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Walk of Life

Auburn Drunk Tiger Logo

Spring is fast approaching and just ahead of it is the start of a new baseball season on the plains. The smell of fresh-cut grass floats out and around Plainsman Park welcoming those arriving to the ballpark like old friends. The year is 2013, but if you close your eyes and just listen, the sounds of a ballpark are timeless. In an age where college athletics are broadcast and scrutinized to levels equaling or exceeding their professional counterparts, the game of baseball instills a much needed sense of nostalgia and reminders of a simpler time.

For many, baseball is also the avenue taken to learn life’s toughest lessons and collect their most cherished memories. Although I haven’t attended Auburn baseball games in over a decade, I can honestly say they were experiences that continue to have a positive impact on me to this day.

My grandfather took me to Plainsman Park more times than I can remember. We were always early. He liked to watch both teams warm up, take batting practice, etc. I had, if I remember correctly, a minute or so before he would begin quizzing me. “Why do you think they’re throwing like that?” – “Tell me what that guy is doing.”- “What position do you think he plays?” – “He’s tipping his curveball, can you tell me how?” Most kids would probably ‘zone out’ in a situation such as this, but I loved it. I would answer the ones I could, but I couldn’t just say, “I don’t know.” He would always patiently explain and then move on to a new set of questions much more quickly than I could absorb all of what he’d just said. Then the game would start…

Watching games with my grandfather was, to me, like sitting in a dugout next to Bobby Cox while he managed a game. He was always thinking ahead. There was no situation fathomable that he would not have an answer for. I remember names like Gabe Gross, Tim Hudson, Mark Bellhorn, and David Ross but it’s much easier for me to imagine Colter Bean or Chris Bootcheck being brought into the game to pitch while my grandfather explained why they had to pitch to who they were about to pitch to. I learned a lot about baseball, but it took years for me to realize I was learning more than that.

I, admittedly, don’t follow Auburn baseball as closely as I once did. Players, stats, and results are all things that take a backseat to its larger meaning to me. No matter how much renovation is done, Plainsman Park will always be the same as it was 13+ years ago. The excitement of a night-game inside Jordan-Hare is like none other but nothing will ever replace the lifetime lessons I learned and memories I made across the street.  

 

10 Comments

  1. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    I love nostalgia. It makes us appreciate our past. You were extremely lucky Derrick. Nicely done!

    WDE

  2. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    Outstanding piece Derrick,

    We all have those nostalgic times on The Plains. But yours are special. Those memories of special moments with your Grandad will live on in your heart forever. Enjoyed the read this morning. It was both refreshing and heart warming. Thanks for sharing them. War Eagle

  3. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    Really well done. The walk of a life(time) indeed.

    WAR EAGLE!

    • Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

      It’s the Dire Straits song. I realize the title of article is misleading, but you’re dead on. “Walk of a lifetime indeed.”
      The older I get, the more I am able to appreciate those games we saw together.

      • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

        …..”I want my MTV…” Wrong song, but right album. That record made me want to buy a Dobro!

  4. Im4Auburn says:

    Wonderful story. I too miss my grandfather. He was a true gentleman and the wisest man I’ve ever known.

  5. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I remember when Plainsman park was just another baseball diamond, with a few metal bleachers behind the chain-link backstop, and there was a little C-zone parking lot behind that, across the street from Jordan Hare. On sunny spring days, I’d watch practice in the afternoons after getting out of math class in Parker Hall, which is just a block away. I’d take a spot in the bleachers and work on my homework problems, puzzling through those integrals and vector problems. Occasionally, a foul ball would sail over the backstop, and hammer someone’s car.

    …..The park now is pretty fancy, and I’m planning to watch at least one game there this spring. Should be fun!

    • wpleagle says:

      Boy, do these comments bring back memories. Springs of 1965 and 1966, probably the same metal bleachers that Acid sat on a few years later, after two years in Architecture with long afternoon labs I gloried in the ball games with buddies and beer. Yes, back then a cooler full of brewskies was accepted, long as you didn’t throw cans at the players. Ah, youth!

  6. mvhcpa says:

    Derrick,

    That was a beautiful reflection on a beautiful episode in your life that I am glad you shared with us. Although I visited once or twice a year with my grandparents on each side, I didn’t live close enough to them to have sustained moments like that with them.

    I myself went to one or two games at Plainsman Park when I was a student between 1983 and 1988. This one time, I remember I just wanted to get a foul ball so I could have a “free” baseball–not a souvenir, but a baseball I could just throw around.

    Big Hurt (Frank Thomas) was playing that day; he hit a home run that I did NOT see come down.

    No foul balls were coming my way, so before the game was over, I started walking to my car (which I had parked out of stray foul ball range) through that “C” Lot mentioned above. I heard 1) the “dink” of the bat, 2) something flying right past my ear, and 3) a BANG as something hit the side of a parked van a few yards in front of me. I looked down, and the foul ball responsible for all three of those sounds rolled to a stop right at my feet. I picked that ball up and RAN just in case someone with the team would want me to give it back.

    Michael Val
    (who still has that ball somewhere, I am pretty sure)

  7. Randyc37 Randyc37 says:

    Plainsman Park is hallowed ground for me. I was a walk on who never made the team, but I had some great times. I can identify with the movie “Field of Dreams”.

    I still remember a game with South Alabama where Eddie Stanky, the coach for South Alabama at the time, got booted from a game and was seen still calling signals through the bushes in left field before the big wall was erected. Also, I saw Bo, Tim Hudson and Frank Thomas play on that field. Tim Hudson was quite a hitter and outfielder when he played at Auburn and there are not words to describe how talented Bo was at baseball. Frank Thomas came to Auburn as a tight end and decided to play baseball. I knew a pitcher from Georgia Tech who had to face him and he was terrified.

    There is nothing like a nice Spring afternoon at Plainsman Park. Thanks for the article.