There is only ONE Oklahoma

Friday, December 15, 2006

One Summer Dream

Going to pull back the curtain just a bit and blog about my past. After all, it is the off-season of Nascar, and OU doesn't play in their bowl game for another 3 weeks. For the people who have actually met me and know me, you might appreciate this and get a smile from it, others who rap on my door after closing time and such, probably won't.

So here goes nothin!

There comes a time in every athlete's life (yes, I can say I was once of those once with a clear conscience) when they realize for what ever reason, they have gone as far up the ladder as they will ever go. I, however was given a 'second chance' by a great friend, to have a 'an encore season' after almost 17 years of competitive baseball from 'pee wee' ball to college baseball.
about 2 weeks into the 'cheesy 80's porno mustache

I had not played competitively in over a year when I got the call from an ex High School Teammate, saying he was heading up to Canada to Manitoba (he had played there a couple of summers before)to help regenerate their semi-pro team that had come on financial hard times the year before. Call it timing or what, but who was I to say no.
I had about 3 weeks to 're-train' (which really was not that big a deal since I was still in my mid 20s) and get ready for the unexpected, and just what was the level of ball played 'up there'. To add to the confusion, the other part of the 'deal' was that we were to help develop and coach the youth programs. That was just a bonus as I knew I would never play again in the 'States', but coaching was something that was always a possibility.

After spending 3 days at a border town in North Dakota (we were told to 'fib' and say we were tourists) because we didn't have the proper work visas and such. We were finally gained admittance into the Great White north!

It didn't take long for the 'Cannucks' to put us to work, but it was fun. Whether it was running indoor clinics with 'Fleas' (11 and 12 year olds) or sizing up the 'Midget' team (15 and 16 year olds), the bottom line it was still 'ball'. Something I had given up a year or so before.

That's me! (not the one on the right) great form from about the ankles up and great hand placement. (never send a 'catcher' to teach infield technique)

I would equate the level of play to 'decent Juco ball in the States' in those days, some days we faced some good 'import pitchers' one day, and the next face a 'local legend', but over all it was just 'playing' once again, that was the important part. I'll never forget it.
a giggle: I'm 'catching' at least three inches of 'air' here. just sayin

It wasn't a month or so before we got there that 'politics' came into play, with the 'Oliver North' hearings. The funny part was this was before the day in age of the Internet and 'live world wide TeVee' and being that we were in our mid 20's, it was not a focal point to us, we really didn't have anymore incite then anyone else. To this day, I really don't understand all the nuances of those hearings. I didn't see it unfold 'live', like the rest of the U.S. did. Should I feel cheated? ;)

PERKS!!! Being an 'import' and playing in a town that had a population of less than 30,000, it did have its privileges. In mid summer we got the opportunity to watch the 'Canadian National Team', play the Toronto BlueJays at a 'football' stadium in Winnipeg. Yes there was the very short 'left field porch', but more importantly somehow we got some sort of 'VIP' pregame passes, (lots of free beer and such) and got to meet Wayne Terwilliger in person. I guess that was more an 'Okie' connection than anything. But it was cool non the less. After meeting Coach Terwilliger and having a few Labatts Blue for hours before the game. We set in our seats and yes 'ragged' a bit on the Canadian national team from time to time. (after all, this was not hockey) It was just one of those fun nights, that could never be recreated.
This actually was a text book 'double cut-off' on a deep drive in the gap for an out.

PLAYING: At the time, I really never thought I would be playing competitive Ball again, so every at-bat, every pitch was a joy no matter how much my knees ached or how sore I was the next day. The games consisted of two to three mid-week ''league" games, but on the weekends there were the one day, single elimination tournaments. These were usually held in the smaller towns in the Province in conjunction with their Founder's days celebrations. Most of the time it was 8 or so teams so playing three games in one day was common. (tough on the pitching staff!) Another oddity was even though there were midweek evening games, none of the fields had lights as during the summer, the sun didn't go down till well after 10 o'clock.

"Bitaemo": The Canadian National Ukrainian Festival was really something that can only be appreciated live. The community that we played in had a high influx of Ukraniun decent. These were great people, who was not afraid to work hard each day, but also understood what it meant to 'have fun'. The 'build up' from the time we set foot in this town, to 6 months later and actually witnessing this wonderful event was well worth it. If you have never heard of the phrase "Bitaemo", I'm thinking a Google search will work.

I'll keep most of her to myself, but we did share a special summer. We both found a bond and helped each other if only temporally, and for our selfish and personal reasons but more importantly, we connected. "Though we touched and went our separate ways."
That's enough.

'I love Hockey':
We did get to see the passion of the the NHL play-offs first hand and 'Hockey Night in Canada' is a 7 day a week event. I have not experienced something where the fans crave more '24/7 coverage since. While I really didn't care 'who won', there was something, something that I could relate to about the fever pitch of this emotion. The closest I can equate it to, is SEC or Big 12 College Football fans.

I spent almost 7 months in the 'Great White North' that summer. I got an opportunity to do something that I thought was something of my past. But more importantly, that 'summer dream' opened up my perspective, for once in my life, I was actually a 'minority', 'an import'. I would not trade that summer for anything.

1 comment:

Gvav1 said...

Great blog! Keep the oldie stuff coming.

PS- We all had that moustache at one time or another.