My heart is back with baseball

Published 3:30 pm Friday, May 28, 2004

By Staff
I began playing baseball at an early age -- probably eight or nine, which I know is not so early anymore.
It didn't take me long to fall in love with the great American pastime, and I played whenever I had a chance. I would beg my dad to hit me fly balls in our yard or just play catch.
My dad was a baseball fan, too, but had to settle for fastpitch softball since there were no adult baseball leagues around. He was a pitcher and outfielder and played in a league at Riverview Park in Elkhart, Ind.
I loved going to my dad's games, mostly just to be in a baseball-like atmosphere, but also because I admired my dad for how good he was and his competitive spirit.
There is no doubt I inherited my dad's competitive nature, and some of his athletic ability as well.
Watching high school baseball these days, I know I wasn't as good as most of the players in this area, but I had my fair share of success before high school.
In Constantine, where I grew up, we had little league and then a single Babe Ruth team for our town. I made the Babe Ruth team and played on it two years while I was in seventh and eighth grades.
Once I reached high school, I made the freshmen team and was the starting catcher most of the season.
Something in me changed that year, however, and I lost my passion for baseball. I was tired of all the practices and needed a break.
I called it quits after my freshmen season and didn't pick up my mitt or a ball for the next eight years.
I played one season of church league softball in the summer of 2001, then took off the next two years. This year, I'm playing again and loving it.
I wish I wouldn't have waited so long to get back into the game. The time I took off from it has made me very rusty and I've had to relearn a lot of the things that used to come naturally.
I am proud to say that I'm currently batting .875 (7-for-8) with all seven hits being singles. I think I left my power in high school!
My love of baseball has returned, as evidenced by how interested I am in the local high school teams. My wife is probably sick and tired of hearing about how Niles, Brandywine and Buchanan are doing in baseball this season.
I also recently had the privilege of attending a baseball game at Notre Dame with a couple friends. The Irish have been ranked in the Top 10 most of the season and had me on the edge of my seat as they dispensed of Rutgers in a Big East Conference game.
Frank Eck Stadium on the campus of Notre Dame is a beauty and the Irish baseball team is loaded with talented players who may be making a return trip to the College World Series this year.
The high school baseball in Niles and Buchanan is entertaining as well this season. The Niles Vikings are 19-9 on the year and have a good chance to win a district tournament.
Brandywine is having a decent season and could easily pull off a big upset to win a district title.
Buchanan has beaten two Division 4 Top 10 teams this week and may be making a push as it prepares for districts.
All three teams have some very talented and exciting players who make the games fun to watch.
All three teams have coaches who know what they're doing and have made their teams better because of their knowledge of the game.
Don't think I'm knocking softball. I still love softball and I've obviously got plenty of good softball to watch this year.
Brandywine is having another great season and the young Niles varsity team is making progress toward becoming a powerhouse. Buchanan is also very young and should be making itself known in the next couple seasons.
Spring is a great time of year. Baseball and softball make it even better.
Dan Weiss is sports editor of the Niles Daily Star. Email him at