On a cold blustery day, the New Paltz baseball/softball faithful came out to cheer on their teams. Nine divisions of them. Three-hundred-and-fifty players strong. In an American Rite of Spring.
Begun on a field in Hoboken or Cooperstown (take your pick — it is unclear which) by Abner Doubleday in the 1860s (we think), the National Pastime grew up from the American pastoral tradition. You know, fields. Unending fields that supplied the space and temperament for this timeless game. Poets (like Walt Whitman) took to its lack of dimensions (in the physical sense) and notion of unending time to tie it to the burgeoning American literary tradition. The game can be played “forever” (there is no time, only innings) and anywhere there is enough space (there are only foul-lines to contain the game). The standard 90-foot baselines and 60-feet from mound-to-plate (for baseball — the originator of the game; softball came later) are perfect geometric dimensions adding to the game’s profound impact on the American psyche. It’s the summer game, the melancholy game: languid, soft, easy-going, communal, where you can talk to your neighbor as you watch and not miss a thing. It’s the past, but a past that has and will be mythologized as long as the game is played; the past as present. The only game which begins with the defense holding the ball. Football, the post-World War II National Pastime, is violent and militaristic, befitting the nation’s imperialist role in the world; basketball is the Urban Game, edgy, fast, balletic in its movement; soccer and hockey are international games, late-comers to the American sports scene. As George Carlin said: “Baseball is the game where you go home.” What can be more perfect than that.
So, yes, baseball still is THE American game. As once again witnessed by the young kids parading down Main Street this past Saturday. “Throughout the years, our town has been vibrant and extremely successful, as evidenced by our multiple district and state championships year-after-year,” says New Paltz Baseball/Softball Association board member Kevin Mumford, alluding to the 13-under baseball team that won a State title last season, as well as the 8-under, 9-under and 10-under teams that won District titles. The players are divided into T-ball, Rookie baseball and softball, Majors baseball and softball and Buddy-ball, run by Eric Hollman and Jessica Greenstein for kids with developmental and physical disabilities. The whole association is presided over by long-time president, Tim Messina and a 20-person board.
The season runs through July and games are at Hasbrouck Park, The Field of Dreams, Huguenot Park.