Angels in the Outfield

Spoken like Hamilton “Ham” Porter himself from the Sandlot, I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard, “Hurry up batter. It’s gotta be a short game, then I gotta get home for lunch.” from my brother, Travis, as we hit and fielded balls for hours on our property every evening for several years growing up. 

If we would have had 7 of our closest friends there to join us each evening, we would have been a modern day Sandlot – we had the field, backstop, bases, equipment, and an abundance of baseball movie quotes to swap as we tried to outdo each other every pitch, and every hit.

Looking back, we were living the dream! How cool was it that we had our very own baseball field, open 24/7, 365 days a year?!?! 

Well I’ll tell you; it was awesome, and it all started one Saturday when my grandparents were over for our weekly weekend dinner; the six of us began talking about putting a backstop in the open field on the other side of our driveway. To be honest, it didn’t take much conversation or convincing on anyone’s part because we all enjoy being outdoors and we all have a competitive spirit in us.

So, it was settled, we would break ground Sunday morning and build Melvin Stadium – an unfenced, 2-acre area, that was likely more manicured than an MLB stadium thanks to Dad’s enthusiasm about always keeping a pristine yard. 

I couldn’t tell you how many hours and days Travis and I spent out there hitting and fielding balls – so much so, we found ourselves practicing before Little League games as evidenced by mom picking us up in the middle of driveway when it was time to head to the real ballfields.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Sometime shortly after constructing the backstop, laying down the bases, and running over several baseballs and softballs with the lawnmower, the idea of hosting a softball tournament Father’s Day weekend came up. Much like when we built the backstop, it didn’t take much conversation or convincing to have this idea come to fruition. (Our inaugural tournament was held Father’s Day weekend and every year after that it was in conjunction with Dad’s birthday, the Fourth of July.)

We created the guest list, compiled the rules, striped the field, chalked the foul lines, set up “stadium” seating, and configured the PA system…at last, it was gameday! 

As the smell of BBQ lingered in the sweltering summer air, canopies and lawn chairs lined the first base side and behind the backstop as people decked out in red, white, and blue, ranging from ages 5 to 85, began to congregate at Melvin Stadium. 

The Rules Were Simple

1. Men bat opposite handed

2. You play a different position every inning

3. Everyone must play, no matter the age – Aunt Carrie oversaw not taking no for an answer

4. AND, if you argue with the ump it was an automatic out and you were required to get everyone in the field a fresh beverage.

Covering Our Bases

Now every great ballgame needs a fair and honest umpire and every great ballpark needs an announcer as unique as the stadium. Lucky for us, we had our bases covered, pun intended – Grandpa Jim was our home plate umpire and our good family friend, Steve, was our announcer. 

At 6’3’’, wearing his famous bright orange hat, Grandpa Jim called the game by standing to the side of home plate, with one hand rested on the backstop and a Marlboro Red in the other. He carefully assessed each pitch and if the count got up to 2 strikes on the batter, the next strike was “strike two and a half”, followed by “strike two and three-quarters”. Typically, by the 5th “strike” the batter made contact with the ball and was on their way to outrun the throw to first. 

Grandpa Jim was also excellent at making calls in the field from home plate, it didn’t matter how close you were to the play, Grandpa’s call was always right – unless you wanted an automatic out for your team and the job of getting everyone in the field a fresh beverage, you didn’t argue.

Then there was the official voice of Melvin Stadium, Steve – full of personality, humor, and wit. Our games wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for Steve’s ability to give a rib-tickling play-by-play of the ball game. In typical Steve fashion, he would throw in sidesplitting one-liners as he announced the batters and his one-off commentary of various things taking place outside of the game would give Johnny Carson or Robin Williams a run for their money. Steve was certainly a fan (and player) favorite!

Of course, many of the players were characters themselves and the laughs we had on the field are too many to count. Everyone enjoyed themselves and it didn’t matter who won or lost because at the end of the tournament there was still plenty of beer to drink and hundreds of pounds of BBQ to eat…you can’t beat that, coupled with great company. Our family is truly blessed with the best group of people.

The End of an Era

We did these tournaments for several years, with our last one being 10 years ago at Dad’s 50th birthday. While the players and teams changed over the years, one thing that remained the same was that Grandpa Jim called every game and Steve was the voice of Melvin Stadium.

Everyone looked forward to that orange hat, pearl-snap, Wrangler wearing umpire call the games and that infectious smile, Mr. Personality, full of life announcer give us the play-by-play and batting line-up each Fourth of July.

Today, the backstop still stands, but not for long as Mom and Dad are building a new home. That backstop that we spent a weekend building and years of enjoying sits in their new front yard and is a bit of an eyesore. Though bittersweet that the hunter green backstop will come down soon, a little piece of Melvin Stadium will remain, home plate – for a reason far greater than nostalgia sake of the fun and laughs close friends and family shared on that field. 

Angels in the Outfield

You see, Grandpa Jim passed away 7 years ago, and we lost sweet Steve last year. We’ll leave home plate as a tribute to two precious gentlemen who meant so much to our family and well, Melvin Stadium. We’ll continue to mow around it like we have for the past 15 years and each time we look west off of Mom and Dad’s new front porch we’ll be reminded of the joy Grandpa Jim and Steve not only brought to our family, but each and every person they met during their life here on Earth.

Just like in the Sandlot when Babe Ruth visits Benny Rodriquez in his dream and says “Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” – Grandpa Jim and Steve’s legacy will continue to live on at Melvin Stadium as they have in our hearts.

School, Work, Sports…It’s a Full-Time Job!

Coed Softball Team

If you would have told me two years ago I would be working 25 hours a week, taking 13 hours of classes, playing tennis on Monday nights, playing intramural sports on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, bowling in league on Thursdays, and attending every Aggie sporting event, I would have said you are CRAZY! I’m not going to lie it’s tough at times to fit everything in and to give a 110% effort, but I have found that I work best when I am busiest. My highest GPAs have happened during the semesters that I packed all this in. I believe it made me realize how to efficiently and effectively allocate my time. I’m more productive when I know I have an hour to study as opposed to all day.

Additionally, I have gotten in a few routines to help avoid the stress of attempting to fit everything in when it just doesn’t seem possible:

1. The 5 AM Club- If you have read any business book or heard about the routines of successful business individuals you will find that the majority are a big advocate of waking up early and getting things done, “before the rest of the world is up”. I may not get up at 5 every morning, but I am up early enough to be productive before I head off to school or work since most other activities occur during the evening hours and that time is lost.

2. Hand write Class Notes- I used to type all my notes while the professor talked like most other students do. However, I found and it’s proven that if you hand write your notes you retain information better. I am a firm believer in this because now when I go to study for tests I don’t rack my brain trying to remember when we went over “all this stuff”. The information is retained much more naturally.

3. Review My Notes Every Night- I also got in habit of reading class notes when I get home from school. This has helped tremendously because when I go to study for tests I am just reviewing information. Based on my schedule of having classes twice a week and tests about every three weeks I would have reviewed notes from the first class 6 times, the second class 5 times, the third class 4 times, etc, etc. It makes studying a breeze!

4. Study Between Classes- I have 4 classes back to back on Mondays and Wednesdays, which means I have 20 minutes between each class. Given that all my classes are in the Wehner building…..some classes are even in the same classroom I don’t have far to go. Therefore, I have tried to make an effort to utilize that time to knock out homework, projects, or studying. If you think about it that’s 1 hour and 20 minutes each day, 2 hours and 40 minutes a week, and 10 hours and 40 minutes a month of either wasted or productive time…..all depending on how proactive I am 😉