On a nameless Sunday, in an all-American town, on a date that will surely be lost to history, the boys gathered. They filtered in from the corners of the county—a political boundary that still meant something in that part of the country. The county may have fallen by the wayside in favor of the city, and the borough, and the state as far as importance goes, but it still meant something on that day.
For on that day, the boys from Delaware County—those dressed in black suspenders and white shirts, like their grandfathers who last cared about the county boundaries had done—transformed into something smaller, yet something more significant. Something at the same time bigger and more all-encompassing, but yet also more intimate and meaningful.
It wasn’t the win that did it—the boys could win on any given weekend. It wasn’t the heat that bound them together—for they had sweltered together before. It wasn’t the long balls, or the dropped balls, or the spectators speckled under the maple trees in the outfield. It wasn’t the dead air, or the curve balls that wouldn’t snap. It wasn’t the knuckles given in place of high-fives because the world had turned on its head. It wasn’t the smell of spray-painted cleats before the game, or the loose jokes and old, tattered balls scrawled with the team name. Those all mattered, but it was the boys that shone through on this nameless day with no wind in the American town.
The boys were one that day. Up and down the lineup, they were for that moment. Precisely because at times, as individuals, they weren’t. In the singular, they didn’t particularly stand out. Oh, sure, a few of them swatted and caught and ran and barked and smiled—but it was never a smile above the rest, or a stat line, or a boastful war whoop. The exact opposite, in fact. There were moments that a coach dreams of and yet some never get to experience in years of coaching. Perhaps it’s because they’re not looking for them—the moments that signal the springtime of a group of young men. But maybe also because the moments slip by unnoticed except by those who might have cause to pause and smile and nod with a knowing glance.
Those moments abounded on our nameless day. For the boys were sloppy; their leader frustrated. Too many thoughts ran heavy through his head, and his shoulders drooped. But the boys played on to their own tunes, combining in a symphony heard only by those who would listen, and crowned by no recognition other than that such is here, and categorized only for themselves. It was, after all was said and done, a day of smiles for the captain:
Redemption: After an historically tough day at the plate last week, RF Justin “Juice” Betterley would strike singles up the middle in the fourth and fifth to finish the day 2-5 with a sacrifice. Newcomer Dan “Nickname Pending” Kehrer swatted a long line drive in the second frame to tie the ballgame at two apiece, putting the Dairymen on the board and making up for the top of the lineup going down in order in the first.
Vindication: After a year of incessant work on his nascent law practice and hewing a brewery literally from a wooded patch in Bovina—necessitating his absence from more Dairymen games than he would have liked—Jake “Swan” Sackett put the Dairymen firmly in charge with a solo shot in the fifth inning. Touching them all, Swan smiled and paid homage to the Holstein bat used for his lightning strike.
Budding Leadership: In the ninth, with the Dairymen listing after three errors and Captain Nick “Roughcut” Frandsen pitching erratically, catcher Brenden “Rulebook” Cairns took it upon himself to visit the mound. Looking back, dear reader, it was clearly the right move and may seem somehow a small thing—but in the moment, with the obviously frustrated and vocally explicit captain on the mound, it is no easy task for a young catcher to stop the game and attempt to throw water on a raging fire. But calm the waters he did, with a reassuring smile and words years his senior. All the coaches out there will understand what a big deal it was.
Something Like Irony: Prior to the game and in an attempt to cultivate a rookie shortstop, Roughcut Frandsen admonished the outfielders to hit the cutoff. The Dairymen left field fixture Ben “the Gamer” Denison had a different take should a runner tempt his arm: “Infielders, just take a play off and I’ll do the rest.” Denison was as good as his word: after muffing a ground ball, the Gamer fired a frozen rope to the plate; catching by a full step the fool who dared try him. Simultaneously the stuff of coaches’ dreams and nightmares.
Indeed, the boys were one and many and one all at the same time that day, and the Dairymen cruised to a 21-15 win over their rival Mountain Athletic Club. Rounding out the Dairymen offense was leadoff Alex “AT” Taylor (2-5, BB, 3R), “Train” Tucker (6IP, W; 3-5, 2B), Ben “Diesel” Cairns (2-4, SAC), and Tyler “Hermes” Dugan (3-6, 2B).
That day will little be remembered in the annals of history. But in Dairymen lore, it may just go down as a turning point—when a group of boys came into their own; when every man on the team grabbed a piece of ownership. Because last but not least, there was pride: When instructed, as always, to throw his uniform into the communal bin if he should not make the next contest, not a single Dairyman tossed his uniform aside. Not a single pair of trousers was thrown, not a single suspender shed. Every man kept his pride on him, to bring again to the field under his own free will. That was the first time that’s ever happened, and did not go unnoticed by the boss.
Indeed, gentlemen, on that nameless day, the mantle of the individual was lowered, for the proud banner of the black and white raised high.
NEXT GAME is the Bovina Bicentennial and Creamery Field Inaugural on August 1 at noon. If you’re IN, you already know it.
Yours, truly, humbly, and proudly,
Member, Bovina Dairymen