Lowell vs. Live Oaks in the Rain

Chris "Monkey" Sheehy

Chris “Monkey” Sheehy

From Squints….
I have always loved rain on a summer day. I have many childhood memories from summer vacation that involved playing in the rain. My friends and I would ride our bicycles, play wiffle ball, or sometimes even go swimming in these summer rain showers. Riding and sloshing through mud and puddles has always been an exhilarating experience. This past Sunday was no different. Though older and not as excited about wearing wet clothing, there is still something special about hitting a ball with a stick in the middle of a rainstorm.

Mystery surrounded the day as we all wondered “Would it get worse? Would there be lightning? Will it clear? How bad would it have to be to call the game?” Yet even in the face of uncertainty, we eagerly stepped in the box, wiped our brow, and swung as early as possible hoping to move the game along quickly hoping to get at least one game in.

Rain is a great equalizer. Power hitters were consistently struggling to get the ball out of the infield. An occasional bat would fly through the sparse crowd if not properly toweled off prior to making a big swing. Fielders were dismayed when attempting to catch a wet ball on the fly or attempting to judge the bound. One ball may hit the ground with almost no bound. Another may skip off of the ground like a perfectly thrown flat rock across a glass still pond.

Lowell fielded 10 players, though Cappy and Goose, our two corner bagging power hitters, were missing. Monkey made up for their absence by hitting a home run and touching home plate in almost every inning. Though Lynn’s offense has been impressive of late, it could not get enough going on this sloppy rainy day. Lowell won the first game 14-8, and we decided to call the second game after the fifth as Lowell had an 18-4 lead. Though we had a great time, after 14 innings we were all ready to call it a day. It was really awesome to have 10-15 cranks enjoy themselves enough to power through the day with us. A big HUZZAH to you!

Right field was slow on this day. Jed never hit one in my direction. Perhaps its because he had mercy on me. Perhaps its because I have gotten closer and closer catching one of his bombs and he knew today was my day. Perhaps its because I asked Wiz to pitch him inside today as I couldn’t imagine fighting through 4 foot corn stalks, death soil that had turned to mud, and rain spotted spectacles. Or maybe it was simply because today was my day to leave the field with the cleanest jersey. I am going with that.

The Rockinghams and Oaks wow the crowd

It was all for the cranks on Sunday, July 20, as Lynn and Portsmouth split two games on a perfect summer day. Near-record numbers of base ball fans witnessed the two teams exchange the lead over and over with Portsmouth holding on to win the first game, 10-7, and Lynn rallying in the top of the ninth to take the second game, 16-14.

Freshly grown corn stalks in center-right field played a prominent role in the day’s event as well-struck fly balls from both teams sent outfielders sprinting into the crop to make catches or to dig for dropped ones. Cranks got in on the action, too, during quite a few foul balls which saw many near-collisions and spectacular diving catches.

Among many exciting plays, perhaps the one that cranks loved most came from Rockinghams’ striker Jim Leopardi, who placed a loop fly ball perfectly in the thickets of a tall bush on the third baseline. Live Oaks defense scrambled in the branches and brush to retrieve the ball but literally couldn’t find it before the Rockingams cleared the bases and Leopardi trotted home to a host of cheers.

At mid-season, Portsmouth continues to hone their edge while Lynn’s bats are louder and their defense is tougher than ever


Squints view of the Lowell Nine vs. Lynn Live Oaks

photo 2

Squint's is dirty

Squint’s is dirty

Every time I give away a league postcard I always get some response related to “Field of Dreams”. Today, as I strolled into right field I noticed that the corn had started growing. One section was at least two feet tall, and another was a little over a foot. The two patches were separated by what I have come to call the “death soil”.

As I contemplated the upcoming 18 innings, I knew that this “Field of Dreams” had a very good chance of becoming my “Field of Nightmares”. It’s one thing to battle the death soil, but its another to try to find a small orb half buried in dirt and surrounded by vegetation.

We are playing the newly revamped Lynn Live Oaks. Their ability to amass well placed singles gradually draws in the outfield while their power hitters crush monster shots. In fact, it doesn’t matter if your outfield is in or not, their talented shortstop, Jed, will hit it over you.

It’s not often that a striker on the right side of the plate can hit with power to the opposite field. But Jed is up to bat, and he sees corn. So, he hits it my way. I am playing on the edge of the death soil and try to get under the ball without falling. I successfully stayed upright, but the ball hits about 15 feet beyond me for an easy stand up double.

A few innings later, same exact result. I am beginning to take this personally. Memories of battles past are fresh on my mind and I believe he thinks he has my number. After an absolute bomb to left field and a couple of nice hits that were not in my direction the first game comes to an end. Even though Lynn had pounded the ball, a few costly errors and timely hitting by the Sheehy brothers pulled the Lowell Base Ball Nine to a victorious game 1.

It’s game two and Lynn is off to a fine start, leading after four. The fans are clearly cheering for the Live Oaks providing an extra boost that is much needed on this muggy afternoon. As I stood in right field I noticed that the Ipswich Ale truck was heading out for the day. I thought to myself “They should really put two kegs in that truck on quadruple header days. Now we can’t get a cold brew after battling in the hot sun all day.” A deeper concern was that my Lowell brethren would be stricken with grief at the departure of that fine truck. Instead, a rage was birthed. I believe we held Lynn scoreless that inning, and then our bats came alive. That corn field became our friend for a couple of innings as we fought to put the game out of reach.

But Lynn was not done. Jed had one more blast to right field in him. I am convinced that he paid Wiz to pitch him outside just so he could hit it to right. I was not getting burned again. I played at least 20 feet into that corn patch. I was daring him to come to me. Challenge accepted. An absolute bomb was shredding its way to dead right. There is no reason that a ball softened by two games of play should travel that far. But here it came, like a missile. Everyone on the team yelled a collective “BACK BACK BACK”. So through the corn field I ran. Once again, I leapt and stretched out as far as possible to reach for the ball. As I stuck out my left hand I felt the ball hit perfectly in my hand and stick there as I hit the ground and rolled through the dirt. I raised up to throw the ball, and that is when I noticed…It had fallen out. The death soil had beaten me yet again. Jed stood on second. Luckily our lead was insurmountable. Victorious, Game 2.

Wiz how much will it cost me to have you pitch Jed inside?

Newburyport and Lowell Sweep the day

In games 1 and 2 the Newburyport Clamdiggers were able to hold off the Portsmouth Rockinghams for two victories improving their record to 4-4 and securing second place.

In games 3 and 4 the Lowell Base Ball Nine battled the much improved Lynn Live Oaks but in each game Lynn had one or two innings in which they let up five or more runs. The Oaks hammered single after single and capitalized on some Lowell errors but Lowell’s line up was to strong and Lowell won both games. Watch out EBBA the Live Oaks are coming.

We are sad to announce that the Essex game scheduled in Maine July 19th has been canceled due to lack of available fields. The Portsmouth Rockinghams and Lynn Live Oaks square off July 20th in their final set of games this season. Action kicks off at 12pm at the farm.


3 Way Tie in the league…

The latest action in the Essex Base Ball Association on June 28th saw the Portsmouth Rockinghams and Lynn Live Oaks split their double header. In the 3rd and 4th games of the day the Lowell Nine swept the Newburyport Clamdiggers. With these games in the books the Lowell Nine stands on top of the league right now at 6-0 and the Rockinghams, Clamdiggers, and Live Oaks all sit 2-4. We are off for the 4th of July but all teams are back at it July 13th.

Lynn Live Oaks and Portsmouth Rockinghams

Lynn Live Oaks and Portsmouth Rockinghams

Newburyport Clamdiggers and Lowell Base Ball Nine

Newburyport Clamdiggers and Lowell Base Ball Nine

Essex Sweeps in Vactionland

On Saturday June 21st the Essex Base Ball Club traveled to South Portland Maine to participate in the 3rd annual vintage base ball game sponsored by the Maine Historical Society. In the first game the Essex Nine was matched up against the always tough Presumpscot BBC. In a back and forth game the Essex Nine was able to hold on to a 11-9 victory. In the second game the EBBC was matched up against the Dirigo BBC and in a back a forth battle the Essex Nine was able to secure a victory in the bottom of the 9th to win 10-9.

Here is Brent “Squints” Jones view from the outfield…
Maine has always been one of my favorite states. So I was excited when I heard we would get to play vintage in South Portland within eyesight of the Atlantic Ocean. This was my first trip to this quaint town and it did not disappoint. Everything was beautiful and I caught myself coveting life in this peaceful space so far removed from the rat-race of Boston.

Though the atmosphere was relaxing, we had a big task at hand, beat these boys from Maine. Essex BBC has grown accustomed to this yearly expedition as the competition is always fierce. Being undefeated on the year we were looking forward to testing our skills outside the friendly confines of the farm.

Playing on an actual baseball field in the absence of our cranks took a toll on our bats. It seemed as if we were swinging with swimming noodles rather than well crafted sticks of ash. Lucky for us Goose was not affected by the scenery nor change of location. He hammered away and willed us to victory in a well fought game one.

After a two hour drive and a tough first game, the team was eager for the break between games to get a much needed energy boost. Lynchy and I, being rookies on our first road trip, were responsible for bringing fruit snacks for the team. I somehow missed the word “fruit” and showed up with Gatorade and chocolate chip granola bars. Lynchy came correct providing what proved to be a favorite among burly vintage baseball vets, a pink box of Hello Kitty fruit snacks.
Unfortunately those snacks did not have the desired effect and game two started off with a similar feel. The game was back and forth, with both teams chipping away and scrapping for every run they could get.

We had reached the bottom of the ninth. The score was tied at 9 and I was set to lead off the inning. The bottom of our lineup had not produced today and I was no exception. I had fouled out to the catcher, hit numerous infield or shallow pop flies and had a couple of outs on the bound. I had yet to cross the plate for the day and the boys in the field had to be feeling good about their chances of taking this game to extra innings.

Being a dead pull hitter the pitcher positioned the team appropriately and turned to deliver the pitch. As he had done most of the day the initial pitch was on the outside part of the plate. I have played baseball my entire life. I know that if the ball is on the outside of the plate one is supposed to drive the ball to the opposite field. Try as I might I usually end up hitting to center or hitting a lazy grounder to second base. But its the bottom of the ninth and the game is on the line. I have to go for it. CRACK!

The ball flies to right-center. The right fielder moves to catch it on the bound. As I approach first I see the ball take a massive hop over the right fielder’s head. I time my steps to make sure I hit the inside corner and push myself toward second. I can hear the team cheering me toward third. I round the bag at second feeling as if I am running at the speed of sound. In the back of my mind is a curious thought of an heroic in the park homerun which causes my feet to go faster. I approach third.

Somehow, my feet begin to overrun me. I can feel myself losing balance. Like a toddler who is unaware that he is not yet ready to move at certain speeds my body begins to get closer to the ground. I realize that I have now begun an inadvertent head first slide. My momentum was now all I had. My body slid across the dirt. Reaching out as I came to a stop my fingertips barely touch the bag. Slightly embarrassed, and completely out of breath, I was pleased with my triple. We had at least three batters who could bring me home.

Lynchy was up. A lefty. Perfect. Just hit it to right field and we win. Apparently he did not eat enough of his own fruit snacks. He hits a grounder to short. The shortstop and I stare each other down and I remain at third. Now with men at the corners the spry switch hitting Wiz comes to the plate. He decides to hit right handed. I can only imagine its because he has more power on that side. He will hit a long fly. I will tag and score.

Wiz hits a short pop up right between the shortstop and the left fielder. It looks like trouble. The left fielder charges. I take off and then pause a few feet down the line watching as the left fielder gets closer. Oh geez. He is going to get to the ball. I sprint back to third just as the ball hits his hands. I have to hurry before he doubles me up. Just as I reach third I see the ball squirt out and three fielders frantically running corral the ball. Spinning, I once again take off for home. I now have no idea where the ball is or how close of a play this will be.

As I approach I see the catcher drop his head and I know I have made it. Essex wins the most exciting game we have had all year. If only we could have shared it with our cranks.

Where are the fruit snacks?

Lowell Tops Newburyport

Lowell Nine 2014

Lowell Nine 2014

On Father’s Day this past Sunday the Lowell Base Ball Nine defeated the 2013 EBBA champions Newburyport Clamdiggers 14-3 and 14-6. In a new custom we have passed over description of Lowell games to Brent “Squints” Jones….

Title: The Day I almost died playing Vintage

It was Father’s Day 2013 that I was introduced to “Vintage Base Ball”. Father’s Day 2014 I was on the field. Today was an absolutely gorgeous day for base ball. As I watched Wiz warm up I was taken back to the excitement of little league seeing the brilliant whiteness of a new baseball that has yet to be put into play. I could tell, this was going to be a great day.

It was a great day for the Lowell Base Ball Eight…er, nine. Lowell has yet to field a full nine players for either of our first two starts. Today’s opponent, last year’s league champs, the Newburyport Clamidggers. It would be tough to play this powerhouse with a full squad, much less eight guys. Thank goodness Jeremiah showed up and saved the day. He played a great right field and there is no way Lowell could have competed with only two outfielders.

Jeremiah Paternak

Jeremiah Paternak

I was also thankful that there were no mules or tractors to contend with today, though the ground was still soft from its recent plowing.

I was in center field today and had made it through most of the day with no major mishaps. We had won the first game and were in the midst of a fierce battle for the second. We had the lead and did not want to relinquish it. The heart of Newburyport’s lineup was coming up this inning and we needed to make sure we held strong. Wiz had been working them over allowing very few well struck balls. But something happened in the 5th inning. . .

Wiz released the pitch and the striker unloaded. The ball was racing like a jet towards right-center field. There would be no catching this ball on the fly. However, as I tracked the ball I had a sense that there was a great possibility that this ball would land on solid ground and take a nice big bound before heading into the tumultuous soil of the garden that has caused me much sorrow in weeks past.

My mind recalled that disastrous day where twice the ground won battles over my will to contend for fly balls. I knew the soil was soft. I knew there was a chance that I would run full speed into that dirt and lose my footing.
But its as if God made me to chase down balls that are flying through the air. This desire was too strong. I HAD TO CATCH THIS BALL.

So, I ran. I ran as fast as I could possibly run. If the ball would just bounce where I expected I should only need to take one step into the soft soil then arrive at exactly the right time.

So, I ran. The trajectory was perfect. My tracking, impeccable. I reached the ball just as I had planned. I was at maximum speed and I lunged as far as I could. Mid-dive the ball landed perfectly into my left hand. Time stood still for that moment. I could hear someone excitedly yell “HE GOT IT!” It was a proud moment. While flying through the air, ball in hand I began preparing myself to hold up my trophy catch.

But something terrible happened. My seemingly timeless suspension in air came to an abrupt end. All of the sudden my shoulder dug deep into the soil. My body slammed down on my left arm. My head bounced on the ground. The ball drove into my ribcage, and that was when I felt it…roll out of my hand.

WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This was my catch. This was going to redeem Plow Day. This was planned perfectly. The ball couldn’t roll out. It couldn’t. But it did. I couldn’t move to look up. I simply heard Jeremiah say something to which I replied with a gasp “Just throw the ball in.”

My brain was hurting. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t move. I just laid there, in the dirt, dying. I climbed up to my knees with my face still buried in the dirt. I looked up and saw the striker standing on second. On the ground were my hat and my glasses. I had no idea they had fallen off of my head.

I picked up myself and my stuff and began to make my way back to centerfield. My team was coming out to make sure I was ok. Sure my ribs are probably bruised and I have a mild concussion, but my pride hurt more. I waved them back to their positions and fought to catch my breath. The crowd cheerfully applauded excited that they did not witness a death at this family affair. Once again, the garden had beaten me.

We won the game!

Hip Hip Huzzah!