The column reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.
Tuesday night I went to the first game of this week’s Brunswick High-Glynn Academy baseball series with every intention of watching the game closely.
Well, that lasted all of about one inning.
First, I spent a good deal of time talking to a pair of local sportswriters about the two teams and their seasons to date.
But next thing you know, a longtime friend and a former high school teammate, Chris “Country Bumpkin” Taylor, comes over to say hello. A couple of hours later we were among the last to leave the BHS ballpark as we continued to talk while he waited on his stepson who plays for the Pirates to finish out his post-game duties that involved working on the field.
By then, it was just small talk. We had already reminisced about old times playing high school baseball, asked each other about former classmates and teammates and spent some time solving the world’s problems with a group of people that included our high school coaches Jimmy and Chris Brown.
I also had already eaten a homemade chicken sandwich that another former teammate Randall Tawney suggested I get from the concession stand. It cost a dollar more than the cheeseburger I had planned on getting, but he was right. It was worth it, and I guess the good thing is the Brunswick baseball program got another buck out of me at the same time.
Of course, as we talked, we somewhat watched what was taking place on the field as the Pirates and Red Terrors faced off for the first time this season at Brunswick’s nice field that is only a few years old.
On Wednesday, the series shifted to the brand new Wainwright Field which the former Glynn pitcher and current St. Louis Cardinals star built for his former team.
Yes, we admitted to being a little jealous of the current players who get a chance to play at these beautiful facilities, but we knew we didn’t know there were any better circumstances than those we faced when we were playing high school ball at Edo Miller Park.
We thought it was normal to drive straight from school to practice every day and dress for practice in the parking lot beyond right field with cars constantly passing by on L Street. No doubt, those driving by could see us putting on our sliding shorts and jock straps in plain sight.
We thought nothing of taking batting practice at old Selden Park in the daylight and then driving 10 minutes to Edo Miller to finish out practice with infield and outfield work under the stadium lights after the Terrors had finished using the field the day they were assigned to have it for practice.
We liked stopping by one of the convenience stores on the way over to Edo to grab a soft drink, maybe a candy bar or potato chips and stock up on sunflower seeds if we were running low.
For us and hundreds more, this was our high school baseball experience and historic Edo Miller which was built in 1952 was still our home in the 1990s. It’s where we built lasting friendships and made so many memorable moments that will last a lifetime.
Most of the memories are good ones, but there are a few that come back to haunt me every now and then.
Probably the most notable one in that regard took place in the batting cage my sophomore year prior to a game against Glynn Academy. Slated to start at third base that night, I never made it onto the field.
That’s because my close friend and regular batting practice partner, Alan Thrower, ripped one of my pitches right back at me and the ball took one bounce in front of the L Screen that was supposed to protect me from harm but didn’t.
The ball came through a hole in the net that was just slightly bigger than the size of a baseball and hit me squarely in the right eye at full speed. I suppose I was lucky to come away with only a sore black eye that swelled so badly that I could hardly see out of it.
I missed that game against the Terrors as I spent most of the game leaning on the dugout fence with a bag of ice over my eye, but I was back at the hot corner the following Monday evening for a game against Benedictine.
Speaking of Benedictine, that’s where I broke my thumb my senior year while sliding into home in hopes of beating a throw to the plate. In case you want to know, I didn’t, but the pop-up slide I did in hopes of the bang-bang play going in my favor sure was a thing of beauty.
The next day at school, I constantly applied horse liniment to my swollen and sore left thumb that I didn’t think was broken at the time. Jason Mavromat, a friend and teammate, swore by this stuff as he used to stink up the bus by rubbing it on his aching knees after catching a full seven innings of a road game.
That afternoon as we played catch to warm up for practice at Edo Miller, every time the ball would hit my first baseman’s mitt, my thumb would sting.
That night after practice, again taking Mav’s advice, I gathered a bucket full of clay from the infield, poured some vinegar on it, plastered the red stuff around my thumb and put a sock over my hand. This home remedy apparently worked on Jason’s sprained ankle once, so we thought it would work for what I thought was a jammed thumb, too.
In the middle of the night, I woke up with my entire hand throbbing. The clay hardened such that it cut off the blood flow to my thumb. I had to use a knife to chisel the clay loose, and after a little bit, things felt better again.
But after a visit to the emergency room that next Friday morning, I found out my thumb was broken and my senior season might be finished. What a blow that was to my fragile psyche.
That night I sat on the bench and watched my teammates throttle Groves in Garden City and remember reading in the Brunswick News on Saturday morning that I was sidelined indefinitely.
Later that same day, I went to the ballpark with a splint on my thumb and remember telling my friends who played for Glynn what had happened as they left the home dugout following their game against Winder Barrow which we were about to play next.
Luckily, after a trip to the Hughston Clinic for a cast that didn’t work and another visit locally with Dr. Melvin Deese who sent me to the hospital to be fitted for a plastic thumb guard, I was able to return a few weeks later.
However, the gadget that protected my thumb was bulky and cumbersome and limited my ability to fully use my left wrist and my hitting suffered tremendously.
I wound up batting only .280 after hitting close to .400 before the injury and have always wondered if I might have made the local 400 Club had that not happened. Such is life, I guess.
Then, there was that time when I vomited as we ran suicides during a spring break practice. Other teammates did the same, and it was because they soaked up too much sun and drank one too many soda pops at the beach earlier in the day.
Me, I literally lost my lunch because the cubed steak, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese that my Nana made me for dinner hadn’t settled on my stomach just yet.
But really, the fond memories from playing baseball at Edo Miller far outweigh those that I’d rather forget.
Among those memories are going something like 20-for-27 with two home runs in the varsity portion of a 100-inning game that we played prior to my sophomore year to raise money for the team.
There also was the time we won a district championship in summer ball by beating the almighty Chain Gang on our home turf.
Another was teaming with my boy, Flame Thrower, to hit back-to-back dingers in a summer game as we batted third and fourth in the lineup and nicknamed ourselves the Bash Brothers, a la big hitters Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco who were major league stars playing for the Oakland A’s at the time.
Of course, later we found out they were taking steroids, but the only juice we consumed in high school started with apple, orange or grape.
Those were great times. And they were had at Edo Miller, where the sand gnats are abundant and the breezes coming across the field smell of the Hercules plant located across the street.
The old ball yard will always be near and dear to the heart.
Today’s players will make similar memories, I’m sure, albeit in their newer digs.