Tag Archives: Field of Dreams

Sandy Springs Park – My Personal Field of Dreams

27 May

Maryville, Tennessee sits at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, and, within its bounds, there is a park called Sandy Springs.image-27

It is a typical park with walking trails, playgrounds and ball fields. However, those are not just any ball fields. For me and a lot of other people, they are the softball version of the Field of Dreams.image-28

They know that they have hit the pinnacle of the slow pitch softball world when they step between the lines. (For those in the fast pitch game, a field in Oklahoma City is considered the mecca. I have been on that field, as well. Nothing there compares to the feeling of what happens at Sandy Springs.)

Before I explain why this place is important to me, I should explain something else. When most people think of slow pitch softball, they think of weekends of drinking beer and horsing around. They may also think of a local church league. I am not talking about that kind of slow pitch ball. I am talking about elite athletes who travel around the country playing for teams that are sponsored by businesses and bat companies. I am talking about professionals.

As I have written before, my dad used to sponsor one of these teams, the Le-Al-Co Storms. I grew up traveling with his players and learning the rules of the road. For that reason, Sandy Springs became a special place in my life.image-29

Traditionally, we played the first tournament of the year at Maryville’s Spring Open. For the players, it was a time to knock off the rust. For me, it was the beginning of a summer of adventure. However, the first big moment at Sandy Springs happened before I could remember.

In 1974, Le-Al-Co and its ten players from Lebanon, Tennessee defeated the top ranked team in the nation to win its first state championship. It took two diving catches in the last inning to clinch the game, and it created stories that I have heard all of my life. There would be more wins, but everyone involved says it was their greatest win.

A few years later, Le-Al-Co won another state championship by beating its arch-rival, Rochelle’s Market. By this time, my dad had expanded to players throughout the state to make up the roster. Many people considered it a Tennessee All-Star team. That did not make the win any less sweeter. In the last inning, Rochelle’s had the tying run on second with one out. A fly ball out near the fence led the runner to advance to third. We appealed the play and said the runner had left base early. The umpire called him out. Ballgame. State champions. The other team went nuts.

Those were great wins, but nothing compares to being at Sandy Springs in July. That is when it hosts the greatest tournament in the nation, the Smoky Mountain Classic. Some say it is bigger than any national championship, and I tend to agree. There is nothing like playing on Saturday night. Thousands of people sit on the hillsides to watch the best teams in the nation. The sounds of Ray Molphy, the Voice of Softball, would boom through the night air. It is electric.

When I was a kid, I refused to go to the room because I did not want to miss anything. They tell the story that we were playing late into the night, and I was worn out. I was standing next to my dad when he looked over to find me asleep. I fell asleep standing up.

We played a lot of games in the Smoky Mountain Classic. We won a bunch and lost a bunch. However, two stand out more than the others.

In 1991, my dad, along with Louisville Slugger, sponsored a team that consisted of players from throughout the country. It was ranked first or second all season. My brother, who did not make many games, showed up that weekend. My dad, my brother, and I watched as the team battled through the loser’s bracket to finish second. It was the highest finish we ever had in the tournament. Two days later, my dad suffered a massive stroke that took him to death’s door.

The next season, I was coaching another team with Larry, who has spent as many nights in Maryville as anyone. It was called Datom Argus and was one of the top ten teams in the country. We found ourselves playing past midnight in the loser’s bracket against the top ranked team, Ritch’s Superior. Despite the lateness, it was a huge game. The winner would get a spot in the national tournament.

I do not remember all of the details of the game, but a few things stick out. The thousands of spectators were gone. Their sponsors and the tournament officials were sitting on the hill watching. Everyone needed and expected the other team to win. One of their best hitters popped up at a crucial time, and Larry taunted him. We were getting under their skin, and they were pressing. Bucky, who put the team together and was one of our best hitters, hit a home run that barely made it over the fence. Their left fielder threw his glove over the fence in disgust.

It was a close game, but we pulled off the upset. We showed up a few hours later to play the next game. Getting to Sunday in the Smoky Mountain Classic is a huge accomplishment, but we were done. Our big game had already been played.

A few months ago, I went to Sandy Springs to take these pictures. The scene was tranquil. People were walking dogs, and children were playing on the fields. However, I could feel something in the air. I could feel the crowd. I could hear the games. I tried to explain it to my wife, but she did not understand. I do not expect those who read this to understand, but Sandy Springs is a special place.



Now Taking the Field, the Fighting Imbeciles!

20 Sep

The Natural was on television the other night, and I caught the ending. For those who don’t know, it is an 80s movie starring Robert Redford and is about an aging baseball player who finally makes it to the major leagues. Honestly, the ending still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and I have seen it a thousand times.

After it was over, I had this bright and original blogging idea. I wondered what the starting lineup would look like on an All-Movie baseball team. Unfortunately, the idea wasn’t all that original because these things can be found on blogs all across the Internet. It doesn’t matter because I can’t let a good, unoriginal idea go to waste.

Here are the parameters:

The players have to be fictional characters. There are a bunch of movies about real baseball players.

The players have to be in a movie that I have seen.

There was an attempt to have each player be from a different movie, but that didn’t work out.

This is only the starting lineup, and there is no designated hitter. There are tons of people who have filled out an entire team, but I’m not that interesting in this project.

In no particular order, here is the starting lineup for the Fighting Imbeciles.

From The Natural, Roy Hobbs plays right field. Great left-handed hitter. Decent fielder. Suffers from the effects of old injuries.

Manager’s quote: “The best…hitter I ever saw.”

From Major League, Willie Mays Hayes plays center field. Tremendous speed. Needs to be more disciplined at the plate.

Player’s quote: “I hit like Mays, and I run like Hayes.”

From Field of Dreams, Moonlight Graham plays right field. Contact hitter. Unproven defensively. High baseball IQ.

Smart enough to be a doctor one day.

From For Love of the Game, Billy Chapel is on the mound. Future Hall of Famer. Allows outside troubles to affect his focus.

Has a real connection with his catcher.

From Bull Durham, Crash Davis is behind the plate. Good bat. Can handle a pitcher. Deserves a shot at the big time.

Could be Billy Chapel’s younger brother.

From Mr. Baseball, Jack Elliot plays first base. Great bat. Spending time in Japan gives him a better attitude.

Player’s quote: “We’re not athletes! We’re baseball players!”

From A League of Their Own, Marla Hooch plays second base. Great hitter. Great team player.

And there’s Marla Hooch. What a hitter!

From The Sandlot, Benny Rodriguez takes the field at shortstop. Knows how to go get a ball. Plays the game like a kid.

Player’s quote: “Chuck it like you throw paper.”

From Major League, Roger Dorn covers third base. Wily veteran. Needs to be more of a team player.

Player’s quote: “I don’t have to do any calisthenics.”

From The Bad News Bears, Morris Buttermaker manages the team. Can make a team out of any combination of players.

Quote: “This quitting thing, it’s a hard habit to break once you start.”

I wonder if this bunch can win.

Movie Wisdom – Kevin Costner Edition

23 Jun

Welcome to the continuing series providing movie quotes to live by. Previously, we have delved into the classic works of Burt Reynolds and Don Knotts. This post focuses on the films of Kevin Costner. Remember, these are movies that must star the mentioned performer and that I have seen.

From Silverado

“A grown man can’t have a little boy with him everywhere he goes.”

“I’m a great believer in doin’ nothin’.”

“The world is what you make of it, friend. If it doesn’t fit you make alterations.”

From The Untouchables

“Never stop fighting ’til the fight is done.”

“If you’re afraid of getting a rotten apple don’t go to the barrel. Get it off the tree.”

From Bull Durham

“The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”

From Field of Dreams

“We just don’t realize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening.”

From Dances With Wolves

“Of all the trails in this life, there is one that matters most. It is the trail of a true human being.”

From Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

“There are no perfect men in the world, only perfect intentions.”

From Wyatt Earp

“I think the secret old Mr. Death is holding is that it’s better for some of us on the other side.”

“Nothing counts so much as blood. The rest are just strangers.”

From Tin Cup

“Greatness courts failure.”

“Sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you’re not good at them.”

“There’s no such thing as semi-platonic.”

From The Postman

“Wouldn’t it be great if wars could be fought just by the assholes who started them?”

From For Love of the Game

“A lot of little bottles makes a big bottle.”

From Dragonfly

“Death is like being pregnant. You either are, or you’re not.”

From Open Range

“Man’s got a right to protect his property and his life.”

“A man’s trust is a valuable thing. You don’t want to lose it for a handful of cards.”

“It’s a shame to go forever without takin’ a taste of somethin’.”

From Mr. Brooks

“You always want to invest in things people can’t do without.”