Story by Paul J. Marcely
Light Rail. School. Light Rail. Ask my roommate (mom) what’s for dinner. Homework. Sleep. Do it again tomorrow.
I had become the definition of routine. As a transfer student to MSU Denver from a party school and town in Arizona, I had reluctantly grown up and come home. I came to school, went to class, and went home. Sure, that’s what I needed to be doing but I couldn’t tell you the name of one person I met in my first year going to school in Denver. I hated it. I felt like I didn’t know a single person on the entire Auraria Campus. When fall semester started, I kept getting emails to tryout for the Metro State Club Baseball Team. I had brushed off the first few, but it stuck in the back of my head for some reason.
I played baseball in high school and then coached the junior varsity and varsity teams for the past three seasons. Now I was in a pickle. I have been around the game enough to know a lot about the sport. But playing again is a different story. It had been five years since I ran off the field with cleats on, and I missed that sound.
Part of me wanted to prove to myself — that I still had the ability and wanted to prolong my love affair with the game. Most of me just wanted to break routine, do something after school and have something to look forward to other than school and meatloaf.
I showed up to tryouts at North High School. I put on my baseball-pants and forgot my belt. Trust me, I didn’t need the belt for my pants to fit. An elastic band would have worked best, but I didn’t look like a baseball player. My confidence was shot before I even left the dugout and I couldn’t hide that under my hat.
I am fatter, slower and way older at 23 than these 18-year-olds. I had no business being out there. With a wad of tobacco leaves in my left cheek to calm my nerves, I sprinted to my old position — shortstop — finally feeling comfortable for the first time. I fielded a few balls and felt encouraged. My hands were quicker than expected, my feet were in good position and my throws to first base were strong and accurate. All that was left was hitting.
Finally, I cracked a smile. What was I so worried about? This is baseball, the same game I have played since I knew how to walk. The field was, and is, my escape. Nothing could bother me out there. I was finally playing again. That’s all that mattered when I dug my spikes into the batter’s box.
I spat on my batting-gloves and squeezed the wooden bat like I was keeping it from going somewhere. We each got five pitches so every swing was crucial. The first pitch came center-cut — crack — if flew far and bounced off the right field fence. I felt like I was better than I ever was — a good whack of the bat will do that for you.
I got a call the next day and made the team. It’s been a little more than a month since then and we’ve played eight games. We are 5-3 — lost our first series to University of Northern Colorado, won four in row against Fort Lewis and DU and split games this past weekend with University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. We are averaging more than eight runs a game at the right time. We will be hosting Texas Tech for a three-game series from Oct. 20 and Oct. 21 at Long Lake Ranch fields in Arvada.
I know how good I was at one point, and what potential I have to make the team better. And, I am finally getting in shape. As a team, we push each other to get better at practice and during games, helping each other out with our approaches at the plate and different ways to improve. There are no hard feelings, no egos. Everyone just wants to be the best they can be on the ball field. Everyone takes a turn on the bench and we become our replacement’s biggest fans. That’s the only way it works; we become friends and understand that every person on the team has a role. That is my definition of a club sport.
At times, we look like the “Bad News Bears” and other times we look like a varsity team. Baseball has brought us together as one club, one team, and if baseball were a person it would be my best friend. This month, club baseball has introduced me to 29 real friends who share the same love for it.