Why baseball? This is why.

This morning, I lost my grandmother. She was 90. She made it through two battles of cancer along the way. She was a fighter.

Alberta Buzzell’s obit

She was also the biggest baseball fan I knew. She had to have watched more than 10,000 Red Sox games while only attending a few. Growing up near Detroit, Mich., my dad always tells the story of the lady who dumped her popcorn all over a bunch of Tiger fans when the Red Sox hit a HR at Tiger’s stadium.

Today, I remember her love of me and the game. I wrote this ditty below for a university class a few years ago. I know you all have stories of what got you into the game. And many of us, too, have dads, mums, and yes even grandmas who loved the game.

I’ll forever remember her. My fondest memories included eating her staples: fish chowder, Swedish meatballs and goulash. And most of all, I’ll remember sitting in Fenway next to her when Tom Brunansky caught that game-winning, AL-East-clinching catch in right field.

Today – I think of baseball. And I also think of you. Remember how special the game is boys. Until next year, drink up. I’m having an MGD now thinking of you Grammy. RIP grammy.

Here’s my dad and I at Fenway Park when I was 5- or 6-years-old. We went to more than 80 games those two years. My favourite players were Wade Boggs, Dewey Evans, Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks, Spike Owens and Oil Can Boyd.

I had a Roger Clemens glove.

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You think my dad was some kind of rich guy with fancy seats or something? No. He worked three jobs. He joined the military and got us in to all those games for $6 each. Standing room. I never knew that. There were always empty seats back then at the park along Yawkey Way.

What kid wouldn’t love baseball after living at Fenway part time? It was still baseball back then. Before the roids. Before the millions of dollars and before skyboxes and every game was on TV.

We’d get watered down cola and a sports BAWR for $3.

Here’s me before a game for Author’s Market. Minor League champs 1990 – the year before we left New England as Dad was transferred to Great Falls, Montana.

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I never stopped playing baseball. But playing for the Air Force Base team sucked. I started to hate baseball. And like any true half-Canadian. I played hockey. Here’s me in 2001 winning a Jr. B provincial championship with the Edmonton Royals.

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I finished playing and did some reffing. In some crazy-ass American places. Here’s me breaking up some punks in Topeka, Kansas.

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Still. Baseball was never gone. While I lived in Canada, I played for a small hamlet team that eventually became a men’s team in Armena, Alberta. They play in the Powerline Baseball League.

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And every summer I would come back to play while at university in the States. I loved the game again. So when I moved back to Edmonton, it was back to Armena blue for me.

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I even got my wife to take interest in some baseball games. She should. She’s American. She looks pretty hot here, eh?

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And here’s my brother-in-law and I in Kansas City. 115 degrees F at first pitch. Yeah, we like baseball.

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Why baseball? Because this game is passed down. And I’m passing it down to my son soon. He might not like to watch as much because the game isn’t what it used to be. But he’ll love to play as much as my dad and I did and do.

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The stats. The sights. The sounds. The green grass. Picking up a hot grounder and flicking it to first or smacking a double to the gap. If you haven’t felt that before, I feel for you. It’s an amazing feeling.

If you have. You know why baseball. You know why life is like baseball. Lots of failures. Lots of frustration and mistakes, but one day, when it doesn’t seem possible, you do something amazing for the team – on your own. And you’ll never love anything more, than to get out there and try it again.

Yeah. Me. My dad. My mom. My grandmother. All were at this game.

Any more questions on Why Baseball?

Posted in Buzzilinear

PBL drops tough one in annual All Star Challenge

Harry A at Night in CamroseHarry Andreassen Field was once again the setting for the 17th Annual All-Star Challenge between the Battle River Baseball League and the Powerline Baseball League. While 40 kilometers down the road the Powerline Baseball League Championship was being settled, pride was on the line in Camrose.

Lance Zimmer took to the mound for the Powerline League to start the game, though he didn’t stay there very long. Zimmer needed just five pitches to make it out of the top half of the first inning.  The PBL All-stars were able to strike first on this muggy August night as Zimmer had the first hit of the evening and fellow Camrose Roadrunner Josh Banack was able to work a walk. Both eventually scored on a Corey Epp single. The PBL offence sputtered from there.

The second inning was off to an auspicious start as leadoff hitter Damon Zimmer was hit by a pitch from Lance Zimmer.   Zimmer, Damon that is, managed to make it home after a couple of errors up the middle. Zimmer, Lance this time, managed to get out of the inning though by striking out the bottom of the Battle River order. Meanwhile the Powerline All-stars went quietly in the second; three up, three down.

PBL All Stars 2017It was pedestrian third inning as both teams failed to get a runner on base with Lance Zimmer striking out two more and his pitching counterpart Graham Zimmer inducing three infield outs.

Eric Zimmer, there were a lot of Zimmer’s in this incarnation of the All-Star Challenge, started off the fourth inning with a solid single to right field. Zimmer would score the tying run on a Matt Stebner double. Greg Dalueg would drive in Stebner for the lead with a one out single. Lance Zimmer would strike out Blayd Anholt to end the Battle River threat in the third. Graham Zimmer would retire the Powerline All-stars in order in the bottom half of the fourth inning with two strikeouts and an Epp comebacker.

The wheels began to come off for the Powerline League in the fifth inning as a couple of infield errors opened the door for the Battle River All-stars to walk right through. Graham Zimmer started the inning off with a single, Brennan Anholt was able to reach base on an error at short and a double from Damon Zimmer brought them both home. Matt Stebner tripled to bring home Zimmer but was stranded at third as Trent Steil struck out and Greg Dalueg ground out to end the threat. Graham Zimmer once again worked a quick inning in the bottom of the fifth retiring the bottom third of the PBL lineup in order.

With the Battle River League up 6-2, Corey Epp took over on the mound for the Powerline League in the sixth inning. Epp was able to strike out Dean Brodie to start the sixth but then issued a couple of free passes to Graham Zimmer and Brennan Anholt. Damon Zimmer tripled to plate Zimmer and Anholt. Zimmer was brought home on a single by Eric Zimmer to increase the BRBL lead to 9-2. After a Matt Stebner single, Trent Steil stepped into the batters box and promptly cleared the bases with a three run homerun over the right field fence. As the sun began to set in the background of Harry Andreassen Field, so did the hopes for the Powerline League as they trailed 12-2 after six innings.

All remained quiet for both teams until the bottom of the eighth inning when Lance Zimmer and Josh Banack started a mini rally for the Powerline League. Zimmer walked, Banack dropped a bloop single and Luke Ryan doubled to plate Zimmer. Banack would score on a ball in the dirt to make it 12-4. Ryan came around to touch home thanks to a Craig Koughan single. The rally though was cut short as the bottom third of the lineup were unable to reach base.

Trailing 12-5 in the bottom of the ninth, the PBL was looking for one more rally to make things close. They had to deal with Dean Brodie who came on to finish things off for the Battle River League. Brodie struck out catcher Colten Craig to lead off the last half of the ninth. Lance Zimmer patiently worked a walk, Josh Banack struck out looking but then the bat of Luke Ryan came into play again. Ryan, just like he did in the eighth inning, laced a double which scored Zimmer who had moved to second on defensive indifference. With the score 12-6, Chris Koughan flied out to left to end the game and close the book on another All-Star Challenge.

Following the game and handshakes, members of the Andreassen family handed out the Challenge trophy to the triumphant Battle River Baseball League. A new tradition was started this year as Matt Stebner received the inaugural Doug Wolbeck Memorial MVP trophy. Stebner finished the night going 3 for 6 with a walk. Stebner was a homerun shy of a cycle.

While many from the Powerline League hoped for a closer score, neither team could hope for a better night for baseball. The warm August evening under the lights of Harry Andreassen Field saw the final game of the year for most of us, thankfully the ball park will welcome us back with open arms next spring.

Past Harry Andreassen Challenge Scores and Recaps:

Posted in BRL, Lucas, PBL

Ballad of the Blue Jay

I usually take the time to write the final column of the year to congratulate the victors and run down the season’s spoils and the trials of the trek to the trophy.

But this year, I must sway from tradition. For the Holden Blue Jays remain mere millimeters from a momentous milestone, yet miles from their ultimate goal after a 5-3 defeat to the Rosalind Athletics, who won their second straight PBL title.

This author has been a part of 3 (let’s call it 3 1/2) championship teams and two runner-ups. I may remember the two second places better than the three wins – and it’s not pleasant. The pain and agony of defeat still firmly in the pit of my stomach. I know my teammates, too.

So to see the Holden Blue Jays play well enough to win their first final in four appearances, while also seeing the Rosalind Athletics prove why they are such a scrappy bunch. And vice versa. Was a treat.

To lose four times in seven years and keep coming back and succeeding and coming so close may be harder than winning once, twice, three times a lady. A total tip of the hat to the Holden Blue Jays. Just keeping a team together for that long, through that many games is a feat. It would have been special to see the Blue Jays leap over that final hurdle. But maybe the baseball God’s have something more special to come. The lessons and bitter taste of defeat, lasting longer and giving breath to the meaning of team and brotherhood.

It looked like they had it. A wild game two followed by a back-and-forth game three. The bases loaded in the final frame. Rosalind seeming to bend, and potentially break like it had, too, so many times in the BRBL before entering the PBL. (All Star game recap still to come).

The Blue Jays have had three different foes in those four finals. Three of the four going to game three, and decided by a grand total of 5 runs (5-3, 3-2 and 5-3).

Tip your hat to the A’s and buy a drink. But this author is also saluting the Jays. I have confidence they’ll be back. It might not be next year, but it will come. Stick with it. And until then, congratulations to the Rosalind Athletics. You’re consistency will be tested next year when all the teams retool and gun for you and your shiny loot.

Posted in Buzzilinear, Holden Blue Jays, Rosalind Athletics