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Reflections on a day at the diamond

Sunday, Nov. 13 turned out to be a cloudy and windy day, and here we are, the Chatham Old Timers in the middle of November traveling to South Boston for an Old Timers baseball game. On our way I asked Rick Dixon what keeps us coming back each year to this crazy game of baseball. To him, it is for the love of the game, even for a brief moment in time on weekends.

Rick is a Chatham resident, but he teaches in Alexandria. The summer months find him in Chatham, but only he is there only on weekends during school season. Sometimes he drives directly to South Boston from Alexandria and back, an eight-hour trip for two hours of play. If that’s not sincere dedication, I don’t know what is.

As for me, I don’t play anymore. I just enjoy being around the game and the player companionship. I enjoy writing about the great times we have had.

The pancreatic tumor I have endured for two years is stabilized, but the bi-weekly chemo treatments have weakened my body. However, I am a miracle survivor and am very thankful to be here.

The 45-minute drive to South Boston goes by quickly because Rick and I have so much baseball to talk about. Rick brings me up to date on current events, team stats and player performance.

Matt Hunt, son of the local legend Junior Hunt, won the Triple Crown. (Charles) Hazelwood, my favorite player, is back. Noel Bryant, an old Old Timer, defected from Danville and is doing well in South Boston.

Other players have jumped leagues too. When some are no longer welcomed in the 30-And –Over Danville Adult League, they come to South Boston where everybody gets to play. It’s kind of like an aging player that still hit being drafted from the National League to the American League to be used as a designated hitter.

Tony Zangardi keeps the team stats. They are posted on the Internet and can be found on the league’s website.

Debra Day, Tigue Day’s wife, is the official scorekeeper, and she knows more about the players than any of us. She can tell if a batter has a hitch in his swing, if a fielder is on track, or if a pitcher’s arm motion is in sequence with his stride. We listen to Debra.

Well, here we are at the Halifax County High School field where the Day brothers keep everything well-maintained. Tigue Day is the league commissioner, and Kenneth Day is a high school coach.

Everybody takes a part, even if it is no more than working at the concession stand. That is what makes the league so successful.

Ageless Moses Williams is still head umpire. In spite of all of his aches and joint stiffness, he feels safe when he puts on all of his armor.

Game One of the playoffs was between Rick’s team, Heritage House/Thomas Bros. and Edward Jones/Palmer Properties. Heritage House won home team advantage since they won the most regular-season games.

Mark Yates was the starting pitcher. He hadn’t pitched much during the season. I suggested to Rick that they start him. You could tell he was eager to pitch and was ready. Mark pitched the entire game, allowing only three runs with the support of his teammates. I don’t think an error was made the entire game. Hazelwood made several outstanding catches in centerfield. The shortstop and second base combination of (Mike) Dickey and (Tony) Zangardi worked well, and Kenneth Day was great behind the plate. They were solid down the middle. (Jim) Shotwell got three hits and led the team in runs scored.

Rick didn’t get to pitch relief, but the threat of him being ready and able gave the team the confidence to win.

Ernest Hogue started for Edward Jones. Ernie usually pitches great in playoff games, but not so on this day. He started off wild but effective for the first two innings. Boy, I could see why the opposing batters were laying off of those pitches. Ball four, a walk, ball five just over the batter’s head, ball six just a little inside. The batter really jumped back on that one.

Ernie kind of settled down after two innings, but the opposing batters dug in and started hitting. Ernie went the distance. That is the true competitor that he is.

Their three runs came off of a two-run homer by Henry Stewart and an RBI-single by Noel Bryant.

Well, it is getting colder and windy. The lights are on and the colorful uniforms make for a good show.

Game Two is about to get started, but Rick has a lot of traveling to do.

As for me, I want to get home, curl up in a warm blanket and think about the brief time we all had together. It’s like “Gone With The Wind,” but tomorrow is another day.

(Editor’s note: This column was written by Jim Slaughter of Chatham, a longtime baseball player who is a former Class D professional baseball player and a former player in the Halifax County Old Timers’ Baseball League.)