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Two great sports quotations lead my post this steamy early June morning in NYC.

"Baseball taught me more about life than real life ever did."
-Hall of Fame second baseman/broadcaster Joe Morgan

"Humans often end up forgiving infidelity. But golf never does." Thomas Boswell
on Tiger Woods's decision not to play US Open -Wash Post June 8, 2011

And now the main post that appeared originally at booktrib.com


A visit to Cooperstown is always anticipated and it always delivers the goods. This past Wednesday June 1st I spoke about my project on baseball scouting on the first day of the 23rd annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. It was a good experience and I felt especially good about re-arranging my original text to emphasize the heart-warming point about the mentorship that younger scouts receive from veteran talent hunters.

I quoted a couple of times from the colorful comments of the late southern-born scout Leon Hamilton who loved the game of baseball so much that he once said, “If jackasses played baseball he’d been watching jackasses.” Leon even wanted to die at a game but hoped that “I don’t fall on the guy next to me while the tyin’ and winnin’ run is on base and keep him from seein’ it.”
Both quotes are from Kevin Kerrane’s classic book Dollar Sign on the Muscle that may be nearly 30 years old but is still the standard work in the field. I was thrilled to discover that the archives of Leon Hamilton reside at the Baseball Hall of Fame library in Cooperstown and plan to dig into them later this summer.

My time in the Cooperstown area ended with a visit to the opening night of the Oneonta Outlaws in the New York College Baseball League. Oneonta is just 22 miles of Cooperstown on Route 28, one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever seen. Its rolling hills and scenic vistas at every turn are breathtakingly reminiscent of the roads between Edinburgh and Glascow in Scotland I drove over 45 years ago.

Oneonta used to be home for the O-Yanks franchise in the short season Class A New York Penn-League. Future Yankees like Don Mattingly, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams developed their craft on the wide open confines of Damaschke Field, built in 1939 and residing in Neawha Park and recently renovated with newer concession stands, new clubhouses and metal grandstands (though I wish there were aisles and steps in the middle for the less agile fans like yours truly.)

I never went to Jarry Park where the Montreal Expos played their first seasons in the 1970s before the dreary Olympic Stadium was built but I have heard that there was a similarly seductive sensation of seeing baseball played in a park within a park.

When then-New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani built a minor league ballpark in Staten Island and enticed George Steinbrenner to move the franchise to New York’s most outer borough, the Detroit Tigers took over in Oneonta but that pro franchise moved to Norwich, Connecticut on Long Island Sound two years ago.

The Outlaws came into existence last year as a member of the New York College Baseball League, a wooden bat league that thrills the hearts of baseball purists and the evaluating eyes of baseball scouts who can now judge bat speed and hitting proficiency without needing to factor in heavily the artificial aid of the amped-up metal bat.

The Oneonta Outlaws will have to hit the ball better than they did opening night Friday June 3 in a 3-1 loss to the Utica Brewers. But they evened their record on Saturday night. From my viewing of the Friday night game I suggest that second baseman CARLOS ASUAJE, who just completed his freshman season at Florida’s Nova Southeastern, bears watching. He made a spectacular defensive play on a ground ball that hit the lip of the infield grass and bounced crazily yet he stayed with it and got the out at first.

Once again one of my baseball axioms held true: In ANY game of baseball there is something you have never seen before that makes you want to come back from more.

In the ESPN Sunday night game on June 5 R. A. Dickey pitched the Mets to a convincing 6-4 victory over the Braves. Scoring two runs in the first and second innings the Mets gave the knuckleballer a solid cushion that he utilized with ease in an 8-inning outing in which he allowed only 1 run and 4 hits. Frank Rodriguez gave up a three run homer to pinch-hitter DiorY Hernandez in the 9th but K-Rod then shut the door with two strikeouts.

As usual, explosive shortstop Jose Reyes sparked two Mets rallies with his hitting and base running. By the end of the game the crowd at half-filled Citi Field was chanting, “Keep Reyes! Keep Reyes!” It was a message to Mets general manager Sandy Alderson not to trade the free agent-to-be at the July 31 trading deadline. With the finances of Mets owner Fred Wilpon still in disarray because of accusations against him of complicity with imprisoned Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernard Madoff, it is unlikely that the Mets will be able to afford a hefty new contract for Reyes next year.

But it says here that there is no imminent need to trade him. If worse comes to worst, the Mets can keep him throughout this year and then get draft picks if he leaves during the off-season.

Speaking of the draft, the annual extravaganza of amateur selection starts Monday June 6 and lasts for three days. Unlike pro football that only has seven rounds and pro basketball a mere two, baseball’s draft usually goes beyond 60 rounds. The complicated process needs rethinking and revision. More thoughts on it after this year’s draft.

Remember: Take it easy but take it!

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