(by Scott Gatzke)
Another year has come and gone and once again I find myself basking in the warm memories of Florida past. But as nice as that is, I can’t help but be excited about going back again next year. I know that I have a long, cold winter ahead with virtually no baseball except the reminiscing that I’m sure to get into with a number of you over a few beers. We’re so close for that one week every fall (not to mention summer ball) and then we go our separate ways only to get together infrequently and fleetingly. It sometimes makes me sad, but then I realize how lucky we are to have the camaraderie we share. Not many people get to share so much fun with so many friends. We come from so many different places and have such different occupations and lifestyles away from the ballpark. Yet we share such a strong common bond at the park that we can instantly and completely identify with each other and become great friends. The theme of the 2003 Roy Hobbs World Series was “Teammates”, and I think that we exemplified that theme throughout the tournament. Everyone contributed and everyone was behind their teammates – no matter what.
The tournament this year was special to me for several reasons. The first is because it was the first time that Corny and I ran the team. We spent a lot of time over the course of the summer trying to recruit players, get uniforms, complete the paperwork, pay the fees, make condo arrangements and all the rest of the details that go along with putting this together. I want to give a special thanks to Kiddo for helping us figure things out. His knowledge and experience with the inner workings of this tournament were invaluable. The second reason that this tournament was special to me was that we reached the goal that we had set for ourselves. We wanted to play on Saturday and have a chance to play for a championship – and we did that. We had originally thought that we could accomplish that in the AAA bracket but that was a little beyond our reach this year and we had to settle for AA. I honestly think that we wound up right where we belonged and I’m very proud of everyone and the way we played. The third reason that this year was special was that 12 of the 14 team members stayed in one location! What a bonus that turned out to be. It was so nice to be so close to all of the guys. To be able to hang out on the beach together or just congregate in one room over a couple of beers or to enjoy home cooked meals together. Thanks to Jay, Eddy, O, Corny and Wilgy for all of your efforts in the food department. It really felt like we were one, united team this year. And one final (though there are more) reason that this year was special is that we looked damn good in our new uniforms! Well, the rest of you looked good anyway. I looked like a sack of potatoes stuffed into spandex. But overall we had, by far, (pero lejos!) the best, most classic looking uni’s.
My thanks to Corny for all that he did during the tournament. He, alone, ran the team on the field. Only occasionally did we discuss lineups or defensive positions – and I usually just agreed with what he was doing. It was his managing that got us to the championship game. He deserves at least a “thatta boy” or a pat on the back. Let him know that you appreciate his efforts. My only gripe with him is that, once again, he wasn’t in the lineup often enough. He had a pretty good tourney though he says he has to drop a few pounds before next year so that it will be easier to hit his weight.
Burnsy is the bedrock that this team is built on. Without him we’d be sunk. He and Germar had outstanding tournaments. They both gave us everything they had and we rode them as far as we could. Burnsy called me from the plane on Sunday and said “I’m cooked Eddy”, or something to that effect. He was absolutely gassed after pitching seven times in seven days. We couldn’t ask for a better 1-2 punch than those guys. They just throw and throw and throw. It absolutely amazes me. Kevin was his usual dominating self and Spicolli just overpowered hitters the whole week and when he wasn’t pitching he hit the crap out of the ball and played in the outfield. He even threw a runner out at home – by 15 feet no less – from right field between starts. I was surprised when his arm didn’t get to the plate before the ball. He had a great time down there and I know we can count on him to be there every year from now on. Congratulations to Matt on winning the MVP award – you really deserved it. I voted for you. Maybe we’ll start calling him Burnsy Jr. How can you not love these two bulldogs?
I also want to call special attention to what Kiddo and Lueder did for us. We put them into situations that were extremely difficult and left them twisting in the wind taking it for the team. Kiddo, especially, really gave us a good chance every time he pitched even against some very good teams. When they weren’t on the hill they both hit pretty well, Tim from both sides of the plate and Kiddo hit for a great average AND had three doubles! I know you wanted more work Kiddo, but we were saving you for the second week.
Eddy and O led the tournament in having fun and played their usual great games. What can you say about Eddy? He had 15 hits, five walks and 10 stolen bases. That’s a career for some guys down there. He’s such a good player that he can separate his shoulder, pop it back in place and go right back into the outfield and throw a runner out! Is that a gamer, or what? I, personally, was so happy to see Orlando playing first base that I think I got wood. We’ve missed his steady glove sooooo much on the Saints since he left for Chicago. And he even hit a dinger and knocked in a dozen runs. I’m thinking about hiring him for three months every summer just to have him around to play for the Saints.
Bushy was another guy that had a great tournament. He quietly hit almost .400, stole seven bases and hit three doubles all while playing his normal, superb outfield. I think he played all three outfield spots to boot. It was also nice to be able to hang out with him more this year too. He’s a great guy and a better teammate. He does whatever is necessary to get the job done. It’s a pleasure to bat behind him in the order.
Tats and Donkey were also super. Tats, of course, was a wall behind the plate and handled all of the pitchers well. He had a good series at the plate, got on base a lot and stole three bases. He even got to show us his gun from third base by firing a PEA to Orlando to nail a runner after he bobbled the hot smash. It’s too bad Kelli wasn’t there to see it. She was busy breaking up with her boyfriend, Kevin. Yep, that’s right, John. She’s single again. GET ON IT! Donkey was having a great week before his foot did a Linda Blair and turned 360° on the end of his leg. He had seven hits and six RBI’s at that point. And to add insult to injury (literally) he had to wait in the ER for four hours before he was even treated. I think I picked him up at the hospital somewhere around 6:30 or 7:00 that night so he was all alone for about seven hours that day. I don’t think he’s done much better with his wife since he got home either.
Staller played well during the week and was hitting very well early in the week. He played a solid second base and made me look good by hanging in there and turning DP’s on a couple slow feeds that I gave him. Very nice job. He also managed to keep Burnsy apprised of all the shows that were airing on the History channel.
Tiny, as usual, was the life of the party and managed to play some pretty respectable baseball between benders. (Or was it just one, long bender?) He didn’t hit quite the way he did last year (who could?) but he did hit a dinger and tied for the fourth most hits on the team – all while playing a solid third base. I can’t imagine going to Florida without him. He’s a gas. I glove you, man.
Pac-Man came down to help us out, and he did. He didn’t hit the way he usually does but I think family took a little more precedence with him this year and that’s a good thing. He did play great defense making some catches when I thought he had no way of getting to the ball. Thanks for being there Pac. I really appreciate it.
And me, I was just happy to be there. I was just hoping I could help the team and, the good lord willing, things would work out. And so they did. I want to thank all of you for voting me Co-MVP with Germar. I respect all of you guys, you’ve all played this game longer than me and you’re damn sure all better than I am, so knowing that you think I deserve part of this award makes me feel really good. Thank you.
I had so much fun this year that I’m already excited about our prospects for next year. I want to thank all of you for making this such a special year and I think you should all congratulate yourselves as well. You all deserve it. Every one of you was a big part of this. But this isn’t about individual achievements, it’s about the team’s achievement and it’s about “Teammates”. Here’s to all of you.