All Points West: Envy led me to watch the game
     2016-06-03      By Frank Marquez    editor@geringcitizen.com
Baseball? These days, I follow the Washington Nationals. I went to a few games when I lived in Washington, D.C., about a year ago. Figured I was baptized after buying my first fan T-shirt.

It’s not a jersey, but if I had one, I’d be wearing No. 34 in honor of Outfielder Bryce Harper. A draft pick out of Las Vegas in 2010, we have living there in Sin City in common. In his short career, he’s already amassed 108 homers and possesses an acrobatic talent for sucking in fly balls. So far, the Nats are 32-21 and sit atop the NL East. But it’s a long season. There’s still a lot of baseball left.

Of course, following the rules of fandom, if there is a Major League Baseball team in your hometown, you can’t choose another. For example, Gering does not have a Major League franchise. Duh!

Some sticklers for rules would say I should choose to root for the team that does business closest to my birth city, Scottsbluff. That would make Denver the obvious choice. Or as some teams have chosen to identify a wider fan base, and what I suspect is a clever marketing ploy, the Colorado Rockies should be the natural selection. But the Rockies, who play at Coors Field, were a team founded in 1991, well after I made my exit from Nebraska and fled for the Left Coast nearly a decade before. Therefore, I could not logically make this bond.

In my travels, I had some interest following the Chicago Cubs, but felt like I was jumping on the bandwagon in 2003, the year the team lost the National League Championship Series to the Florida Marlins, 4-3. A heartbreaker, but the city’s used to that. The Cubs have dealt with the curse of not winning a World Series since flogging the Detroit Tigers in 1908 (4-1), and they have purposely avoided the big stage since 1945 when the Cubs lost to the same team. The Windy City also has another team, the White Sox. Competing interests. Either you own a city or you don’t.

Just like many young boys in Gering, I owned a glove and gave baseball a sincere chance but when you have an older brother who forces you to crouch down as the catcher to test his fastball on your face, you begin to think twice about a game. Tasting the threads of baseball mixed with blood? Not my cup of tea. So, I stuck to being a spectator.

During the ‘70s, in a town with only three TV channels and Cable just on the horizon, getting my dose of competition to survive the dog days of summer, I trotted on down to Oregon Trail Park from my house just a half block away. It was easy enough and kept me out of trouble most of the time. Sometimes, I’d be asked by my Uncle Tony Marquez, who coached baseball, including at the Legion level, for several years from 1973 to 1981, to sit up in the press box to announce the games. I didn’t know a thing; I was no Harry Caray (Look at the guy in the sombrero) or the more serious legendary Vin Scully of L.A. Dodgers fame. There was no pretending. I did my best. Fortunately, no one was listening, or cared. Their eyes were glued to the action.

Interesting thing was these fans cared deeply, as do famous announcers who were students. For this reason, I was envious of my uncle, and his sons Tim and Marty. This slow moving game about strategy epitomized the rhythms of summer, and by sheer logistics (a dugout can get pretty cozy), they were forced to make close bonds. My cousin Tim – we’re about the same age, except that he has more grey hair – played for my uncle and bit into the rewards of the game. Since then, he has been roped into the pleasure himself. He says, “The teamwork of winning state as a player in 1982, and the rewards of coaching young kids the fundamentals,” are a few of the reasons he does it. The other reason is because he raised a son of his own, Nathan who played from the ages of 5 to 19, during a time which included some college ball, and a Nebraska state championship in 2012. Nate’s team played together since they were young, going to regionals four times. Tim played for a short stint at Kearney State. And Nate played for a season at WNCC.

As for my Uncle Tony, he played club ball in the 1950s, and tried out for a pro team, but turned down the opportunity because he had to go see about a girl. Instead of making a career of playing baseball, he found a greater passion, loving and eventually getting married to my Aunt Ruby.

These days, Nathan, who decided to give his bat and glove a rest, attends Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff.

Someday, like his father and grandfather before him, he may be drawn back to the game, and forced to pass along his fondness.

Then like his father Tim, he’ll be coaching a grandson in T-ball.

Surrounded by cheering roaring family at games for already four seasons, Tim’s grandson Tayden, who is 7, plays for a Little League team called the A’s, to carry on the tradition.

If it wasn’t for my uncle, they’d probably be a fan just like me.

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