GREG HAMILTON: Remembering playing youth baseball
“The first thing that comes to my mind about going to the ballpark is the ping of the bat. When you play the game, it’s the sounds that come with it. You could tell how good the hit was by the sound of the bat – that has changed a little bit now with the compression bats – but that was the telltale sign, the sound that you heard.
“A dirt infield was all we knew. You get a different kind of hop playing on a dirt infield as compared to the grass.
“I loved baseball. I thrived on never missing one that was thrown to me – on not striking out. I was blessed to have the ability to play, and I did not want to strike out. I worked at it – and that ultimately was what led to me playing in college, that I didn’t strike out but four times in my high school career.
“After playing in college, I started being a high school baseball coach. Field maintenance was just an afterthought – you knew everything about how to get the field ready for a ballgame because we did it when we played. You didn’t have field crews and managers – the kids got the field ready. There was nothing I didn’t know about getting a field ready when I became a head coach.
“I just have a lot of memories around baseball – how it’s changed, now, but how it really changed my life, too. Not only did I get the opportunity to play in college but it led me to being at Vina, where I coached for 20-plus. We were fortunate enough to have a lot of success.
“If you look at all the stadiums now, how they’ve changed from the ’80s – I mean, look at Vina. You could go right now, and it’s the middle of winter, and at the baseball fields in my school system, the grass is green as it can be. Times have changed because baseball was not ‘the’ sport in the ’80s, but now it’s become a year-round sport for a lot of people … It’s just really grown, and a lot of success in my life that has gotten me to this position has been tied to baseball in some way. It’s had a lot of positive impact in my life.”