Friday, June 12, 2009

Uniforms and everything: Stallions Baseball

"Yup, we've got uniforms and everything. It's really great!"
- Jake Taylor, Major League

With no formal baseball training, and a severe hangover handicap, the Stallions still manage to trot out a determined, joyful team every Sunday afternoon. They're participating in something purely American: playing baseball on green grass under a blue sky - not for money or personal accolades, but for the love of the game. The members of this team are part of a growing number of twenty-something athletes who are rediscovering their love of baseball, while rejecting the idea of softball all together. "It seems like most guys our age just drink beer and play softball. I think if you're able to play hardball, you should," explains pitcher Mark Waters. The Stallions evolved from very informal sandlot games to a raggedy gang of rejects playing in the only organization that would accept them - the Northfield Latino Baseball League.

While the participants insist this is a far better option than beer-league softball, this form of baseball is not without it's faults. When the Stallions recently lost a game on a dropped (very) foul pop, it illustrated two problems that plague the NLBL - umpiring and facilities. First, the green diamonds on which the teams compete are often less than adequate. Two hours before the game, manager Michael Anderson can be found at the local grocery store buying chalk for the baselines: a bag of flour, which apparently is also a great alternative to diamond-dry. On his way to meet the rest of the team, he'll stop, begrudgingly, at a softball field. Throwing the softball bases into his truck, Anderson quips, "I had two stolen bases before the game even started."

Forever in the shadow of softball, the Stallions once had to play on an old softball field. With a sandy mound, an all skin infield and questionable dimensions, the Albert Lea field is far and away provides the worst facilities in the league. The infield was forced to play in all afternoon, because there was a lip where the dirt turned to grass, about 95 feet from home plate. The dandelions flew that day, but alas, the Stallions lost.

Then there are the umpires. The umpires in the NLBL aren't umpires until someone yells at them, "hey, wanna ump?" It is a rare occasion when the ump knows all the rules of the game. Of course, there is always a language barrier, as illustrated by right-fielder Kyle Fredrickson's mistaken belief that 'tiempo' meant 'strike'. Manager Anderson, who is particularly disgusted with the performance of the umpires, issued the following statement: "Hey look it's big foot. Or wait, it's the Loch Ness monster. Oh wait, it's a good ump in the Mexican League."

From the Majors to the NLBL, there are a set of unwritten rules and codes of conduct. They are enforced only by saying this magical phrase: "That's Bush League." This code of conduct is somewhat more flexible for the Stallions, for when a teammate does something deemed "bush" and is called out, he simply retorts, "This is the Bush League!"

Indeed, it is the Bush League, but it's better than softball.


brex said...

viva los stallions!

bizmarkie507 said...

Marty Anderson's meltdown on me was the greatest moment in sports history. I wish somebody had a camera so the video would have 600,000 views on youtube by now.

soup said...

I love it. Good for you guys. It sounds like a lot of fun and a whole lot of America. May the NLBL taste your pain.

And Haas, you look a little stand-offish in that picture. Working on a no-hitter I presume?