You’re supposed to say something about your community. You’ve driven 45 miles in the rain to say it. Got lost. Never been there before. Spent 20 dollars for parking. You don’t feel good. And, speaking of baseball, you’re way out of your league.
Yes, I spoke about baseball.
It was supposed to be something perhaps that related to Vision 2050. Something to help make real the somewhat abstract long-range planning work of this very austere planning commission.
And austere they were. Not austere however as in stern, or grim, or unfriendly. No, they were quite pleasant, most accommodating and several shook my hand when I was introduced before the meeting began, none of whom previously had I ever met.
It’s just that when your name is called for the Public Comment period – which is first on the agenda – and someone shouts from behind you that it’s their turn to speak not this fellow (that would be me) – as if I weren’t rattled enough already; and not knowing what to do given the shouting you sit down in front of the mic anyway feeling all of a sudden very alone; and the moderator calls your name and says to please go ahead, to ignore the guy behind you, and further says to simply push the talk button on the desk in front of you but there are several buttons and you don’t know which one to push – well, it’s all very disconcerting you know?
The Puget Sound Regional Council Growth Management Policy Board (PSRC GMPB) is officially, per their website, “a regional planning agency with specific responsibilities under federal and state law for transportation planning, economic development and growth management.”
And I talked about baseball.
I know, really?
For the first 90 seconds, as the digital clock in front of me ticked down, mocking me, as much as if to say, ‘you can’t really be doing this can you?’, I talked about baseball.
I reminded the PSRC GMPB that just days before, in the seventh game of the World Series, Cameron Maybin, they may have noticed, was inserted into the Huston Astros lineup whereupon he came to the plate. There was a day – July 2, 2011 – when that same Cameron Maybin, then playing for the San Diego Padres, had come to the plate in the top of the fifth in a game against the Seattle Mariners – their stadium almost visible from the fifth floor where the PSRC GMPB members, and me, were currently meeting.
In the top of the fifth, with the count full, on ball three Maybin laid down his bat and went to first base.
And nobody said anything.
Josh Bard, Mariner catcher, simply threw ball three back to Mariner Pitcher Doug Fister and neither of them said anything.
Eric Wedge, Mariner manager, did not storm out of the dugout and get in Umpire Phil Cuzzi’s face and wax eloquent about how Cuzzi could neither see nor count.
Maybin had not been hit by a pitch. But he laid down his bat in the top of the fifth and went to first base on ball three.
Maybin would eventually go on to score and the Mariners would lose 1-0 because no one spoke up. No one was paying attention.
That’s what I shared with these planning people.
What does baseball have to do with Vision 2050?
Four years ago, in our community, we decided to do something. To speak up. To play ball. Being poor, we asked the neighborhood to step up to the plate. They did and every year since, these boys have received not only all their registration and uniform costs paid – the result of folks understanding the importance of youth playing ball by opening their wallets – but an even greater indicator of what is so important to community revitalization: open hearts.
Teachers come to games where they have been known to throw in the first pitch. School rallies are sometimes held in their school gym on Friday prior to the championship game on Saturday in which these kids will play.
“It is the most important check I write,” said one of the perennial benefactors, “every year.”
In the year 2050 the current eleven-and-twelve-year-old Tillicum Crushers, now in their fourth season, will be 45. Chances are they’ll be married and have kids of their own. And given the memories of playing ball when they proudly wore the orange-and-black, my guess is they’ll be recreating those opportunities in whatever community they one-day find themselves.
One of those players, for example, who will be walking the halls of Tillicum Elementary School this year for the last time, scored the first ever home run in Crusher history. I shared that event with a national health organization that wanted to know what they would get in return for contributing financially to our team. “That boy scored that home run that afternoon,” I wrote in the funding application, “only because he never stopped running,” adding, “you tell me what you think that memory means to this young man and that’s what your contribution will do.”
They wrote out a check, and you can too. There are children across the entire city awaiting your response. Contact Lakewood Baseball Club, of the Protect Our Nation’s Youth (PONY) league, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thirty-seconds is all I had left that rainy morning in Seattle to say this:
‘There was a day, years ago, when the Clover Park Technical College in our city hoped to place in our tiny town – sometimes called the poorest square mile in all of Pierce County – a state-of-the-art, fiber-optic, piped-in-live audio/visual educational, vocational training offered by professors filmed from their campus to the watching-on-screen, landlocked, transportation-limited young adults in our community.
‘They knew of the difficulty of our youth to get to them, so they were willing to bring the campus to us. It failed for lack of a facility.
‘We can do baseball. You can do transportation. Together we can make a difference. Thank you for the opportunity to share our story and for keeping us in mind as you plan for the future.’