It was opening day for the Saugerties Stallions, who would compete against the Jamestown Jammers that night.
Most of my teammates and I fell asleep on the charter bus departing from Cantine Field. Waking intermittently out of a light sleep on the bus, I witnessed breathtaking mountain views and occasional rural hamlets from my window.
After several hours, I slid forward in my seat as the bus came to a halt. We had made it to our first rest stop, Cooperstown.
I watched my teammates pile out of the bus with groggy eyes. My own eyes adjusted to the bright sun. I was astonished to see the National Baseball Hall of Fame right in front of me.
Making my way into the building, I shared the enthusiasm of my teammates. I felt like a little child on Christmas morning. I would be able to check this experience off my bucket list.
Some of my teammates had been here before. We ended up in a baseball locker room filled with both historical and present-day artifacts from all 32 major league baseball teams. I went from locker to locker, seeing rare jerseys, hats, balls and bats used at iconic moments in baseball history.
I was in front of my favorite team’s locker: the Philadelphia Phillies. I got an up-close look at some of Cole Hamel’s items. When I was growing up, he was always my favorite pitcher.
My tour continued into various rooms full of Phillies and other teams’ rich history. Players, managers and other individuals who had affected their teams were featured.
The official hall-of-fame section of the museum was home to the names of all 314 of its players elected since 1936. I looked at what represented each of them, spending a little extra time with one of my dad’s favorites, Mike Schmidt.
I had never felt closer to the game I had played my entire life as I did right then.
I sat back down on the bus with my teammates. Now the tension was building. The entire team was engaged in pregame rituals like listening to favorite pump-up music. We were ready to begin our season. We were ready for the Jamestown Jammers. Our bus contained radiating energy.
For many of my teammates and for me, this was our chance to get the playing time we had lacked in college. Though I knew I’d be pitching the next day and not today, I shared my teammates’ excitement.
The Jammers’ field was an old minor-league ballpark, filled with a sense of antiquity. My excitement for the game diminished, replaced by sympathy for my nervous teammates.
The game was a nail-biter which went into extra innings. Sadly, despite our best efforts, we lost the game: Jamestown Jammers 5, Saugerties Stallions 4.
Baseball is like a roller coaster. The season is filled with ups and downs, so you can’t dwell on the past games. Next stop was the Elmira Pioneers. After 365 days of sitting out from baseball, it was my turn to get back on the mound.