Just because your high school or college baseball career is over, doesn’t mean there aren’t outlets for you to get your baseball fix in. Wood bat leagues and wood bat tournaments are organized all over the place, and I recently had the pleasure of participating in one such tourney in Florida.
And as I’m about to land in Chicago for a short layover and get ready to connect to my flight home, I’m a little run down, a tiny bit hungover, utterly confused with the time zone changes with daylight savings, and a lot sentimental. My trip out east was supposed to be a simple nine day getaway and mixing in some play time at an international wood bat baseball tournament that I was lucky enough to be invited to.
The twenty-seventh annual wood bat event is called the Roy Hobbs World Series, and it’s held down in sunny warm (read ridiculously hot and humid) Ft Myers, FL. This place is filled with alligators, manatee, dolphins (we actually swam with dolphins!), and strip malls as far as the eye can see. I assumed I’d have some fun, but what I didn’t expect was the rewarding experiences, valuable moments, remarkable new friends, and memories that will be etched in my mind for a very very long time.
We played 8 nine inning games in six days…..that’s 72 innings in under a week, and I was on the field for 68 of those. We finished with a bronze medal going 5 and 3 (side note: we swept two doubleheaders. Not an easy accomplishment). What. A. Grind. By far the most games I’ve been on the field for in about 30 years of amateur sport. Anyone who says baseball players aren’t athletes needs to give that a whirl. I have a feeling they may have a change of heart. I played pretty well. Well enough to not completely embarrass myself, but that’s not the point here. The real reason this post gets the long-wind treatment is the colorful cast of characters I had the pleasure of suiting up next to. There were so many brilliant anecdotes, inside jokes, and puns for days. We ripped on each other like we’d the been brothers since birth and conducted ourselves like the four year old snot-nosed punks we really are. We fought like champs and overcame almost every adversity. This group was outstanding.
There was a sergeant of an organized crime unit from the Chicago Police Dept who gave us a glimpse into his chilling job description; a CEO of nearly a billion dollar company who timed out to fly to New York to close a deal with Baumbardier; a head coach of a junior college baseball team; and of course the Founder and VP of MaxBat…..a wooden bat company built from scratch whose customized products are used by hundreds of Major Leaguers. These are just a few of the back stories of the MaxBat squad.
I was accompanied by three other local Victoria, BC boys. We were the Canadian content and we represented our country well. I feel like we turned some heads and showed our American hosts we’re not all beaver-pelt hunting Zamboni driving igloo builders, eh. I remember hearing one of our Uber drivers say, “Victoria, Canada?? Not the first place you’d look to find good ball players.” We laughed. We knew what kind of players we were. We went about our business, prepared the way we know how, and crushed pints like true Canucks. It’s in the handbook.
In the locker room, we were the most boisterous and raukus of all the teams in there. We held kangaroo court after each game and awarded bucks for every slight infraction on and off the field. Wore the wrong color undershirt? That’s a buck. Come to the airport with an expired passport? That’s a buck. Lose all your gear in transit? Thats a buck. I did all of those things btw.To say we didn’t hold back would be an understatement. We owned the week.
Team MaxBat is filled with salt of the earth family oriented hard working men all brought together purely for the love of of this fickle game (and pints). I’m more than honored to call these people my friends. I can only hope they feel the same. Until next year, compadres. I wish you all the best.