Baseball Memories

(Each year on the Opening Day of Baseball season I write a post 1, 2, 3)

Elmer UtechtHe sits there next to my mom and dad in the stands dressed the same no matter the weather. Flannel shirt, baseball cap, and khaki colored pants. He makes it to a couple of games a year when the farm is at its slowest. As I glance up from the bullpen he’s once again found someone he knows to talk to. No matter where he goes in this state he’ll know somebody.

It’s no surprise really, he’s been part of his community for a long time. He made the family name recognized in Spokane. As far back as I can remember he’s been selling his produce to local stores. The “Valley Fresh” or “Grown Locally” signs found in the supermarket could have just as easily read “Grown by Elmer Utecht”.

He’s always been a farmer and always well be.

But today he takes time out of the fields and makes the 400 mile drive with my parents to watch me sit here in the bullpen waiting to see if I’ll play. He wears the OC hat I bought him last year with pride. His grandson playing baseball in college…he couldn’t be prouder.  

 

The game has changed a lot since he was a kid. Back then you listened huddled around a radio, you played in the field with a stick and anything remotely round, and you bought baseball cards for the gum. Gloves didn’t cost $100s of dollars. A bat was anything that felt right in your hand, and major leaguers played because they loved the game.There was no free-agency, no talk of salary caps or steroid use.

Time has changed baseball in so many ways yet the basics of the game, the reason why I love it so much, remain the same. They say this game is 90% mental and 10% physical and that it’s the hardest thing to do in all sports: Hit a round ball with a round bat square. It’s the only sport where if you are successful just 35% of the time you go to the hall of fame. And if you hit safely 40% of the time…well….I’m not sure what would happen as it hasn’t been done for a long time.

He loves sports and although today I didn’t get to play he’ll have some comment about the umpires. He always does. It’s either the strike zone, or a close call at a base, but some how some way he’ll find something to talk about. I just smile as we go out to dinner and he recaps the game for me talking about different players, different plays, and of course the umps.

kingdome
 

As we talk over dinner I remember the time we all went to the King Dome to watch the Mariners play. I had to be around 10 then and it was the first time for both of use to be in the King Dome and watching the Mariners live. Of course he wore the same then as he does now. Flannel shirt, baseball cap, and khaki colored pants. I’m not sure which one of us was more awe struck being in the King Dome. A place we’d seen on TV so many times. He rarely missed a game on the television and when he’d come over for dinner he’d always let us know the game was on. He loved all sports. No matter the season he had something to comment on, something to talk about. 

 

This year as a new baseball season begins I’ll be thinking of my grandfather and the times we shared around this game. Whether talking about Mariner players, my college days, or my time in high school, he was always willing to talk. This year he gets to watch the game from high above, and I’m sure from time to time umpires will hear him in their ears.

Thanks gramps for the memories and let another baseball season begin. 

 

Dedicated to Elmer Utecht
February 9, 1928 – March 2, 2011

8 Comments

  1. Jeff, outstanding reflection. Sounds like you’ve had some pretty special times with your grandpa and baseball. Enjoy the season.

  2. I am a softballer in Sydney Australia and I lost my sports mad and very loving dad last year. Your words resonate very much with me. Thanks for putting pen to paper. Your grandfather is very proud of you. Enjoy the season.

  3. Thanks Jeffers, another good one. I’m beginning to think you’re a pretty decent author for short stories or essays and should try some of the farm stories from your experiences. Who knows. So proud of all your accomplishments!!! Great memories of you and baseball!!

  4. I love your start of the season posts! I look forward to them evey year. Each year I tend to go back and re-read the ones from past years. You write extremely well. Excelent posts!

  5. What a great tribute to what sounded like a wonderful man. I can understand how you would miss him and think of him so fondly at this time. Thanks for the memories.

  6. Thanks so much for the great opening day story. It brought up wonderful memories I have of time with my dad. The last summer he was alive, the last week I was home with him, we went to 2 Arizona Diamondback games. He in his battery-powdered chair, feeding tube, and shaking hands and me with my joy of spending time with just him. We had a blast. I kept the scorebook as his hands didn’t allow for detail work. I wrote down all his comments. Moments to treasure. Thanks for reminding me to do so.

  7. I read the “Baseball Memories” and I thought it was really cool, and I like how you were talking about how the sport has changed over time, and how it is the only sport where; now if you are successful 35% of the time then you end up in the hall of fame, and how almost no one knows what would happen if you hit safely 40% of the time. I also really like how you added how gloves were not hundreds of dollars and how a base ball bat was anything that would feel right in your hand. Another thing I like is how you added how 90% of the sport is mental and the other 10% is physical. And I think it was cool how you added that there was no talk of a salary, and how nobody on the team talked of using steroids. I also love how you added in the information about the umpires, and how it is either a close call at base, or in the strike zone. I also love how you added memories into the post! And lastly I love more than anything how you said that as the new baseball season was starting you would be thinking of your grandfather. All in all, I really like it, and thought it was really thoughtful!
    Thanks, croux16trms

    • Thanks Charity,

      I take it you really loved the blog post. I have written one every year for the past four years on the opening day of baseball season and ever year I dedicate the post to someone close to me. You can find the other blog posts at the bottom of this one. Glad you enjoyed it….I love baseball….and it’s where the name of my blog comes from. My best friend gave me a baseball bat my first day of teaching as a present. It’s been with me in my classroom ever since. When I’m doing my deepest thinking I carry it around with me. My 4th graders years ago named it The Thinking Stick and hence the name of this blog. It’s where I go to think, where I write to think, a place to reflect and a place where I can be me.

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