CALMAR-- The Calmar Cats. It just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? Meet the summer wooden bat baseball team enjoyed by all ages for decades, while being represented by multiple generations-- oftentimes in the same starting line-up! In one Sunday doubleheader you’re liable to see a forty year-old second baseman playing next to a thirty year old shortstop, while a twenty year old pitches and an eigth grader plays right field. You might see a kid play that startles you into thinking he could play in the big leagues some day. Then, you might see that guy who lives down the street from you, that you swear you don’t remember even having played Little League, struggling to catch the ball at first base. It's that much fun.
You could see just about anything happen at a Calmar Cats’ game. I watched from shortstop once, as a pitcher on my team took a drag off a cigarette, dropped it at the back of the mound, and threw his next pitch, which the batter hit as far as I’ve ever seen a baseball fly, and then pick the cigarette up off the back of the mound and finished smoking it while the batter trotted around the bases.
There was something beautiful about that moment; the same beauty that threads the fabric of the Calmar Cats team itself—unregulated, uninhibited, fun-loving, and cooperatively competitive baseball. There isn’t necessarily much glory, per se, involved in being a part of the Calmar Cats baseball team, but there is just enough to keep players suiting up Sunday after Sunday, season after season. There's nothing quite like hustling out an infield single, hearing your fellow Cats coo and purr from the dugout, only to look out past the stands to see a solitary man, with a cooler of beer between his legs, staring off at a distant cornfield. Or limping into the Horseshoe Tap after a game with Dan Hageman, a Godfather-like figure for the Calmar Cats’ organization, as if you’d both undergone hip replacement surgeries earlier that morning, laughing and smiling through mutual pain while pouring over the day’s most critical errors and achievements.
My point? Isn't it obvious? If you have some free time on a random temperate Sunday afternoon, head over to the Calmarl baseball diamond and support the Cats. Or don’t. The game will go on just the same either way. But if you do, try to keep your eyes out of the cornfield and on the baseball field as much as you can. Who knows? You might see something you’ll never forget.
*Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.