Paul “Quickstep” Salomone drove a well-struck ball into short right field and worked his way to first base as quick as his legs would take him, glancing back at the last moment to watch a teammate cross home plate.
That run was the first of six that the Elizabeth Resolutes — full disclosure, my Elizabeth Resolutes — would tally on their (our) way to a 6-5 extra-inning victory over the Flemington Neshanock on Saturday, April 14 at Commerce Bank Ballpark.
It was a “splendiferous” afternoon — as Neshanock’s captain Brad “Brooklyn” Shaw would put it — as he addressed the crowd at the Somerset Patriots’ FanFest. A crowd that was filled with baseball fans, young and old, who came out to watch a game replicated after 1860s baseball — the kicker? It was free.
The annual game at Commerce Bank Ballpark has become more than just a venue to show off our unique game though; it has become a reminder to me and the rest of the guys on the Resolutes and the Neshanock of the love of the game.
It’s not very often that our team gets to play in front of big crowds — or any crowds that don’t include our family or friends for that matter — we play because we love the game and we’re not ready to stop playing it. Look at our roster and you’ll see guys from all over. You’ll see fat guys, skinny guys, slow guys, fast guys, old guys, young guys, guys named “Mud” and guys named plain old “Danny.” We’ve got a lot of guys.
So, when we get a crowd like we did on Saturday to watch our style of play and enjoy the show we have to offer, it’s like looking in a mirror.
I see the same look in those kids’ eyes that I used to have when I was seven years old, watching the 1998 New York Yankees work their way to a World Series Championship. The kids are there to admire, not to criticize. They’re there to fall in love with the game, not point out its flaws. They’re there to spend an hour of two of their time enjoying the weather, not texting or tweeting or playing video games.
It’s a fun thing to experience. Actually, I’m not sure who had more fun Saturday — the fans watching me play or me watching them enjoy the game.
I cracked a smile every time a kid would work his or her way down toward the dugout with their parents nervously waiting to ask the ultimate fan’s question, “Can I have your autograph?” Sure, we tell them, “Do you have a pen?”
We take pictures with fans. We explain our vintage rules to them (If you catch the ball on a hop, it’s still an out). We show them our bats and our uniforms. We’d show them our gloves too, except we don’t use any (“Are you guys out of your mind?” is a commonly asked question).
Every request met with a smile and a “Certainly” though. We do it for them for the same reason they come out and watch us: for love of the game.