(Left to right: Ryan R., Ryan C., Tom, Coach Hartley, Me.)
I’ve driven by the field taking Kaylea to violin lessons or Sophie to taekwondo, but I’d never seen it in person.
The FED is one of the newest baseball fields in Springfield and the home field for the New Covenant Academy Warriors. I noticed the field doesn’t have lights as I heard the story of an extra-innings loss under darkening skies last spring. Just a couple days ago, I remember Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick saying that Kansas City Monarchs owner J. L. Wilkinson mortgaged everything he owned to make night baseball possible — six years before the Reds did it at Crosley Field.
Thankfully, we played catch under blue skies and bright sun.
A prolific sports announcer, Tom got the ball rolling via email, “Baseball and playing catch have been a part of my life almost from day 1. I am hoping you still have a spot open to play. I would be honored to throw, even with a torn labrum!” In 1982, Tom played on an all-star team in Illinois and competed against the Japanese Pan-Am Team.
“They thumped us.”
This past summer, at the Cal Ripken World Series in Branson, he called 30 games in 8 days. I wouldn’t want to talk for a week afterwards. His son played catcher at SEMO and Tom used his son’s Wilson A2000 Pudge-model catcher’s mitt as he threw multiple nigh-perfect knuckleballs my direction.
I pulled up to The Fed and Tom was waiting on me. Tropical Storm Gordon has finally left the Ozarks leaving an absolutely perfect day for playing catch. We were just getting warmed up when someone approached the field. I was concerned we’d be asked to leave.
Principal Tuck introduced himself and welcomed us to The FED. He helped coach the baseball team for the first year of the program.
And then we were joined by Ryan C., Ryan R., and Coach Hartley.
Ryan C. is a senior right-handed pitcher committed to playing ball at Southwest Baptist University next year. He’s a Colorado Rockies fan, where Wade Davis and Drew Butera are currently playing and where Joey (Day #186) is headed for tonight’s game.
Ryan R. is an outfielder who will play for Southern Nazarene University. He’s a Royals fan who will be trying out for Team Thailand in December.
Coach John Hartley started the baseball program at NCA five years ago. Because he loves the game, on the side he also works with 13 teams through 417 Baseball.
The outfield grass was long and the mound and home plate were uncovered, sure signs that no games are scheduled, that the off-season is here. Ryan C. runs cross country to stay in shape and give his arm a break. Ryan R. plays soccer. I was delighted to hear that, even though both seniors are committed to playing baseball, they are giving their arms a break through other sports.
(Except for this game of catch.)
Sliders and 2-seam fastballs and knuckleballs were in abundance. I had both Ryans try on the old Wilson for fun. Ryan R. made an excellent catch of a pop-up against the fence.
“Our season starts February 26, 2019. You’re welcome to join us anytime,” Coach Hartley said.
It’s on the calendar.