball around.

I have had a lifelong allegiance to baseball, a function of the neighborhood, or should I say, the borough in which I grew up, for this was no ordinary place.  Indeed, there, in the Bronx, giants and titans walked among us, and immortals battled, for in that place was Asgard, the center of the universe, the home of the greatest sports franchise of all time, the New York Yankees.  I had emerged over many years in the thrall of Yankee fandom, watched in awe the legends of the game, the great heroes of my youth, adorned in regal pinstripes, wielding bats as imperial scepters, punishing and dispatching would-be challengers to their throne, collecting their triumphs and trophies as predictably as the passing of the seasons and the rising of the sun.  Indeed, to be a Yankee fan, it seemed, was to live in eternal light.  I tracked the box scores and standings religiously, papered my walls and ceiling with images of Yankee greats, most especially, my boyhood idol, Mickey Mantle, and made regular pilgrimages on the No. 4 train to their hallowed temple, the Vatican of baseball, Yankee Stadium...

But over time, my attraction to the sport, especially the Major League version, waned, the devotion of yesterday, that majestic river of affection and reverence reduced to a trickle, barely noticeable in the stream of life’s drives and obsessions.  I no longer cared much about the game, paying heed only, perhaps, in the odd chance the Yankees found themselves at play in October.  No, the old pieties had withered and gone. 

The reasons were, perhaps, obvious.  What with the scandals, the free agentry, the galactic salaries, the steroids and strikes, the body piercings, tattoos, grills, braids, pony tails, and facial hair, the massive egos, the arrogance, fist pumping, and showboating, the questionable conduct on and off the field –why patronize a throng of tatooed, body pierced, pampered and whiney multimillionaires playing half-heartedly?   

But I had found something far better: crisp, accomplished, and exhilarating baseball played by clean cut, fresh faced, well behaved athletes with egos in check, competing for the love of it, representing their families and communities, their school and town, and in a magnificent ball field – right here at Ruxer Field in Jasper.

It was here where the fundamentals of the game were taught and practiced, with often flawless execution: fielding, pitching, hitting, and base running, pressuring opponents, wearing down pitchers, forcing errors, taking advantage of mistakes, eking out victories or winning lopsided contests - and in all the ways available to them: on the mound, in the field, at the plate and on the base paths, bunting, stealing, moving runners over, hit and runs, walks, squeeze plays, sacrifices, base hits, and, yes, the towering drive or extra base hit.  Year in, year out, our team was there: competitive, determined, bristling with talent and well-honed skill, and intent on winning.  Drilled by their coach of 26 years, a throwback from a tougher (and better) era; he demanded excellence and got it, teaching his young wards, as they referred to it, the “Jasper Way.” 

Our players carried themselves with dignity and grace on the field and off like they used to in the majors.  They wore their pinstriped uniforms proudly, exuding confidence but not cockiness, which they kept under wraps.  They were a disciplined, well-trained lot, their inspired play, their positive values and devotion to team and town, plainly evident – and all in a beautiful and grand ball field. 

Now this was baseball...

So this New York transplant became a devoted Wildcat baseball fan.  And their loss at State this year was as painful to me as anyone.  But I know our boys will be back.  They are, after all, the Jasper Wildcats, the New York Yankees of Indiana high school baseball.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  • Finn

    June 29, 2013

    Amen Brother!

  • Finn

    June 29, 2013

    Amen Brother!

  • Bill Willis

    June 30, 2013

    Bravo! Your stimulating account of Wildcat baseball moves even those of us who favor the hoops.

  • Bill Willis

    June 30, 2013

    Bravo! Your stimulating account of Wildcat baseball moves even those of us who favor the hoops.

  • Bill Willis

    June 30, 2013

    Bravo! Your stimulating account of Wildcat baseball moves even those of us who favor the hoops.

  • Linda Hoffman

    June 30, 2013

    Very well said. Creative as always, inspiring and up lifting. Write on!!

  • Linda Hoffman

    June 30, 2013

    Very well said. Creative as always, inspiring and up lifting. Write on!!

  • Catherine Lane

    July 1, 2013

    Well said. Those of us a little further away in Vincennes feel the same way about our Rivet Patriots! We also made the trip to Victory Field this year. We have less than 100 students in our High School. Not easy to succeed in sports when you have such a little pool to choose from. However the Rivet nation stays strong! Very good seasons were had by both. Hope we both make it to Victory field again next year!!

  • Catherine Lane

    July 1, 2013

    Well said. Those of us a little further away in Vincennes feel the same way about our Rivet Patriots! We also made the trip to Victory Field this year. We have less than 100 students in our High School. Not easy to succeed in sports when you have such a little pool to choose from. However the Rivet nation stays strong! Very good seasons were had by both. Hope we both make it to Victory field again next year!!

  • Harvey Chaimowitz

    July 1, 2013

    They are apparently ready to rip the New York Junkies apart, like 190 pound lean, mean Dempsey did to sloppy 250 pound Willard, who never recovered.

    I worked at the Stadium in !964--1966 and saw them and Mantle at their pathetic worst. Whatever you think of today's team, they are far superior to those broken down old men who were soon all replaced, even Maris, virtually hitless after the triumph of 1961.









  • shah

    April 2, 2016

    I like it

  • my website

    April 2, 2016

    Baseball lovers think it as their life event. In the past, there are many opportunities to practice baseball in the ground and school play ground played an important role in the development of the baseball game.

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