Friends, fans, and followers I am slowing down. As the days progress through the weeks of summer, and the sun hits the horizon earlier each evening, I seem to have more trouble responding to the things that need the attention of a sportswriter. I just finished telling you all about how the East Van Baseball League was in its mid-season stretch, where everyone involved had a moment to take a breather. Some spent the time watching the majors take their rest over the all-star break, others spent it away from the city with friends or family, and some just kept playing baseball in exhibition pick up games around the city — I’m telling you friends, fans, and followers, you cannot get the game out these kids. And myself? Well, I spent the down time doing what Roy Madison does best: covering the action. Not baseball of course, without gameplay to report on I had to find some other things to apply my trade to.
I spent most days on a bench just in front of my room at the Sylvia Hotel, taking notes and adding verbal color to the simplest gestures of life and nature that require a little play-by-play to reveal subtle beauties to the rest of the world. I’m talking about bird watching, friends, fans, and followers; but that story is best left for another time, because while I was watching seagulls effortlessly glide through blue skies at maximum velocity and a scraggly little crow trying to beg a meal from the underbrush, the 2016 East Van Baseball season ended with the Mount Pleasant Murder clinching the pennant with a commanding 10–2 record. Which brings us to the front door of baseball’s reigning crown of drama: playoffs.
Well, I’m a little late, but still ahead of the game for the time being. The short season, seven inning sandlot style these kids have been playing up here in Canada has taken some getting used to. After years in New York covering the Mets, I’m used to bearing down to the beat of a 185 game season and never looking up out of fear that if I did, I’d never make it another day. Everything back then was base pads, box scores, corned beef sandwiches, whiskey in a paper cup, the machine gun fire of a typewriter pounding itself into paper, and a constant anxiety to find the juice of a story, a nugget of truth, a metaphor for life in the way the manager looks out on the diamond from the dugout, a child watches spectators respond with unprecedented fury at a disagreeable call, or how some rookie ties their shoelaces — and before each day’s deadline, with a prayer the other guy doesn’t get to it first.
Well friends, fans and followers, one day I did make the mistake of taking my thoughts out of the daily rituals of the season and came to the realization that my wife and kids had up and gone. After that I was never really able to get back to the park life that great sportswriting requires. Eventually I stopped going to the stadium altogether, and instead would try to cover the action from a barstool in Queens. Deadlines came and went, and eventually so did my copy in the Daily News, then I up and left for Los Angeles. Let me tell you friends, fans, and followers it’s easy to fall into a pattern of waking up and assuming life will be the same as it was the day before. All of us at one time or another fool ourselves into the fallacy of forever, some worse than others.
It joys me to report on this kind of an end though, friends, fans, and followers. The final days of East Van Baseball’s 2016 season is welcomed and deserved. Less of a league, and more of a community that’s thread itself into the tightly wound streets of East Vancouver over the past few months, the guys and girls that have come out to play in these gorgeous, roughed up, little parks around town have been a real inspiration to those who have come from far away places in an effort to connect with something real. I found something to write about again, in the stands, on the benches, and at the plate: new found friendships, playful jeers, slovenly side antics away from the play, and lightning bolts of action from every position in the park, all of it from a simple game called baseball.
If you haven’t already had a chance to do so, friends, fans, and followers you must see this lovely sight for yourself before it’s over for the year. Heroes will be made, defeats will be suffered, and almosts will be endlessly agonized over. I’m happy to report that, in true EVBL form, I’ve been welcomed by the league with open arms and will once again take a seat at a microphone in an effort to transmit the pitches, hits, misses, outs, strikes, and those little moments that make a day great to the crowds assembled for three days of baseball at Strathcona Park. So when you hear my rusty voice call out across the eastward facing diamond, “friends, fans, and followers it’s time for East Van Baseball!” You’ll know that we’ll be moving towards the end, together.