August 9, 2012: The factors described in Extra Innings Pt 1 and more made the play-offs and championship trophy a bit more personal.
I admit to being emotionally involved for several reasons.
One of my RV travel hopes included traveling to a small city and watching a low level minor league baseball game in an older stadium and looking out at mountains beyond the outfield walls.
Coming to Alpine in 2003 and seeing that wonderful Kokernot Field pretty much empty except for the ping of an aluminum college bat.
Was it a crime against nature for it not to house a minor league team since the early 1960’s?
That was Alpine then, but not now!
Securing the Pecos League Championship Trophy was a crowning achievement; having been eager to see minor league ball coming to Alpine in 2009 and following the team before being birthed as the Big Bend Cowboys of the Continental League.
Enjoying the game at the minor league level as I do, Alicia is a 2011 newcomer to Alpine and baseball, but on-board with all of it in these Pecos League years.
Sharing these last two seasons with her is very special!
The “more personal” aspect included being the third year of my pre-Opening Day Game pep talk about “being open to coaching”, giving players my card if they need to talk about anything, then sending them out the locker room door with a prayer.
Then, I’ve written articles about the team for local media, the Scorebook’s “Extra Innings” for each home stand; interviewed several players and enjoyed late season lunches with head coach Ryan Stevens sitting in the shade along the first base side under the covered grandstands in Kokernot.
Season tickets included enjoying conversations and companionship of the regulars.
First among them is my gal and biggest booster Alicia Trillo (supplier of most of my ball park food), Wayne Cline and Deb Allison, Randy and Sherry Jackson were joined later in the season by periodic attendees, the Neubauers and newcomers the Bakkers (the last two couples responding to my “4 Keeping Baseball in Alpine-Big Bend” offer, then attending regularly) and of course, the Collins and Peebles families of ever-present “Cowbell Gang” (major supporters and host families for players over the years).
Thanks to ya’ all making for fun and good times at the old ballpark.
The following is said with emotion having witnessed how much everyone on the field and behind the scenes; including the players, Coach Stevens, GM Kristin Cavness and Board Member Bob Ward – at the risk of failing to name each of the many good folks making Cowboy baseball possible in the smallest market in all of pro sports – put everything into it.
Give you an example:
We buy a ticket for a movie, a concert, live theatre, etc., and take our seats, then sit back when the lights go low to enjoy a good time.
We say to ourselves: “That sure looks easy. Anyone can do that.”
Well, that is not quite the case is it?
Behind what appears “easy” in order to give an attendee their money’s worth, is a slew of dedicated people working to make it all happen.
A major motion picture doesn’t just happen because we show-up at the box office; neither does a professional sport’s contest.
In the competitive Pecos League brand of entry level Indy ball, that’s guaranteed to be the fact of the matter.
My long list of names had similar concerns for each of their particular responsibilities.
So kudos to them for their hours and months of dedication to the game of baseball and the purposes of the not-for-profit 501(c) (3) in charge of the Alpine Cowboys. They made it all possible and I certainly appreciate all their efforts.
The point is that I saw it somewhat differently, not just from the perspective of a fan demanding a victory and league championship trophy, nice as that is to contemplate from up there in the stands.
I saw it differently by seeing how much more the team and its coaches gave to maintaining the stadium in lieu of being charged rent by Sul Ross University.
How many professional athletes have to maintain the track or clean the gymnasium where athleticism bears witness to their skills?
But then there was Bob Ward pushing a broom or Kristin Cavness folding the red box seats and others on the Board doing their share, too, long after the lights were turned off and the stadium locked tight.
Alicia and I saw it differently that evening in El Paso; receiving a call from Bob Ward 230 miles away: “Barry, can you give the umpires a ride back to Alpine?
They rolled-over their car on the way to El Paso.”
“Uh, Bob … we’ve got a hotel and won’t be leaving until tomorrow.”
“There’s a few people from Alpine.
Could you ask them?”
The others from Alpine had overnight reservations, too.
One fan was going to Van Horn, off I-10/US 90 some 90 minutes from Alpine, so that wasn’t going to work.
The Alpine team didn’t have room for two more passengers and their gear.
The Commissioner didn’t seem all that concerned, so we were ‘it’.
It was up to us to be the good Samaritans; unwilling to strand anyone in El Paso without a way to get to a motel for much needed rest or to Alpine for the game on the 27th.
Loading what fit in the back of our compact RAV4, we took Lupe Estrada and Jerald Palladino to a motel a mile or so up the street from our hotel and provided a ride the next day.
That allowed time for conversation (aka “getting to know them”) when they weren’t napping across the expanse of our remote, Far West Texas exquisite scenery.
We learned they are in the umpiring entry level of pro ball as graduates of the professional school in Florida, hoping to move up the ladder much like the players and coaches.
They’re not getting rich on a Pecos League paycheck, either.
However, they’re committed to the integrity of each contest.
It made it (almost) impossible to ‘encourage’ them with some of my pithy lines once back at Kokernot Field now that I understood they were human; not automatons.
So I began to feel bad for them because some of the fans at Kokernot don’t give them much of a break.
I’m not saying we need to eliminate razzing umps.
It is as much a part of the tradition of the game as singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch.
I’m not an apologist for the umps; but they try to call ‘em as they see ‘em and they have feelings just like the rest of us..
The home plate ump, batter and catcher have a unique perspective than those of us swimming in beer and coming to the stadium with a distinct home team bias if nothing more than they’re a lot closer to the plate.
Does that mean I’ve not seen more than my share of bad calls for or against?
I’m not going soft now that I’ve met a couple of the umpires, either.
It is just that once we recognize the humanity in the other person it is difficult to treat them other than the way we’d like to be treated.
Part of that comes from the minister in me; the other comes from the part that likes to think his mother raised him right.