From the time I was in college learning the craft, I always said that when it is time to put me out to journalism pasture, I would like to cover baseball.
Well, yesterday I got to do that and it was glorious.
I was on hand for a sunny, warm afternoon to watch and cover the Brownwood High School baseball Lions take on a team of Brownwood alumni in a first-ever alumni baseball game. The school hopes to make it an annual event.
Man, was it fun. You can read about the game and the results and such elsewhere in today’s newspaper. What I want to do here is give you the experience.
I was greeted right away by incoming BHS principal Mitch Moore with the biggest of smiles. You see, Moore was one of those that helped bring back baseball to the high school in 1985. That’s right. The new principal was a principal building block to the program we get to see on the field today. He was a player on that very first team.
And he sure wanted to make sure the newspaper was aware that the school was going to have a pre-game ceremony to honor Brownwood’s first baseball coach since the late 1930s. Brownwood presented that coach, Mark Cox, with a framed picture of his first team here and he said a few words.
Earlier, as I walked around the track to take pictures prior to the home run derby (yes, there was one) I heard the public address announcer welcome me by name. He later did the same for my colleague, Derrick Stuckly, when he arrived.
The event had every feel of an early season baseball game. The concessions tasted better. The sun felt warmer. And the pop of the ball into the gloves seemed just a little louder than it probably was. But there was more, too. It had the feel of a community coming together.
Having moved here from a bigger city, I am beginning to believe that something was cheated me. Playing on the Brownwood alumni team were men who now taught and coached at the school. People greeted each other as the teams changed sides like it was a Wiffle Ball game at a family reunion.
Local businesses helped with the event. The concession stand was selling wings from Buffalo Wild Wings and items from Taco Casa were available. If you like the sweets, Flour Power Bakery was in the house, too.
During the middle innings, I was able to walk home and take my dog for a stroll before coming back to the ballpark. This was literally happening in my neighborhood.
I really hope that folks – young ones especially – realize what a great place Brownwood is. Go off to college and find adventures and explore. That is important, too. But when you complain about nothing to do, look around at some of your neighbors or even your parents. Then ask yourself why so many of them returned to spend the prime of their lives here.
That sense of a community isn’t just at the ballpark. This past week, my wife, Wendy, was in town. And on Thursday we went out to eat at Underwood’s. She wanted to eat there while she was in town. And I hope Paul Underwood is reading this, because my wife gave the ultimate compliment to the restaurant.
It wasn’t about the food, which was good. It wasn’t about the service, which was also good. It was about the impression she got walking in.
Wendy takes her own pillow to hotels. She is finicky to the extreme. Yet, as we set our trays down on the table at Underwood’s, she said this:
“You can tell this family takes great pride in this restaurant.”
And I told her that you can see that pride and sense of community everywhere in town. I wish she had been around to hear Brownwood ISD Board President Michael Cloy ask where my Lions hat was. He had, after all, given it to me personally.
“Your head is going to burn, Thom,” he chided me.
I told him there was a mustard-based barbecue sauce recipe in the Sunday Bulletin for him to try.
In the end, the current Lions won the day, I got interviewed on the radio, I got the dog walked and I wasn’t in the office. I still had to go put out a paper, but it was a little easier yesterday. And a bit of a joy to do it for my new hometown.
And yes, Michael, my head got a little burnt.
But I’ve never been thrown out of a girls coaches-pitch softball game, either.
Thom Hanrahan is the editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sundays. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.