Everybody has something that has changed them. Baseball is one of those things for me. It has always been a part of my life and always will be. Some may think baseball is boring. Some may think there is not enough excitement. If you're born and raised in Enderlin, baseball was a part of your life. Most of my summers were like the movie, "The Sandlot." They were entertaining to say the least. But instead of Big Chief, it was Beech-Nut.
It didn't matter what time of year, we were playing baseball. I remember throwing up the ball to myself and hitting it with my Bomb Bat all over the yard for countless hours. When dad would get out of the field he would throw me pop-ups until his arm fell off. I would throw balls against the silo and retrieve them until the ball would get deformed from smacking against the concrete. I remember riding my bike 2 and a half miles over to the cousins to get a game in, when we weren't at practice or at games. I miss ghost runners. I wonder how many games of wiffleball we played in grandma's ditch. It didn't matter the occasion or what we were dressed in. There was always a game. I remember my cousin Logan getting scolded after he had gotten grass stains all over his new suit after a funeral. "But mom I had to slide."
In my day, everybody got started in baseball with T-ball under Coach Mr. Gary Adair. I don't know how many years Mr. Adair coached youth baseball in the summers, but it has to be a record. He coached T-ball through Peewee. Pretty much every day of the week in the summer. Can you imagine that? Every day with kindergartners through 13-year-olds.
I still lived in town when I was in T-ball. Those early years are when you make lifelong friendships on the field and in the dugout. You also learn respect for your coach. I don't know how many times I heard the words, "You flippin peanut head!" "Pay attention you floppin twah!" Whatever that is supposed to mean.
After T-ball comes Pony. I moved out to the farm my first grade year I believe. Living in the country meant carpooling with the kids in the area. Most of them were Lindemanns. And most of them could play baseball. Because we carpooled together we were all on the same team. I believe in those days there was probably 4 Pony teams in Enderlin. The teams took turns playing each other while Mr. Adair pitched. "Get ready Mr. Lindemann, here comes the old pumpkin ball," he would say at least once a day. With that many Lindemanns on a team, the parents of the players on the other teams thought it was unfair. You would hear in the crowd, "They need to pick apart that team, that's unfair having so many of them on one team."
During the last year of pony I was involved in a car accident. I ended up breaking my orbital bone in my right eye socket. The muscle behind the eye got caught in the crack and that ended up giving me double vision when I look to my extreme right. I remember the doctor telling me, "You didn't want to be a baseball player anyway, did you?" My answer was, "I am going to be a major league baseball player!" Not many people know that I have double vision looking to the right. Good thing I batted right-handed and look to the left while in the batter’s box.
After Pony comes Rookie and Peewee. This was always a big deal. This meant full uniforms and traveling to other towns. Those blue and white uniforms were sweet. What were especially sweet were the long stirrups that no one uses anymore. Traveling to towns like Chafee, Lisbon, Sheldon, Kindred and Casselton was always entertaining in the Adair's Escorts. I wonder how many miles those cars put on throughout the years for baseball games. It didn't matter which town we were going to, Mr. Adair would talk up the opposing pitcher and say, "I heard that Rolland boy in Sheldon has a natural curve ball. You boys better be ready." Each town had a different pitcher who was going to shut us down. I don't think it ever happened. We had a pretty good group of ballplayers in my age group. I could rattle off the line up still. I don't think we could have been the team that we were without the fundamentals that Mr. Adair taught us. His style of coaching is a lost art. There are still some around who can do it but not many.
After Peewee baseball comes Babe Ruth. 13-15-year-olds. My first year of Babe Ruth was under the coaching of Patrick Adair. Mr. Thielges handed him the reins when Kondo was fresh out of high school. None of us really knew Kondo, but it didn't take long to know we were going to like him. Kondo was an awesome coach, just like his dad. Fundamentals were always preached and you knew when you did something wrong. Taking infield every practice for about a half-hour was the beginning of every day. Then we would go into baserunning, pitching, situations and batting practice. That was the routine. And we loved it. He made it entertaining and fun.
Man there are a lot of stories I could tell. I could write chapters. The road trips were awesome. I would usually bring my fishing pole along and we would hit a river somewhere on our way home. I don't know about the others but I learned a lot about life those summers when I was 14 and 15 years old. I sound like Kevin from "The Wonder Years."
We should've made it to state when I was 14 years old. But that year we only had 11 players. 11 players is fun to have because everyone gets to play. But when something besides baseball comes up, it sometimes gets hard to fill nine spots. The region tournament that year took place in Lisbon and we were down to 10 players. You see, there was a lot of rain that summer and the tournament kept getting pushed back. I had a Canadian fishing trip lined up so I missed the tournament. It wouldn't have been such a big deal but one of our players got thrown out of the game so we only had eight players and could not continue the tournament. I don't remember all of the details about the ejection but what I do remember was it was interesting. We were a bunch of juvenile delinquents. But we could play ball.
I remember when I got back and turned in my uniform after the season, some of my teammates were mad because I wasn't there. Kondo said, "I would've rather been fishing too. Oooo I love to fish."
|That's me at the 94 State Babe Ruth in Rolla. Kondo coaching third base.|
My second year of Babe Ruth was probably the best summer of my life. We had a good core of older kids from my class on the team. We were all good friends and the younger kids fit right in. That team was special. Later that team ended up taking the State High School Baseball Championship in 1997. But that year in 94, we went to state also. We were the only team there that didn't have any pickup players. The only non-All-Star team. Pickups, meaning players from other teams from your region. The stories from state in Rolla are the stories of legends. Lisbon's team made it to state that year also. When we get together things get neat. Thankfully the statute of limitations has passed and I can tell most of the stories. But the stories are easier to tell in person. Sorry. The stories just flow like they happened yesterday when I get together with Sean, Seth, Brett, Brandon and the others.
I got injured my sophomore year in high school after that summer when I was 15. That meant baseball really wasn't part of my life for the next couple years. Of course I went to some games and watched my friends and cousins play but I wasn't really part of it. Summers are long without baseball.
The highlight of my senior year was watching my former teammates win the 1997 State High School Baseball Tournament in Jamestown. That was a hell of a game. The game was back and forth, back and forth against Velva. It was a game of the ages. I remember sitting with Brock down the first base line watching that game like it was yesterday. When the game was over I remember Mrs. Adair telling me, "Go out there and celebrate with your teammates. That's your team." So she opened the gate and I went onto the field and congratulated the boys. She was right, that was my team.
|Photo credit goes to Sean.|
I also followed my former teammates to the state Legion tournament in Dickinson that summer. Again, the stories of those seven or eight days will be etched in my brain forever. Who will forget the story when we all thought Abbie Peterson died in his motel room. Turns out he drove to Bismarck and didn't tell anyone. Abbie was one-of-a-kind. "You boys better get your hitting shoes on, Hatton isn't a team to mess with," Abbie would say.
The stories from the motel were epic. They cannot be written down and should not be written down. A lot of money changed hands from many games of Canadian blackjack. A card game that has been handed down through the years of Enderlin baseball.
We ended up losing in one of the early games in that tournament and came back to play against Hatton for the championship. In order to win the trophy we had to beat them twice. We won the first game but ran out of pitching to close the deal in the second game. They were tough club.
|Babe Ruth Region Championship. Off to state.|
I don't know if it was my first year of summer while going to NDSU or if it was the second summer, but that is when I started coaching Babe Ruth. Kondo called me up and asked if I wanted to come help that summer. My response was something like, sure I can help I'm not sure what I can do. It didn't take me long to realize that you don't have to be physically capable of playing baseball in order to coach baseball. Those three years of coaching were a big deal to me. It meant a lot and it gave me a lot. It didn't hurt that we had some pretty salty teams also. We went to state twice and should've gone a third time. I still run into players from those teams and we always have a good chuckle about what we did those summers.
|Myself with Lincoln and Kondo after state amateur championship.|
Kondo would do things that most coaches wouldn't do. He was able to pick up on the little things that make a big difference during the game. Things that most people wouldn't even realize are happening. One of my favorite things he would do was choosing to be the away team, even when he won the toss. His theory was, we score first, we win. Doing this against a superior team worked most times. Superior teams weren't used to being behind. When we would jump on them in the top of the first, the superior team would panic and choke. There are many more coaching techniques that I picked up from him over the years. And all of those techniques added up to winning teams. It is more than a coincidence that when he starts coaching a team they start winning and start becoming a team.
My first real job after college also involved baseball. Writing and doing interviews for the RedHawks for two summers was a blast. Going to a baseball field for work does not suck. Especially with the people I got to work with and the players I got to know. I had to quit there because of some medical crap but I will always cherish those years. I consumed a lot of free Mountain Dew and hot dogs those summers. Go Hawks!
|State Amateur Championship in Jamestown.|
That brings me to amateur baseball. I have been involved with amateur for at least 10 years. I don't need to tell most of you but hanging around the Enderlin Indies does not suck. This sterling collection of able ballplayers and fine gentleman not only put a good product on the field but fill the void for any shenanigans that you might be missing in your life. Every summer is different with this team, but every summer is the same with this team. The amount of laughter and good times is not comparable to anything else I have ever experienced. Win, lose or get rained out, it doesn't matter, we have a good time. It doesn't hurt that we usually have a good team, did I mention the 16 State Championships.
|Hooligans and shenanigans…|
As you can see, baseball has always been part of my life and always will be. Baseball has done a lot for me over the years. It has taught me how to be patient, how to put in a chew , how to lose with dignity, how to apply Baby Gold Bond properly, how to win respectfully, how to coach, how to hit a round ball with a round bat squarely, how to get coached, how to play ring toss and many other lessons I can't even remember I learned.
For the last couple years I have also been a member of the Enderlin Baseball Association. Keeping the tradition going is important. Enderlin has always been a baseball town and I hope it stays that way.
Thanks for reading, Clint