FOR THE LOVE OF AMERICA’S GAME: BASEBALL
"The American boy starts swinging the bat about as soon as he can lift one." Tris Speaker
“Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world.” Babe Ruth
Baseball has always occupied an important place in American life.
Apparently, this American classic has had the ability to link generations of American sons, fathers, and grandfathers from the beginning. It’s a game that connects and crosses culture, class, ideology, and creed to unite us.
A Frenchman once commented that, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America better know and learn baseball, the rules and the realities of the game.” While most cultures have had some sort of stick and ball game, “cricket” being one of them, baseball is wholly an American invention. The game’s history is almost as complicated as the country that claims it. Although the origins of baseball are not known, most historians agree that the game evolved from the English game called rounders. New England colonists played a type of baseball called “town ball” or “base”. There was one version played in the city and one by the farmers in the fields. As the story goes, even Revolutionary soldiers played ball at Valley Forge. Up until about 1839, the game was popularized all across the country; however, it was played with very loose rules.
Throughout the early part of the 19th century, small towns formed teams and baseball clubs were organized in larger cities. Walt Whitman once prophetically commented, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game—the American game.”
Popular legend declares that, "Baseball was invented in 1839 at Cooperstown, NY by Abner Doubleday-afterward General Doubleday, a hero of the battle of Gettysburg-and the foundation of this invention was an American children's game called “one old cat.” 1908 report of the Spalding Commission appointed to research the origin of baseball
In 1845, a formalized list of rules by which the whole team could play was produced by Alexander Cartwright. Much of that original code is still in place today. Cartwright is known as the “true” father of baseball.
In 1871, the National Association became the first professional baseball league.
America’s vision had always been about hope and renewal. After the Civil War, baseball became a place to manifest that vision even though the clubs continued to deny African Americans. As an institution, baseball continues to be in the hearts and souls of Americans. It has mirrored what is right and wrong with us for over 150 years. The sport has truly been embraced as the “nation’s game”. It is a game of our past and our future, reflecting who we are as Americans. I suppose that is why our children continue to take their place alongside and replace those who love the game.
And now we have the rest of the story. Two years ago these players: Logan Clark, Trent Verdin, Walker Williams, Braden Dickson, Ryne Ray, Caden Copeland, Connor Copeland, Hutton Leppert, Craig Gilbert, Matthew Hammock, Carson Bolyer and Turner Francis were still playing pitching machine; Greg Clark approached Dean Francis with the idea of creating a select team to compete in a more competitive level of baseball. This was the beginning of the dream! Greg at the time lived in Haynesville, Louisiana and knew of some players who he wanted on the team from Claiborne Parish. Dean Francis would pick his select players from Webster Parish. They had one or two practices and started playing in area tournaments. Both of these coaches had no idea if they would even be able to compete at this level. To everyone’s amazement, they won every tournament that they entered in the 8 year old division. They played together like they’d been playing together forever. “We realized we had a good thing going.” On August 1, 2004, the boys were considered 9 year olds, so they moved up and started “live arm” no more pitching machines for these promising young athletes. The team had a few tournaments in the fall to prepare for the spring season, one they placed 2nd in, and the other they came in 3rd. In both of these tournaments these young boys were playing against an older ten year old team. This brought the 2004 season to a close. With Head Coach Greg Clark and Assistant Coaches-Dean Francis, Phillip Verdin and Mike Hammock the team was destined for VICTORY in 2005!
Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets. Yogi Berra
In January, parents met and came up with the plan for the year. The boys would play “league ball” during the week to keep their skills up and the coaches would find tournaments for them to play in on the weekends. The parents and coaches decided that the boys would be playing all Super Series tournaments with the end goal to qualify for the National Super Series tournament and participate in that ultimate series of games.
Each tournament that the boys entered came with a large price tag. Most entry fees were $350.00! We quickly saw that we were going to have to find ways to raise money to off-set the cost of this very expensive hobby! During the spring months the team competed in three tournaments, placing 1st in all three! These tournaments were held in Mineola, Texas, Magnolia, Arkansas and Shreveport, Louisiana. After these games were over the Mudcats got busy with fund raisers. First they sold raffle tickets, then Mudcats families got together for a huge garage sale, next came the chicken charbroil dinner and carwash! This group of baseball enthusiast was very blessed to have some donations form area businesses to off-set some of the costly expenses.
Once the decision was made to participate and the team had qualified for the Super Series National Championship tournament, the practices began. The boys had to practice 2-3 times a week during the final month before the tournament. They were able to scrimmage the local All-Star teams as a last minute warm-up before the big show-down in Missouri.
While the boys were practicing, parents and coaches were making the final arrangements for the Minden Mudcats journey to Liberty, Missouri. Reservations were made, tickets were purchased, uniforms and team pins were ordered. A banner with the Mudcat logo and the player’s names was purchased so that it could be hung on the dug-out during play.
Finally on Friday, July 8th, 2005 the trip to Liberty began. Twelve hours later on that Saturday morning, a tired but excited group of the areas finest young baseball players checked-in. During check-in, the boys were introduced to other players from different states that were also participating in the tournament. The highlight of the first day for the boys was the exchanging of the team pins. They collected the pins and displayed them on towels. These pins will always be a small memento the boys will treasure for the rest of their lives.
Saturday was also the day for team competitions. The Mudcats participated in the “Golden Spike”, “Around the Horn”, and “Home-Run Derby”. Each member of the team was able to participate in at least one of these events. Connor Copeland was Runner-Up in the Home-Run Derby. Caden Copeland was selected to watch the Kansas City Royals batting practice before the game that night. The entire team participated in the Parade of Teams before the game as part of the opening ceremony. This was such a thrill for everyone involved to finally get to be a part of what all the hard work had led up too.
Sunday was the beginning of play for the Mudcats. They shut-out the East Texas Thunder with a score of 4-0. Later that day, the Mudcats defeated Wichita Hitman from Kansas with a score of 9-8. On Monday, the Mudcats were defeated by the Oklahoma Cardinals with a score of 4-5. On Tuesday, the Mudcats won against the Arkansas Twisters 11-4. Wednesday saw the final game and the Mudcats turned the Twisters into a breeze with a score of 9-2 for the ultimate goal the National Championship! Turner Francis and Trent Verdin were voted tournament Most Valuable Players for the Mudcats! The players were awarded individual medallions and National Champion caps for their hard work at the tournament. They also received National Championship watches and rings. The team’s First Place Team trophy is now on display at Minden Athletic.
After a hard week of playing ball the entire Minden Mudcat organization enjoyed a day at the Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun theme park. Great job Mudcats! We are all proud of all of you and we know how hard it was to get there.
"The game's isn't over until it's over." Yogi Berra
“Mom, can you smell it in the air?”
“What are you talking about? Smell what?” I asked curiously.
“Baseball…I can smell it in the air!” he pronounced jubilantly.
“Me, too, chimed the young boy’s brother gleefully. It’s my year to be pitcher, and I just can’t wait!”
It was this moment that I realized baseball had in some way been woven into their genetic profile. These feelings were beyond my awareness and understanding. How could little boys have become so passionate about baseball? How did they become so responsive to a game of swinging a bat and hitting a ball? Even more amazing was that by some means this sport has the ability to connect generations of almost every American family. The mother of young ballplayers
So when you hear the words “Play Ball” just remember that somewhere else in America other parents are sitting on the edge of their seats with that look of hope in their eyes of raising a great ball player!