There is a hidden baseball field in Springfield and it’s a gem. Lindy escorted me to the field which felt like the Ozarks version of The Sandlot. The chain link backstop is covered in ivy. The Coca-Cola sponsored manual scoreboard, slightly rusted, still beautiful, stood in front of the red barn where the numbers were kept under lock and key. Beyond the left field fence was no Beast as in The Sandlot, but bees instead, serving much the same purpose as the dog in the movie. Right field was marked by a barbed wire fence and a slight hill toward centerfield ended at the storage shed.
Lindy S. is named after his uncle’s college roommate, Lindy McDaniel, who went on to pitch for the Cards, Cubs, Giants, Yankees, and Royals.
“I did have a chance to sign a pro contract,” Lindy S. said with a little regret. “I was playing in a semi-pro league in Wichita and the Orioles offered me $500, but I turned them down. The next day, the Yankees offered me $1,000. I countered with $2,000, roughly the cost of a new car. I never heard anything from them again.”
Lindy S. played for Dick Birmingham at Hillcrest High School and collegiately under Coach Warren Turner at Missouri Southern State University. Steve Luebber, the current pitching coach for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, was the volunteer pitching coach for the Missouri Southern team.
“Even though I wasn’t a pitcher, I learned so much from Luebber. I just got back from a Hall of Fame banquet for the 1978 team at Missouri Southern. In Coach Turner’s second year, we finished 2nd in the NAIA World Series to Emporia State.”
Lindy sharpened his skills with his family and friends on this hidden field behind his parents’ house on the north side of Springfield.
“When we were playing on it day in and day out, it used to have an all-dirt infield and there wasn’t any ivy on the backstop.”
His parents came out to the field for a little bit to supervise our game of catch. Bob, Lindy’s dad and a veteran of the Korean War, put on his Nokona glove that looked just like my old Wilson and tossed me the ball a few times — my first game of catch with a nonagenarian.
Lindy brought a bat and bag of balls to the field and graciously offered to hit me some fly balls. Under a cloudless sky, I tracked his hits and had no trouble imagining an infield full of chatter and plays at the plate.
For a hobby job, Lindy is an associate scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He started out scouting for the Colorado Rockies from 1994 through 2001 and has been with the Dodgers ever since. Which means, if they win the World Series, he’ll have the opportunity to get a ring. He gave me an education into what scouts look for in high school players.
“The most important thing as a player is consistency. Are you consistently practicing properly, being a good teammate, throwing the ball right? Consistency is the most important part of being an athlete, regardless of the sport. Consistency in how you get along with people at all times. The second most important thing is attitude. What is your daily attitude? Do you have the right mindset? In baseball, there are so many games and every day you have to have the proper attitude.”
Much like walking out on a field from yesteryear, playing catch happens outside of time. As we tossed the ball and I listened to Lindy’s stories, I completely lost track of time. This, I think, is a very good thing. The older we get, the fewer things we do that aren’t bound by strict time constraints. Losing track of time chasing down fly balls and simply tossing a ball back and forth is good for the soul.
“Thanks for a great day of catch!” Lindy messaged me. “Next year, let’s go to a Springfield Cardinals game and I’ll give you a stop watch, ink pen, and scouting form, and you can ‘Be a scout for a day’ during a game, ten rows up behind home plate.”
Much like I know I would make a horrible umpire, I don’t think I’ll make a very good scout, but I can’t wait to try. Do real scouts bring gloves to the stadium? I only had one last question.
“World Series prediction?”
“Dodgers in 7. Kershaw closes it out.”