My wife Cheryl and I have a favorite restauant in Long Beach called Jongewaard's Bake N Broil. Over the years we've had the pleasure of getting to know the manager there. His name is Andy and he's a big baseball fan (Dodgers) and a heck of a great guy too.
Last night we happened to go to the restaurant and while we were there Andy told me he was sending me something he had written for this blog. He was responding to my request to have people answer the question - Why do you love baseball?
When I started this blog it was with the intention of getting others to tell their stories. This project about why we love baseball has provided people with that opportunity in a big way.
Every time I sit down to read someone's story I get a little excited because it's kind of like going to a game. You never know what you're going to see, but you hope it's going to be something great. Well, Andy delivered a story that's just that....
It was probably the summer of 1970; it may have been the summer of ’69 but I don’t want to rip off a Bryan Adams song. My Dad took me down to sign up for the Kiwanis T-shirt Baseball league in Long Beach. It was the T-shirt league because our uniforms consisted of just that, a T-shirt and a hat. The hat had a letter of whatever the name of your team was, like an R for Rangers or an S for Sharks. The Sharks were a very good team.
Unfortunately, we got there too late and all of the teams were full. There were still a handful of kids like me that showed up late and didn’t get on a team. The kids looked like just what you might think; the last ones to get picked for a team.
My Dad looked around and decided to do a great thing; he decided to start another team and coach them. I don’t know if I realized it at the time, but my Dad was an amazing guy. He was a fan of the underdog; a teacher and a motivator. I’m not sure if he knew what kind of talent he had or didn’t have, but he started a team and the Kiwanis T-shirt league Giants were born.
I happened to be a pretty good player; not great but pretty solid all around. I never hit very well but I was very good defensively. I recruited a couple of my friends from school and the neighborhood. So with, Danny Sweeting and Tim Pedersen (who I knew were pretty good athletes), and the rest of the “last picks,” we had our team for better or worse.
Some of the kids didn’t have gloves and one kid literally didn’t know where first base was. I remember a mother of another kid asking my Dad what kind of glove to buy her son and he said, “Get one with a lot of fingers in it.” My Dad was a pretty funny guy.
Dad had his work cut out for him, but he was great.
He did some creative things like putting colored dots on balls when he pitched batting practice. He made us guess the color before we could swing; that way he would know if we were watching the ball. When we hit the ball and told him the right color, he would give us candy.
Some kids were afraid of the ball, so he drilled a hole in one and attached a rope to it. He would then swing it around and have us hit it. That way kids knew it wasn’t going to hit them.
I don’t think my Dad was ever a great athlete himself, but he had sound fundamentals. He knew a lot about the game and he passed it along to all of us kids.
By all accounts we had a pretty good season. We went 3 and 9, and believe me those 3 wins were huge.
After the season my Dad made trophies for every player. Looking back at it all, I realize what a great coach he was. He is the reason I love baseball as much as I do and I’m sure all the Kiwanis Giants feel the same way.
San Juan Capistrano, CA