Sunday, August 10, 2014

Summer of fun

This was different.

There's been a lot of activity in our neighborhood in the past month or so. Two different families have bought houses on our block and are engaged in the moving-in process.

One of the families, in particular, caught my attention. It was because of all the vehicles that suddenly showed up. From all over. A quick glimpse of license plates revealed cars from Connecticut, Kentucky, South Carolina and maybe another state or two that I've since forgotten. Maybe Illinois. There almost always seems to be a car from Illinois.

There might have been six or seven vehicles in all parked in front of the house...and down the street.


"What a family," I thought to myself. "They move in and extended family members come in from all over the country to help out. That's awesome."

Well, not quite.

Turns out, the family moved in from a house just a few blocks away. All the out-of-state cars belonged to college baseball players who were playing for the HiToms in the wooden bat Coastal Plain League.

Originally, there were five players, I think, who were staying with Pam and Jason Zanni as the Zannis opened their home to them this summer as an uncompensated host family.

"What a family," I thought to myself, wondering what kind of people open their home to virtual strangers for nearly two months. For free. "Unique people," I thought to myself.

The number of players was whittled down to three by August, and a few days ago, the HiToms lost in the first round of the CPL playoffs. So now all the players are gone.

The HiToms wear traditional uniforms, with stirrups and sanitary socks.
Part of me is actually sad. On the Fourth of July, I covered my first HiToms game for The Dispatch, where I am a contract writer getting paid by the story.

I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed the game, which was played in friendly Finch Field in Thomasville. With the rest of The Dispatch sports staff tied up covering the American Legion baseball state tournament, I gladly worked the HiToms the rest of the summer. I think I ended up staffing seven of their home games down the stretch.

I was excited by the quality of play. The pitching could be superior, at times. So could the hitting. In 58 games, the HiToms knocked out 50 home runs. In one game — the Fourth of July game — I saw two players hit two home runs each. One player, Austin Crutcher, ended up leading the league with 12 taters.

I was impressed with the players. Post-game interviews were peppered with "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" in their candid responses. Coach Austin Love, in particular, was thoughtful and engaging in his remarks. Mostly, as a journalist, you run into people wanting to cover up blemishes. Not here, and I appreciated that.

I also appreciated the simple things, like the HiToms wearing exposed stirrups and sanitary socks with their uniforms and not pant leggings whose hems trailed in the dirt. They looked, well, like baseball players. I'm an old-school fan and stuff like this goes right to the heart of the game. My heart, too.

Baseball season is over. For the first time in a while, I can't wait until next year.

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