The crack of a bat hitting a ball signals the beginning of that age-old American game of baseball (and softball). Even though that “crack” has been replaced over the years by a “ping” (aluminum bats instead of ash-wood), and the kids these days seem more enamored by video games than stealing second base, the game remains as wonderful as ever: witness the latest group of young ballplayers (and their parents and coaches) walking/strolling/giggling down Main Street this past Saturday to kick off yet another season of America’s game. As the late comedian George Carlin used to say: “Baseball? It’s about going home!…What’s better than that?”
The once-pastoral game has seen its ups and downs over the years, and seen itself as a dimming version of the “American past-time”, but there’s just something very special about a game that has no time limit, no set boundaries, and that begins with the defense (the pitcher) having the ball. Called by a lot of writers, poets and all-around mystics, the “Zen” game, baseball has also brought to the fore such magical names as The Babe (Ruth), Hammerin’ Hank (Aaron), The Say Hey Kid (Willie Mays), The Splendid Splinter (Ted Williams), Stan the Man (Musial) and The Doctor (Dwight Gooden) — among other great players of the game, past and present. Statistically-driven, baseball is the slow and easy game, where you can zero in on what the Mets Noah Syndergard is going to throw the Nats Bryce Harper with a two-strikes two-balls count with a runner on second base, or just sit in the sun and eat a hot dog.
For the young ballplayers of New Paltz, this past Saturday a good number of the over-400 registered to play this season made the slow and easy trek through the village. Under the auspices of the New Paltz Baseball/Softball Association (Tim Messina, president; Dawn Borello, vice-president) the season (that actually began last week) has nine leagues in play, in baseball: with eight T-ball teams (5-6 years old), six Rookie teams (7-8), five Minor teams (9-10), four Major teams (11-12) and four Babe Ruth teams (13-15); and in softball: two Rookie teams, three Minor teams, and two Major teams — the same age categories as baseball; plus 12 Buddy-Ball players of all ages. The games are played throughout the spring and early summer at Clearwater Field (out on Clearwater Road off Route 32 North), Hasbrouck Field (in Town on Mohonk Avenue), Drexel Field (on Huguenot Street) and at the Field of Dreams (on Libertyville Road, near the Ulster fairgrounds).
The leagues are sponsored by local businesses and individuals. The New Paltz Police Department and Fire Department both volunteered their time to help-out with the Opening Day parade.
So…in the parlance of a home-plate umpire: … PLAY BALL!