New Castle’s field of dreams
Post Independent Staff
NEW CASTLE — Old-timey baseball aficionados from around the region are getting set for a day of old-fashioned base ball (it was spelled as two words back in the 1800s), a community picnic and other activities on June 15, as part of this town’s year-long celebration of its 125-year history.
But in preparation for that big day, there is to be an afternoon of learning all about the rules of Vintage Base Ball from 1-3 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at the VIX Ranch Park in the Castle Valley subdivision on the northeastern side of town.
Town recreation director Larry McDonald said on Thursday that the Silt All-Stars, a member team in the Colorado Vintage Base Ball Association (CVBBA), will be the hosting team for Sunday’s clinic, offering tips on how the game was played back in the day when nobody wore gloves and games often were held in fields lacking a baseball diamond, fencing and bases.
“I’ve seen pictures of vintage games played in a pasture,” said McDonald.
Asked what the organizers did about random desiccated cow patties in the field, he said, “I don’t know. Maybe they used them as bases.”
McDonald said Silt’s Jon Nestor and others will be the instructors, and predicted that the rules clinic may take a little time because “the rules are a little different” for vintage games than they are in modern baseball.
Nestor, 47, said he has been playing vintage ball for perhaps 18 years, and that “each year you learn something new” about the rules.
“The best thing to do is play the game,” Nestor added, which is the plan for Sunday’s clinic.
“We’ll spend a little time talking about a couple of the rules, then we’ll get out there and scrimmage a little,” he said.
And while vintage ball may seem to be the sport of older men, Nestor said, “I’m looking for kind of a mix of ages. It’s not just the older folks we want.” He explained that attracting younger players is the only way the sport can be maintained in coming years.
According to the CVBBA website (cvbba.org), players are referred to as “ballists,” and there is a list of 40 rules to be followed in playing the game.
Batters are called “strikers,” and the guy on the mound was either the “hurler” or the “pitcher,” as that position is known in modern baseball. Umpires have always been called umpires, apparently.
Among the rules is one that requires the pitcher to get the ball “as near as possible over the home base,” according to the CVBBA website.
“The pitcher, therefore, has no right to pitch the ball to the catcher, especially as is often done when a player is one the first base,” the rules continue, a clear reference to the pitcher’s modern role in preventing stolen bases.
David Souders, owner of the New Castle Diner and a former player with the Glenwood Springs vintage team, said he is looking forward to playing, but this time for a New Castle team.
McDonald said he has two teams just about filled, but added, “We definitely are looking for more players.”
He noted that, while there is a baseball diamond at the VIX Ranch Park, the games will be played in a grassy area lacking a diamond, baselines or fencing.
For spectators at the games on Sunday, he said, there will be seating areas or seats.
But on June 15, he continued, “It’ll probably be bales of hay. That’s how they did it in the old days.”
Aside from perhaps two New Castle teams, and the Silt All-Stars, McDonald said he is hoping for a team from Glenwood Springs, although he has not heard of one being organized yet.
Cindy Hines, director of the Frontier Historical Society and museum, confirmed that the museum has a collection of uniforms, equipment, rule books and other gear that was used in the past when Glenwood Springs had an active team.
The local team disbanded “a long while ago,” she said, and there has been no recent talk about reviving it for the New Castle tournament.
“If someone wants to do it,” she added, ‘they’re welcome to what we’ve got.”
Those interested in taking part in the games can call McDonald at 984-3352 during normal business hours.
Hines can be reached at 945-4448.
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