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A Beautiful Day of Baseball

May 15, 2018.

Clay Center Community High School hosted a 4A baseball regional in Clay Center for the first time since 2002. That was a long time to wait.

But when I was sitting out there watching the four teams, it was like a slice of baseball heaven.  The crowds were great and supportive. The teams played their hearts out. Watching the three games on the renovated Campbell Field put a smile on this old coach’s face.

Thank you, Clay County for the donations of time, skill, funds, materials, prayers, and the new scoreboard to help make this renovation project possible. It truly is a field of dreams to us old baseball people and something we hope the young baseball people will be able to enjoy for years.

The power of a “for the community by the community” project.

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Graduation Speech 2018

Thank you, Clay Center Community High School Class of 2018 for the opportunity to be the guest speaker at your graduation ceremony. Here is the transcript of the speech if you or your people are interested. Hopefully, you can look back on it years from now and ask your classmates, “Do you remember that fool who gave our graduation speech? I wonder what he’s doing nowadays.”

I dedicate this speech to all the athletes I’ve had the honor of coaching, especially the ones who’ve struggled to find their place in the world.

Graduation Speech 2018
Otto Unruh Stadium
5-13-18
Mike Hays

Congratulations, Class of 2018! Thank you for this honor to speak today.
Congratulations to the parents and families! Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Today is special. This all around us is special.
This is a special place. It‘s a community where people have supported you through your games, performances, academics, and employment opportunities.

This place is part of who you are. It is part of what you will become.
No matter how far you travel or where your dreams take you, you will take a piece of Clay County with you.
And wherever you go after leaving these seats as graduates, Clay County will always be here for you.

Graduation Advice

Be yourself.
Be the best you that you can be.

Toy Story 2 illustrates a great example of staying true to who you are. Woody has been taken to Big Al’s and is waiting to be sold to a collector. He looks at the faded name of “ANDY” written on the bottom of his boot.
ANDY.
The name that represents belonging to and being a part of.
ANDY.
The name that gives Woody purpose.
What happens to Woody when the Cleaner shows up and wipes those four letters off his boot?
He loses himself. He gives up trying to get back to Andy and the others. Gives up and floats away from all that is important to him. He’s tempted by the TV star life after discovering Jessie, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete.
When the name disappears, so does the very core of who he is.
In the end, it takes a monumental effort by Buzz and all Woody’s friends to bring him back to himself.

What name is written on your foot?
Who or what do you choose to belong to?
What name gives you purpose?
Is it a name that’s written in permanent ink or in pencil?
Is it a name that provides solid footing or is it one that causes you to slip and slide away from who you really are?

Find out who you are and stand behind it.
Let your faith be your compass.
Let your conscience be your map.
Never forget the name you’ve written on your foot.

Graduation Challenge

My challenge to you is something you probably won’t find on any of your graduation cards.
Go out and fail.
Dream big, take calculated risks and fail.
Regroup, and get better. Then try again & again & again until you succeed.

I wish you a lifetime of successes forged in the fire of failures.
I want you to dream big and go make it happen.

As we dive headfirst into the digital age, I challenge you to do great things. And great things take effort.
Do not fail by lack of effort or by not daring to dream.
Believe in yourself.
Believe in your power.

I want you to discover new ways of farming and ranching.
I want you to discover new ways to teach kids.
I want you to bring new products to our everyday lives and new ways of creating art and stories.
I want you to teach us old folks how to use technology without allowing technology to use us.
We need you and we need your talents.

Every Graduation Needs a Mascot

My proposal for your graduation mascot is Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
Do you remember what Tigger is known for?
Bouncing.
As you turn the tassels today, take a lesson from Tigger and be bouncy!

You were bounced on someone’s knee as a baby.
You bounced off almost everything when you learned to walk and run.
You bounced around on the playground during recess.
You’ve been bounced on your rear end by schoolwork, sports, jobs, relationships, and personal trials.
But, you kept bouncing back and here you sit. Graduates.

Your bouncing days are not over. They’re just beginning.
Life will knock you for a loop over and over again.
Every time you get knocked down, bounce back up.
Sometimes our biggest victories in life are simply getting back up after a fall.
Keep bouncing!
Just like Tigger.

A Graduate Game Plan

Hard work is the magic.
It’s a simple truth.
Everything worth having is worth working for.
Family, career, hobbies—even that truck you can’t peel your eyes away from on the dealership lot—are all worth working for.
Put your signature on your every action.
Show up each and every day ready to do the work.
Attack life with purpose, pride, passion, and persistence.
Hard work is the magic.

Congratulations, Class of 2018!
Take advantage of “today” every day.
Live life to its fullest.
It’s the only one you’re given.

While bouncing along the Hundred Acre Wood, Tigger’s been known to sing,
“The wonderful thing about tiggers is tiggers are wonderful things.”
I say,
“The wonderful thing about Clay Center Tigers is Clay Center Tigers are wonderful things.”

Remember who you are.
Remember where you come from.
Remember where you’re going.
Never forget,
The most wonderful thing about YOU is that YOU are a wonderful thing.

Thank you and good luck!

Bonus! Every good story has a good story. This is what happened (well mostly what happened) the night I told my family at dinner about the invitation to be CCCHS’ graduation speaker.

Me: Mr. Young called today and said the senior class invited me to be their graduation speaker.
(Long dramatic pause while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)
Kid 1: What would you wear?
Me: What?
Kid 2: You know you can’t yell, right?
Me: I don’t yell. I get excited.
(Long dramatic pause #2 while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)
Kid 3: You can’t cuss, either.
Me: @#$%! I know that.
Wife: Are you going to do it?
Me: (Long dramatic pause while I roll on the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter.)
Whole Family: You mean to tell us you can look in those seniors’ eyes and tell them “no”.
Me: But there will be SO MANY people there. And it will be hot. And… And… And…
Wife: Well, are you going to do it?
Me: I told Mr. Young I’d think about it.
(Long dramatic pause #3 while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)

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THANK YOU!

Wow, people! You did it, again! Thanks to the generosity of many individuals and businesses, we were able to wire the down payment and start the manufacturing of this:

OUR NEW SCOREBOARD!

It should take about three weeks to manufacture and another week to be shipped. The Clay Center Public Utilities has offered to help with the installation.

After looking at many scoreboards of all shapes and sizes, we decided to stick with the basic 12′ x 8′ footprint of the current scoreboard. We went in this direction because it allows us to save money by using the existing support beams and posts and because this scoreboard was the best value of all the options we quoted.

I’m sure we will run into a few hurdles installing the scoreboard and learning to use the remote control systems but thanks to this incredible community, we have climbed the highest mountain. We’ve bought a brand new scoreboard.

When we started this project in September of 2013, we wanted to establish a spirit of for the community and by the community’ with Campbell Field and other facilities. Thanks to you, I think this is truly coming to fruition.

We invite you to visit Campbell Field to watch a game this spring or summer. Come out, watch some baseball, eat a hot dog, spit some sunflower seeds, and visit with other fans in a facility we hope is getting closer to being a baseball facility we can all be proud of.

THANK YOU!

I’d also like to give a special thanks to the Clay Center Community Improvement Foundation. As someone who has researched non-profit tools for baseball field fundraising since 2000 and always ended up overwhelmed at the legalities and paperwork, I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have this organization working on behalf of our community. The CCCIF allows a bunch of rockhead baseball guys to do rockhead baseball stuff while providing the infrastructure and the mechanics on the financial side of things. More importantly, they allow an organization like ours to raise money in a transparent and trustworthy manner.

Thank you, CCCIF Board of Directors!

Chairperson – Morree Floersch
Vice-Chairperson – Brad Dieckmann
Secretary – Karen Bryan
Treasurer – Robin Thurlow
Board Member – Jayson Hood
Board Member – Jill Mugler

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As if to meet the moon

I watched the rare blue super moon eclipse this morning from the front porch. It was crisp morning, but not the usual frigid Kansas January 31st morning. Nature has provided us a bounty of the celestial phenomenon this year as a reminder of how incredible our planet and our universe really are. Watching westward through the bare branches of our oak, just minutes before sunrise, this Robert Frost poem came to mind.

“We ran as if to meet the moon” Mercy, that’s a kickass, beautiful line.

 

Going for Water
By Robert Frost

The well was dry beside the door,
And so we went with pail and can
Across the fields behind the house
To seek the brook if still it ran;

Not loth to have excuse to go,
Because the autumn eve was fair
(Though chill), because the fields were ours,
And by the brook our woods were there.

We ran as if to meet the moon
That slowly dawned behind the trees,
The barren boughs without the leaves,
Without the birds, without the breeze.

But once within the wood, we paused
Like gnomes that hid us from the moon,
Ready to run to hiding new
With laughter when she found us soon.

Each laid on other a staying hand
To listen ere we dared to look,
And in the hush we joined to make
We heard, we knew we heard the brook.

A note as from a single place,
A slender tinkling fall that made
Now drops that floated on the pool
Like pearls, and now a silver blade.

 

The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, is seen in silhouette as it transits the moon at roughly five miles per second Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, Alexandria, Virginia. Onboard are; NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei, and Scott Tingle: Russian Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov, and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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A Scoreboard

Our community is incredible, people! Thanks to the generous people and businesses who’ve donated their time, skill, materials, and dollars over the past four years, we’ve been able to complete some pretty awesome renovations at Campbell Field. It’s slowly transforming into a respectable high school baseball field.

Some of the upgrades have been documented in previous blog posts, The Beginning and Campbell Field Renovation Phase I, and over the next month or so, I hope to share the updates for Phase II, III, and IV. We are almost at the end of the trail for the renovations. It has been a long road since we started in 2013.

There have been highs and lows, successes and struggles, but even at the worst of times, it’s been fun for us. The thing we are most proud of is that the renovation costs involved minimum tax dollars, which we hope will allow more of the city recreation budget to be spent on actual recreation programs.

One final project we’d like to take a run at before we shift our focus from renovating Campbell Field to maintaining Campbell Field is to raise funds for a new scoreboard. If you’ve been out to watch a game at Campbell Field in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed one glaring dysfunctional part of the baseball landscape is our scoreboard.

Last April, an area high school coach complimented the upgrades to the field but asked if we are ever going to get a new scoreboard. I told him our scoreboard is special. It’s a home field advantage because we send coded messages through the system so only Clay Center baseball fans are able to decode the random symbols which are supposed to be real and actual numbers.

All joking aside. Our scoreboard is old. It’s been fixed over the years, but it’s at the end of the line. Many of the sockets do not work anymore. We’ve tried every year the past four years to repair it. We can’t find replacement sockets or light bulbs anymore. Even the second-hand parts we were fortunate to reclaim from an area town’s retired scoreboard did not solve the problem.

We are in the market to purchase a replacement. Nothing fancy, just a scoreboard similar to the one we’ve had the past 25 years that we hope will last at least 30 years or more. We’ve been shopping around and requesting quotes for a year or so. With freight and wireless controls, an updated LED model of what we have now will cost around $6000.00.

I know money is tight all over, but we would like to turn once again to the community and ask for your financial support. The Clay Center American Legion has joined us in this effort to raise money. The Legion would like to use the new scoreboard as a memorial to three men who had a tremendous impact on the sport of baseball in Clay Center, Oran Erickson, Walt Knitter, and Charles Ellis.

We have set up a fundraising account with the Clay Center Community Improvement Foundation. Your tax-deductible donations are greatly appreciated and, as always, we promise to spend every penny in the most efficient way possible with the continued goal to make and keep Campbell Field a source of community pride.

Below is the CC Community Improvement Foundation information if you are interested in making a donation to the scoreboard fund. Just designate your donation to go to the “Campbell Field Scoreboard Fund” and the nice folks at the Foundation will take care of the rest. We appreciate any help to purchase the scoreboard in memorial to these three great Clay Center individuals.

If you are unable to help financially at this time, don’t worry. Come out, instead, and watch a baseball game sometime or contact me to arrange a tour to see the improvements. Campbell Field and the Tommy Watt Batting Cages are something we are extremely proud of and we hope you will be too.

Thank you, Clay County!

(Note: If an organization or business is interested in becoming a Campbell Field sponsor, we have a Banner Donor level available. A 5-year donation commitment of $1000 ($200/year) will not only help the long-term support of Campbell Field but will get the logo & name of the donor organization or business displayed on a custom fence banner. If interested in becoming a Banner Donor, contact Larry Wallace, Jr. at 632-3345 or Rex Carlson at 632-2223 or email me at coachhays@gmail.com.)

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Baseball at Night

Baseball at Night by Morris Kantor, 1934 (Photo credit: American Art Museum on Visualhunt.com/)

I ran across this painting while researching for a potential book about one of my favorite baseball players of all-time, Josh Gibson. I was hypnotized by it. I need to find out more about the painting and its creator, Morris Kantor.  But, for now, I’m sharing it here as a reminder that, despite the half-foot of snow and single-digit temperatures outside, baseball season is just around the corner.

Baseball…

Dream on, people!

 

 

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The Tokohama Ruse

In 1887, after a season of white baseball players increasingly refusing to play with or against black players, the “gentleman’s agreement” to implement a color line in professional baseball was approved. Cap Anson, one of the greatest players—and most outspoken bigots—of the era, receives much of blame for using his influence to force the issue. Truth be told, though, American professional baseball rosters were stacked with bigots who came from Southern and Northern upbringings. The ills of a society were again reflected in its sports.

In 1901, John McGraw of the newly formed Baltimore Orioles club of the brand new American League attempted to bring in a black player named Charlie Grant into the whites-only league in what has been coined, The Tokohama Ruse. The Tokohama Ruse has so much wrong with it. Blatant racist actions by all parties.

Fueled by a desire to win and compete in the fledgling league, John McGraw’s new Baltimore Orioles team was desperate to bring in talent. This original version of the O’s was short-lived as they went bankrupt after the 1902 season and the modern version of the O’s would not be established until 1954 when the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore. During their training camp in Hot Spring, Arkansas, McGraw ran across an extremely talented infielder who he wanted to sign.

The problem was the player McGraw had set his sights on was a light-complexioned black baseball player named, Charlie Grant. Grant was a talented infielder with the Negro League Columbia Giants playing out of Chicago. In order to make financial ends meet during the offseason, he was working at a resort in Hot Springs. Grant and some of the other player/employees of the resort formed a baseball squad whose main purpose was to provide a sports entertainment option for the guests.

McGraw saw Grant play and wanted to sign him. He knew none of the other owners would allow him to bring in a black player, so he came up with one of the more blatant racist moves in sports history. Light skinned Charlie Grant was now Chief Charlie Tokohama, a Cherokee who was the son of a white father and a Cherokee mother from Lawrence, Kansas. McGraw developed the elaborate backstory and chose the name from a map of Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in the hotel which had a creek named Tokohoma Creek.

To make matters worse, McGraw painted Grant with warpaint and had him wear a feathered headdress on the field. Chief Tokohama played right along with the deception, probably for the chance at making some decent money playing at the highest level of his sport. It was reported he performed well in practice and on the road for the exhibition season, where fans lined up to see the spectacle of the “Chief”.

Before the Orioles made it back to Baltimore to open the season, though, cracks developed in the Chief Tokohoma scam. Charlie Cominsky, the owner of the Chicago White Sox, was the first to speak out as he revealed Charlie Grant as the true identity of Tokohama. John McGraw and Grant continued to publicly deny the allegations and stuck with their original story.

Cominsky’s reply?

“I’m not going to stand for McGraw bringing in an Indian on the Baltimore team,” he said. “If ‘Muggsy’ [McGraw’s nickname] really keeps this Indian, I will get a Chinaman of my acquaintance and put him on third. Somebody told me that the Cherokee of McGraw’s is really Grant, the crack Negro second baseman from Cincinnati, fixed up with war paint and a bunch of feathers.”

Nice political correctness, fellas.

Well, anyway, the truth breaks and McGraw quietly let go of Grant before the season started, saying the young Indian player was too inexperienced, especially on defense. Grant returned to Chicago where he continued to play baseball in the Negro Leagues. After 15 seasons, he returned to his hometown of Cincinnati and worked as a janitor. In 1932, Charlie Grant was killed when a car lost control after blowing a tire, jumped the curb, and hit him as he sat in a chair on the sidewalk.

With all the wrongs of the Chief Tokohama ruse, one does wonder what would have happened if it would have worked long enough for Charlie Grant, not Chief Tokohama, to show he could play alongside white professional baseball players. I doubt nothing.

The institutional bigotry was too ingrained for it to succeed until Jackie Robinson received his chance from Branch Rickey to become the first black player to break the color line. Or was he? In a future post, we’ll look into the Washington Senators, who in the pre-Jackie Robinson era employed several Cuban players, who may have actually been the first black players to break the barrier.

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