Seven years ago, on July 7, 2004, THE SHOT HEARD AROUND CLAY CENTER occurred. A home run was hit in a summer American Legion baseball game at Kelly Campbell Field. I can’t remember who we played that night. In fact, I can’t remember any details from that doubleheader. I can usually remember those details a coach is programmed to remember, but I can’t on this one, too traumatic I guess. Honestly, I searched for the original scorebook in my collection of artifacts to help trigger memories, but it was nowhere to be found. These seven years have passed with an epiphany of my acceptance of the reality IT actually did happen and IT was not a dream or heat-induced hallucination.
Kiel Unruh hit a home run.
There it is, the most unlikely sports highlight ever. I admit it is still shocking, even more shocking than SpellDog’s walk-off blast in another game that season. Both those home runs were the only home runs either of those men hit in their entire baseball careers. SpellDog’s was impressive (and a walk-off), but since he had actually hit several pop flys to the outfield in his illustrious career, a coach knew it would only be a matter of time before he hit one. But Kiel, not even close. I guess I need to give a little physical background on Kiel. He is skin and bones. There is nothing to this kid. We had to keep the hanger in his jersey just to keep it from falling off over his shoulders. That’s skinny! He was a wizard with the glove in the outfield, though. He and his outfield mates cut the open outfield space down to a bare minimum, he just couldn’t hit a baseball to save his life. He was our permanent nine-hole hitter, he was our walking sacrifice bunt and he was only a position player if we could use a DH.
Kiel has gone on to great accomplishments as an adult. He is assistant women’s basketball coach at Stephen F. Austin University, fresh off being a staff member of the 2010 National Women’s Basketball Champion Emporia State Lady Hornets. He has enjoyed many successes in life and in sports, but…
One night in early July seven years ago, Kiel connected. The ball jumped off his bat and sailed over the Campbell Field Green Monster and into the kiddie playground. Someday we will build a monument in the playground to this event. Someday we will gather as old men on the field and sing songs of glory. Of all his life accomplishments, I sure hope THE SHOT HEARD AROUND CLAY CENTER will always rank right up near the top.