|Youth prevails in annual Alumni Game|
|July 07, 2016 Frank Marquez|
Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen The Gering alumni’s second baseman Walker Britsch runs down Legion seniors’ Brent Barge who was caught in a squeeze during the annual game on Sunday.
More entertainment than any real sign of serious competition, a combination of players from Gering’s Legion teams took on their coaches, fathers and Legion predecessors in the traditional Alumni Game Sunday afternoon at Oregon Trail Park. A solid cast of current Legion players rallied to overtake their elders in the seventh and final inning to win, 11-10.
The Legion players had earned their second win over the alumni in as many years.
The alumni players, who volunteer, usually get a call from Head Coach Rick Kinnaman, who has picked up running the Alumni Game program for the four past years. “It’s part of who we are, and who we represent,” he said. “I appreciate these guys, to play the game right, and play it with respect.” As for the current Legion players, Kinnaman said, they “take something from the Alumni Game; we never gave up, we expected to win. This is not a step back. This gives them confidence going into the final stretch of the season, with 11 regular season games left, against opponents such as Buckley, North Platte, and Laramie.”
Next Tuesday during the double-header against Buckley, four seniors will be crossing that threshold, to be honored in their final season.
Most of the alumni players were uncertain about who had played in the most games, but determined Wade Brashear was among them. The alumni players were represented by Nate Marquez, his father Tim Marquez.
Then there were brothers Danny and Pat O’Boyle, and Zach Smith (now coaching current Legion players). Coach Carlos Palomo was in the same boat, with his younger brother Chris in the opposite dugout. Other alumni players included Josh Valdez, Walker Britsch, Justin Gomez, Vince Rodriguez, KC McKee (with his father Mike ‘Dingus’ McKee as plate umpire), Nic Bibb, Brad Miller, Andy Allen, Justin Brester, Elijah Timblin, Rudy Hernandez (the father of Esai), Shane Reynolds, and Jordan Holthus.
Among the highlights, at the bottom of the second, Chris faced older brother Carlos, on the mound for the alums, who struck him out swinging. At the end of two innings, the alums led, 3-1. At the bottom of the third, in the final out, Rudy Hernandez, 47, came out to pitch against his son Esai. Throwing a fast ball, he got him to pop out to shallow center. “It was the second year in the row,” Rudy said. Dad must have got under his skin later in the game when Esai pounded one into deep left against Alum pitcher Elijah Timblin to get the Gering Legion team going. They were down in the 10-9 in the seventh.
Tim Marquez, without a doubt, was the oldest player on the team at 50, and was playing in his fifth alumni game. His son Nate, playing in his second, were both state champions during their Gering Legion days in 1983 and 2012, respectively. Last week, they witnessed the family’s youngest playing representative, Tayden Marquez, 7, and his A’s team win the 7-8-year old division in Gering Organized Baseball.
Another player on the alumni team, Brashear is passing along all that he knows as the head coach for a revived Kimball Legion team who are all juniors this year. They have so far only won four games on the season, but Brashear believes that’s promising considering the team is full of young players. A 2002 Gering graduate, he has been teaching business and technology at Kimball High School for five years, and coaches football, wrestling, and the long and triple jumpers in track. Overall, Brashear went 1-for-2 during the game, scoring one run, while pinch running for Tim Marquez, who earned a walk in the third inning. “It’s fun. It’s a good thing for community, and the crowd,” Brashear said. “Gering has always had a good baseball tradition. Pat and Danny, and all these guys, it keeps them involved in baseball.”
-Meanwhile, in the same inning, Nate Marquez circled the bases on consecutive errors by Gering’s Legion team. Overthrows at first and third base allowed him to scamper down the third base line sliding into home plate in a cloud of dust, where he was called safe by Dingus. His teammates slapped his back, patted his head, and shook his hand. After 3-1/2 innings, the alumni team had extended its lead, 7-1.
Shane Reynolds, Class of 1986, pitched against his son Austin in the next inning, the bottom of the fourth. He got him to bite on a curve ball. Austin popped up to shallow center and was thrown out at first. The elder Reynolds, who had once played second base as Legion player in the mid-80s, now works for Scottsbluff Win Supply, a plumbing wholesaler, seeing little of a baseball diamond these days. “I enjoy playing the game with (Austin),” Shane said. “In the one inning I played, I hit off him. So, it’s Dad 1, Kid 0.” While the younger Reynolds is known as Red to his teammates for his fiery beard, and the long mane that sneaks out past his ball cap, his father was once known as Chicky, in reference to his chicken legs. “That’s what it’s all about,” Shane said. “This game allows old and young to play together, the trash talking, and getting on the field to have a little fun.”
After four innings, the Legion team shaved the lead to 7-3.
Nic Bibb, 20, representing the Class of 2015 was the youngest alum in the game. “Yeah, I’m just a baby,” he said. He was assigned to play mostly second base, while filling in at various other positions.
“It’s a different pace,” he said, then turning a question about learning from his elders, saying, “I’m teaching them.” At the end of the top of the second inning, he popped up to center. Midway through the game, he flied out to center, but later ended up scoring a run. Home from Chadron State College this summer, he’ll return in the fall to continue with his degree in legal studies. Then after three years, he plans to attend law school. According to Bibb, the alumni team showed up two hours before the game for a warmup, with no formal practice.
Having played with the Legion team last year, “I talked trash before and during the game with my good friends Quentin Timblin and Esai Hernandez. It’s all in good fun,” he said. After hitting a single, Bibb and Esai were seen kicking dust on one another reviving comic flashbacks of volatile Yankees manager Billy Martin.
At the end of six innings, the older players clung to a 10-9 lead. The young Legion squad had begun to rally and the fourth, collecting two runs, then tacking on three runs in the fifth, then another three in the sixth.
The alumni started to wear, committing multiple errors in the bottom sixth. Nate Marquez, usually a sure handed second baseman, bobbled and missed a throw to first, but made up for the error. Although he juggled the grounder on his second try, it was a short five-foot toss to second for the force out to end the sixth.
At the top of the seventh inning, the Legion forces clamped down on defense, allowing only the one hit by Brashear.
In the bottom of the seventh, Esai Hernandez, after hearing his dad Rudy egg him on by saying, “You got to be a little scared after that first pop-up.” Esai waved his hand over his head, as though brushing away mosquitoes, then promptly sent the next ball sailing deep into left for stand-up double. Dillon Radzymski who had earned a walk, made it to second, when Dalton Scott grounded to short. Alum’s Justin Gomez’ wild pitch to Mike Gutherless on a full count was the last play. It was just outside the reach of the catcher Zach Smith.