We're talking baseball again ... with some help from 'Hawkeye'
New London — We're waking up to snow Sunday morning here in our corner of the world. Depressed? Read on, Macduffs.
Because we bring a message of hope. Of inspiration. Of reason to crank Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.
It's baseball season.
No, really. Baseball — gone too long once again — returned to us Saturday morning. Ah, baseball. Sweet, sweet baseball. Proof we're almost there, almost through icky winter, almost awash in the three Bs of bliss: baseball, beaches and boats.
Baseball returned to us at Coast Guard Academy, the annual February indoor scrimmage between the Bears and UConn Avery Point. The indoor track facility becomes a makeshift ballpark, netting all around to protect the innocent, while the rest of us revel in the happy thoughts of summer.
There, coaching third base, is the great Ed Harvey, now an assistant at Avery Point. "Hawkeye," as his friends call him, won three state championships at Fitch High. He can talk hitting like Julia Child can talk about Coq au Vin. Remember this and write it down: There's "Red On Roundball" and "Hawk On Hitting."
"Your hands have to be at 80," he told one of his players.
"What?" I said.
"Eighty degrees. When your foot hits (the ground), your bat has to be at 80 degrees (before you swing)," Harvey said.
Pause here for full disclosure and some angst that suddenly clouded this joyous morning. Telling a player about "80 degrees" would require the player know some math, thus blowing holes in my lifelong theory that nobody ever uses math after high school. So I hereby apologize to all my math teaching posse from the region: Alan Moger, Kelly Barnes, Bill Bassett, Mike Emery, Michelle Combs, Tina Torres, Lynn Arrigoni, Sarah Dodson, Missy Parker and Allie Holmes.
You were right all along.
Turns out math is somewhat useful after all.
Anyhoo, it's always worthwhile to chat with Harvey. He's an all-timer around here, although even someone with his estimable background acknowledged his frustration with life in the roaring 2000s.
"How do we get them to listen ... and then apply?" he said of his players, unwittingly echoing a sentiment from every parent, teacher, administrator, coach and boss in America today.
Not far from Harvey, Avery Point shortstop Mike Rocchetti was talking to a younger hitter.
"The split goes away, the change comes in," Rocchetti said.
See, coaches? They do talk baseball when you're not looking, not just about the female gland.
It should be noted here that, yes, we are inside a climate controlled facility. Baseball played in warmth, as it was meant to be played. Sadly, we get little of that here until June, thereby making the spring season daily exercises in competitive Under Armour.
"We've been outside all week," Avery Point's Alex Petchark said. "The lawn behind the Branford House. I wore a ski mask."
And the poor Coasties? The coldest place in America, after International Falls, Minn., is the baseball field at Coast Guard, a sacrifice fly's distance from the Thames. There's more wind blowing there at a New London Board of Ed meeting.
Which invites the question to all you rich people reading this. Can we build an indoor baseball facility around here? Not just some place to hit. But to play a real game. Synthetic turf, regulation outfield distances. We don't need the Astrodome. Just a place to counteract the perils of spring weather in New England.
The rent alone will play for the thing in about a week and a half.
Just an idea. One of the true miracles of sports is that our corner of the world has produced so many major leaguers and quality college players, given the inherent disadvantage of weather. They're outside playing in 70 degree weather today in Arizona, while we are shoveling out batting cages.
So let's hire an architect, find the property and construct the Conn-dome. (OK, so maybe we can come up with a better name than that. But you get the idea). Imagine: It's April 23rd, 45 degrees and rainy. But we're headed indoors for a doubleheader. And you thought grown men don't cry.
Ain't it grand we're talking baseball again, though? Many thanks to Coast Guard and Avery Point for showing us a glimpse of spring. Soon, we'll be headed to Fenway and the Bronx. (Citi Field for the region's seven Met fans). Soon, it's beaches, boats and baseball.
Happy days are here again.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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