Friday, June 17, 2011

For the Love of the Game

May I offer two baseball events this weekend that prove there is Joy in Mudville.

The first will be held tomorrow morning at 8 at Frontier Field. The brainchild of Brendan O’Riordan and Tony Wells, it is called the Challenger Baseball World Series and will feature close to 300 kids, ages 6-18, from the Rochester area and beyond.

Each of these kids faces physical, mental and/or emotional challenges, but you’d never know it while watching them experience the thrill of wearing uniforms and playing ball. I’ve been a volunteer for most of the 19 years it’s been staged, first at old Silver Stadium and now at Frontier. And each time I come away feeling as if I’ve received much more than I’ve given.

The event is free and open to the public, and will run until about 11:30. So please stop by and cheer on these young ballplayers. They’ll make you feel like a million dollars.

The second event in which you’ll observe the unbridled joy of sports is the Silver Base Ball Park League, which begins its 11th season at Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, about 25 minutes southwest of Rochester, Sunday at noon.

We have a doubleheader involving our four teams and we’ll be playing games according to 1865 rules. We don’t wear gloves (yes, I know that sounds crazy) but we do wear funny-looking uniforms like the Flower City uni you see me wearing in the photo on this page. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, and you get to see a bunch of guys who – like those Challenger Baseball players – really do play for the love of the game.

There are plenty of other neat things you can do during your visit to the nation’s third-largest living history museum, which features more than 50 historic buildings and houses, including the boyhood home of Kodak founder, George Eastman.

I can’t think of a better way to spend Father’s Day than to play a little base ball, 19th century style.

If you do make it to the ballpark, please say hello and make sure you root for Flower City – we’ll be the guys in the red socks. (Believe me, wearing red isn’t always easy for a guy who’s been following the guys in the blue Yankee pinstripes since 1961.)

Finally, I’d like to give special shoutouts to Red Wings general manager Dan Mason and team organist Fred Costello.

Mase and the Wings have been kind enough to host the Challenger World Series all these years, but it appeared that this year’s event was in jeopardy after the Indianapolis-Rochester game was postponed last night because of travel problems. The cancellation meant the Wings have to play a day-night doubleheader on Saturday, starting at 1.

Rather than disappoint all those kids and their parents by canceling the World Series, Mase worked it out so that the Series would start at 8 rather than 9.

Classy move.

And congratulations to Fred, who will receive the International League’s Spirit Award in honor of his more than three decades of entertaining the fans. Fred has tickled the ivories at more than 2,500 Wings games through the years.

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