Tag Archives: Belle City Park

Five days and counting, we’re full blown ‘Wedding Central’


Wedding countdown

Five days away from Natasha and Kory’s “I do.” We’re now counting down by blocks of time and tasks that are getting checked off Kelly’s master list(s). (Re: see yesterday’s post).

Once upon a time, we could drive to Wal-Mart, I’d drop Kelly off at the front of the store, and she’d begin shopping and after I’d found a parking space, I’d go in and find her. It worked pretty well for a couple of decades. Nowadays I enter the store as I tap Kelly’s number on my cell phone to ask, “Where are you?”

It’s getting more difficult to recall life PD – pre-digital. Technology makes my head spin.

I’m also have trouble remembering when Kelly wasn’t part of my life. We began “going together” – that was the vernacular of the day – on Nov. 22, 1976. That was 37 years ago. We’ve been married 31. The truth is, every pre-Kelly memory seems to be attached to the question, “Where was Kelly?” We’re that connected; seems like we’ve always been.

Life without Kelly? I don’t want to remember that. The night before our wedding, I drove to the Belle City Park, where I’d caught hundreds of fish from the lake and clubbed hundreds of hits (and a few over the fence) on the baseball field. Some of my finest moments of almost 19 years of life had deep connections to the park and lake in my hometown.

But that night, I sat in the car, alone, fairly sure I knew we were way too young to get hitched, yet too much in love to give any credibility to conventional wisdom. As I stared out over the pitch blackness of the small lake, I asked God for a sign, some indication of whether I should be getting married in less than 24 hours. The thought that hit me was to imagine life without Kelly, and as I continued the ponder the profound question, the answer was right there in my gaze.

Nothing. Empty. Alone.

Meaningless and stagnant, much like that lake.

I married my best friend, and Kelly will say the same. We’re a couple of lucky, blessed married folks.

How to Wreck Your Marriage

Wrecking ball No. 12 – Major on minors. When you disagree or reach an impasse, be sure to pick your battle based on your spouse’s perceived weakness or that hot-button criticism that you know will throw off your spouse emotionally and mentally. Even better, stake your claim to your right to be an incredible gift to humanity by making a big deal out of … Nothing.

It’s not just about arguing over which shade of green is best – olive or evergreen – or what to name the dog. It’s about using that wrecking ball over and over by pounding your spouse with your “victories” in such disagreements. It’s amazing how something so trivial can be used to find and then wear away the chink in his/her armor, eventually exposing his/her heart so you can move in with even more force to prove your superiority.
If you’re puzzled about what qualifies as a major or minor point, just adopt the conclusion that everything is a big deal.


Going to my deep well of sacred hymn favorites. These old songs play on a fairly continuous loop in my noggin. Here’s a super not-so-old arrangement of At The Cross, performed by the Gaither Vocal Band.

Two observations: Yes, it is sometimes tortuous to watch Bill Gaither sing. And at around the 1:27 mark it looks like Mark Lowry has fiery horns. Cool. And, oh yeah, Guy Penrod and David Phelps have crazy awesome voices.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kelly, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion, Wedding countdown

The game of my life

Memoir-in-progress …

Belle High School, 1981 baseball team
That's me on the far right. I was the only senior on the team. I pitched, played first, some third and was the first choice for DH. I hit .540 for the season.

Tuesday, March 31, 1981, Belle City Park.

The opponent wasn’t much of a test and the score was laughable, even ridiculous. But offensively, it was the single greatest game of my life.

Final score: Belle 38, Chamois 0.

That’s right: Thirty-eight to nothing. I’d joke and say I scored five touchdowns, kicked five extra points and kicked a 59-yard field goal just for grins, except this was a baseball score. And Belle High School did not and still does not have football.

Here’s what I did.

First inning:  Triple on a 3-2 pitch, RBI, scored. Second inning: Singled up the middle, 2 RBI, scored. Third inning: walked on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded, RBI, scored. Fourth inning …

Are you ready for this?

First at-bat: Led off with a walk, scored.

Second at-bat (of the fourth inning): The only time I ever batted right-handed in a high school game. With the bases loaded, I hit a line drive that almost killed the shortstop and the left fielder. From the swing of the bat to the ball hitting the fence in left-center, the ball never got more than about 4 feet off the ground. 3 RBI, double, scored. (And I had to slide head-first into second. A good throw would have nailed me. I hit the ball so hard that I didn’t have time to get to second without a little drama).

Third at-bat (of the fourth inning): The bases were loaded. I never hit a ball that far, not even in my wildest dream. Grand slam, 4 RBI, run. The ball probably traveled 400 feet in the air.

So let’s summarize: In the fourth inning alone, seven RBI and three runs scored. We sent 27 batters to the plate. I was stepping from the on-deck circle into the batter’s box to become the 28th batter of the inning, with two on and two out. Before I dug in for my fourth at-bat of the fourth inning, the Chamois coach called his players off the field.

I finished 4-for-4, 2 walks, 6 runs, 11 RBI. Oh … and I hit for the cycle.

That was the offensive game of my life.

But it wasn’t THE game of my life. That came in July 1977. A few weeks earlier my 13-/14-year-old Little League team went to Edgar Springs. I pitched and my first three pitches — literally, one, two, three, bang, bang, bang — were hit for tape-measure home runs. We lost 27-0. I’m still convinced those kids were 16 or 17 — maybe older.

Then they came to our place, the Belle City Park. I pitched. Struck out 15. We went to the bottom of the seventh tied 3-3. My best friend Kenny Shanks doubled with one out and stole third. I came up.

Kenny and I executed the squeeze play four or five times that season. Coach Rafferty knew by the look that Kenny and I exchanged that the squeeze was on. The only sign Coach Rafferty was giving me from the third base box was a militant head-shake that said, “NO!” I slapped the top of my helmet, the pitcher wound up, and I squared to bunt.

And Kenny took off. He was well over half-way to the plate before the pitcher realized what was happening. He stepped off the mound and fired toward the catcher, but Kenny slid and rolled across home plate — and the ball hit me squarely in the middle of the right thigh. (I think it’s still bruised).

4-3. We won!

But wait! The Edgar Springs coach was livid! It was a hit-by-pitch!, he screamed. “The ball was dead! Runner goes back to third!”

Our fans screamed back: the pitcher wasn’t on the rubber when he threw to the plate! He was throwing to get the runner, not throwing to pitch.

The losing coach grasped for anything and changed his argument, pleading for an interference call against me, except I stepped out of the batter’s box at the last moment to give Kenny a chance to complete his game-winning steal of home.

It was pandemonium. Our team was rolling around on the field like we’d beaten the ’27 Yankees to win the World Series, and I was simply rolling around on the ground because I thought my right femur was fractured. The home plate ump walked toward me, apparently ready to send Kenny back to third and call me “out” for batter’s interference.

“He was bringing the pitch,” I told the ump. “He stepped off the rubber.”

The ump called the infield ump over, I repeated to both umps what I’d said, and the infield ump nodded in agreement.

The home plate ump, holding his face mask in one hand, walked halfway toward the mound, pointed at the pitching rubber, and shouted, “BALK!”

End of story. End of game. Belle 4, Edgar Springs 3.

Dramatic enough, but I still like to say Kenny stole home to win the game.

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Filed under MIP: Memoir-in-progress