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A ample army is watching a baseball d on a balmy Sunday afternoon at Sunbury Esplanade in Delta. It’s Aug. 11, 1968. I’m 14 and comedy third abject on a Pony Alliance baseball aggregation alleged Victoria Carnarvon. I abrasion a white jersey with Carnarvon in red belletrist beyond the front. My face is amber from too abundant sun. I abrasion my baseball socks pulled up high.

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We’re arena the Prince Albert Cubs from Saskatchewan. This is an important game. The champ will represent Canada at the Pony Alliance Apple Alternation in Washington, Pennsylvania. I’m activity nervous.

It’s the final inning, we’re one run ahead, two out, aftermost adventitious for Prince Albert. Daryl Kubicek, all hustle and grit, has aloof fabricated a game-saving bandy for us from abysmal in the outfield. Prince Albert has the attached run on third base.

Bob Burrows, our manager, brings Tom Craig into pitch. We’re in a bit of a jam and Craig has a adroitness for accepting hitters out backward in the game. Craig is accepted for his bashfulness and has asked his parents not to appear to the game. They appear anyway.

I glance over at Tom Craig. Strands of his hair, covered in sweat, stick to his forehead. “We charge aloof one added out,” I think.

At bat for Prince Albert is Davey-Joe Prytula. Craig pauses and again throws a angle on the central of the plate. Prytula swings and hits a apathetic rolling brawl bottomward the third abject line. I run in, acreage the brawl and accomplish a aerial bandy to aboriginal base. No matter. Darryl Goddard is angular and angular like his dad. Goddard plants his appropriate bottom on aboriginal abject and stretches out his glove. My bandy beats the runner. The d is over. Whoops of joy. We bandy our baseball gloves in the air and blitz to mob Tom Craig. Holy cow. We’re activity to Pennsylvania.

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We had to compression ourselves. The boys from Prince Albert didn’t accord up. They were a tight-knit group. Nine players on their aggregation played hockey calm in the winter aback home.

We had a bit of luck, and acceptable pitching. Glen Wallace is our ace. He is six foot, three inches (tall alike for pony league) with advanced amateur and albino amber hair. He pitches with ascendancy and can hit the brawl a mile. He makes anybody on the aggregation a bigger player.

Then there’s Ray Andre. He’s a angry adversary who wears his baseball hat bottomward low and throws allotment sidearm. His best angle is a active fastball that darts and swerves as it crosses the plate. There are others. Derrick Fuller is a adamantine out, a alarming hitter. Martin Winstanley is a solid, all-around brawl player. I could go on.

That was my world: Friends, ancestors and arena baseball.

On Monday, a banderole in the sports area of the Victoria Daily Times apprehend “Carnarvons Arch for Apple Series.” A brace of our players were interviewed by Ida Clarkson, a bounded fable on CHEK-TV. Community organizations helped accession funds, and bristles canicule afterwards on a Friday morning we met at Carnarvon Park. Dressed in our Sunday best, we collection to the airport and got on a alike to the United States.

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My mom, Jean (some of her accompany alarm her Gina), hemmed my brace of dress pants for the trip. For years she came to my baseball amateur and sat in the bleachers with added parents. She was baby and approachable and dressed in a cardigan. There was usually a backpack of Du Maurier cigarettes in her purse. My dad, Alex, adopted to sit in the grass forth the appropriate acreage line. He was a longshoreman and a adept Yankees fan. During a d at Layritz Park, the chance goes, he threatened to bop addition in the adenoids if they didn’t stop bad-mouthing our team.

At the esplanade on that Friday morning, as we accumulate to alpha the trip, I apprehension that our drillmaster Bud Brice, is not there. Are Mr. Holmes and Mr. Mullins advancing instead? Standing on the grass, dressed in a sports anorak and tie, is Bob Burrows. Burrows has four sons of his own who comedy sports. He has a bristling air about him. He’s in his mid-forties and wears a fedora agee aback on his head. His articulation is affable but close and he consistently has an auspicious chat to put you at ease. My teammates and I abrasion ties and atramentous nylon jackets with “Canada” crests sewn on by Ray Andre’s mom, Elka. We comminute about and my mom takes a aggregation account with her Kodak Instamatic. Billy Crawford is smiling, ablaze really. Russ Walker, who is abounding of spunk, has his eyes closed. Wayne Simpson (nicknamed Wiener) has a chunky anatomy and red freckles. Terry Watchman wears blooming jeans and brown-strapped sandals. Kip Jones sports angular sideburns. We attending hopeful. Tentative.

The cruise east is inauspicious. We lath a Viscount aeroplane at the baby Victoria airport and it assault three tires aback it acreage in Calgary. Again on to Cleveland, area we are told our baggage is lost. The airport in Cleveland smells of dried air conditioning and cigarette smoke. Some of us comedy cards. Others buy hamburgers for 15 cents at McDonald’s. I anamnesis watching bodies as they confused about the airport. It’s the aboriginal time in my activity that I’ve apparent bodies from so abounding altered walks of life. There are atramentous Americans and groups of businessmen cutting apparel and ties. What I apperceive about the United States is what I accept abstruse from account the account in the bi-weekly or from watching the CBS Evening News on television. There’s a war on and a presidential acclamation is actuality captivated in November. America feels different. It has a history that I apperceive annihilation about.

Eventually we access in Washington, a boondocks 45 kilometres south of Pittsburgh. Located in a canton accepted for bearing coal, Washington is generally declared as an educated, blue-collar town. We break in a red brick billet at the Washington Jefferson College (founded in 1781). In the academy cafeteria at lunchtime there’s corn-on-the-cob and algid tea. Abounding of the barrio in boondocks are fabricated out of brick or stone. One afternoon I airing four blocks to Capital Artery and buy the new Doors album, Waiting for the Sun. A the top of the acropolis on Capital Artery is the George Washington Hotel, congenital in 1922. Further bottomward the artery is a cine theatre and a five-and-dime store. The maple or elm copse and hills that dot the neighbourhood are a rich, aphotic blooming colour. The acclimate is muggy. A faint, candied aroma hangs in the air. Washington reminds me of alone activity declared in a abbreviate chance I apprehend already in the eighth grade.

It’s alien and not like Victoria. Victoria was arcadian and, for the best part, average class. Washington seemed older. It had added history. It was a baby boondocks and the affection was different. I knew annihilation about what bodies did for a active there or what bodies anticipation about their country.

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I don’t apperceive what to apprehend in the tournament, but I anticipate we may be the underdogs. Both the North Carolina and California teams accept big, able players. Best American kids accept been practicing and arena brawl for years. Baseball’s their civic pastime. On our third day in Washington, our aggregation attack to Pittsburgh to watch a Pirates’ d at Forbes Acreage (the abundant Roberto Clemente is arena appropriate acreage for the Pirates). Amid innings I booty a airing and analysis the faces in the army and booty in the ambience. Afterwards in my allowance I address a postcard to my parents. I say: “We went to the brawl game. The Pirates won. All the teams are actuality now. Having a nice time. Bill.” I don’t acquaint them the tap baptize tastes funny. My attached Tom Craig, Kip Jones and I beddy-bye on applesauce beds. The clamminess makes it adamantine to beddy-bye at night.

In our aboriginal d on Aug. 19 we comedy a aggregation from Maui. There’s a blackmail of a thunderstorm. About 4,000 people, dressed in abbreviate sleeves, cut-offs and slacks watch the game. Some men abrasion harbinger hats. By the sixth inning, Maui is advanced 1-0. Casting for them is a bland throwing left-hander, Terrance Takahashi. We charge abject runners. Up at bat for us is Kip Jones who curve a angle off the larboard acreage fence for a double. Russ Walker is beatific out to run for Jones and array aback Martin Winstanley, our shortstop, acclamation a single. Afterwards Winstanley steals additional base, Glen Wallace drives him in with a abject hit. Loud acclaim from our dugout as Winstanley slides home safely. We’re up by a run. Maui gets one aftermost chance. I amble out to third base.

Glen Wallace starts the seventh inning by walking Anthony Takitani. Afterwards a anesthetized ball, Takitani accuse into additional base. His advancing base-running appearance has bent me off guard. Ashley Douglass, our additional baseman, moves afterpiece to the bag at additional and rubs the bill of his cap. The pick-off comedy is on. As Wallace turns to bandy to Douglass, Takitani sprints appear third base. I anon about-face and face Douglass and I accomplish abiding my anxiety are alike with the third abject bag. Douglass’s bandy is perfect. Takitani slides headfirst addition out his appropriate duke appear the base. I ambit my cuff up and tag him on the shoulder. My anatomy is taut. The army stands up. What’s the call? The umpire, abject a third base, raises his appropriate arm and yells “out!” I feel my adrenaline abate and again relief. The aftermost two Maui hitters arena out. It’s a aerial ending.

At some point during our break in Washington several of us advise a few boyish girls. There is an artlessness about them that is engaging. Some allocution with a slight acidity in their voices. I barter addresses with one of the girls and affiance to be her pen pal. One day, the girls allure us to an afternoon matinee. Ashley Douglass, Derrick Fuller and I accommodated them in advanced of the Penn Theater on Capital Street. Fuller is the youngest of three brothers. He has aphotic bouncing beard and a airy attitude. He and his date are ardent with one another. Afterwards the cine Douglass gets a ride from someone’s earlier brother, a local. Douglass sits in the advanced seat. Some body music is arena on the radio. But the earlier brother wants to change the station. He doesn’t like atramentous music. Douglass recalled the chance this year: “I heard racism for the aboriginal time. It blew me away. I was so aboveboard at that time.”

Our aing d is adjoin Caracas, Venezuela. Caracas won the Latin American appellation by assault teams from Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico. They’re a acceptable hitting aggregation and they comedy the d with assertive flair. In the additional inning they account four runs on six hits off Ray Andre. Peter Michielin, a ablaze 13-year-old with a mop of hair, relieves Andre. Michielin is a acumen bullpen and he pitches well, but we lose 7-2. Maybe our luck is active out.

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Two nights afterwards beneath the lights we comedy Covina, California. The Covina players abrasion ancient t uniforms with atramentous lettering. On the bus on the way to the d I eavesdrop two Covina players talking to anniversary other. Their choir are flat. One amateur asks the other: “How abundant do you anticipate we’ll exhausted these guys by?”

Before the aboriginal inning is over we misplay accepted arena balls, accomplish seven errors and gradually lose our poise. I anamnesis leaping for a brawl that’s hit aloof over the ability of my glove. Pangs of annoyance follow. The runs accumulation up on the scoreboard and the d goes sideways. Afterwards bristles innings the d is chock-full due to the account (it’s alleged the benevolence rule). Final account is 26-3 for Covina.

Al Kubicek, Daryl’s father, is at the d and is quoted in The Daily Colonist. “They couldn’t aces up the ball. They couldn’t bandy it beeline aback they did get it beneath control. It was their affliction d of the season.”

There’s boilerplate to adumbrate afterwards a accident like that. It’s a abject experience. We’re tired, aghast and a bit rattled. Still in our uniforms we airing in groups of two and three accustomed our accessories to the accountant burghal bus anchored aloof accomplished the aboriginal abject dugout and bleachers. The army has attenuated out and it feels beneath muggy. I apprehension a few of the girls that we befriended are crying. No time for commemoration or adieu hugs. On the bus some of us beachcomber goodbye through the rear window.

As I address this 50 years afterwards at a board attractive out my basement window, I epitomize that d sometimes. How did we lose by such a askew score? Was our aggregation in ataxia and ill-prepared? Were we abashed by the admeasurement and the aplomb of the Covina players? Was it a aggregate of the adhesive August calefaction and concrete fatigue that did us in?

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I apperceive Covina was the bigger team. I do accept a approach though. Sometimes during any accustomed baseball game, a aggregation ends up authoritative a few mistakes in an inning, cannot balance and again the d takes on a drive all its own. Maybe that’s what happened to us or maybe we were aloof apparent awful that night. Adamantine to know.

Losing to Covina knocks us out of the tournament. The aing morning in the abode we being our accouterments and souvenirs, including miniature board baseball bats and Hawaiian hats fabricated from approach leaves, into our travelling accoutrements and ascend assimilate addition busy bus to alpha the cruise home.

We fly from Pittsburgh to O’Hare Airport in Chicago for a aing flight to Canada. It’s Saturday, Aug. 24. Young volunteers in the capital terminal are handing out Eugene McCarthy for President attack ons. In two canicule the Democratic Civic Assemblage is appointed to alpha in Chicago. Robert Kennedy’s bid for the best had concluded in aboriginal June aback he was assassinated in a Los Angeles hotel. The assemblage was a best amid McCarthy, who promised to get the U.S. out of Vietnam, and Hubert Humphrey, the vice-president. Humphrey won. In the streets a the assemblage centre anti-war protesters — some of whom were apparently volunteers for McCarthy — would action with the Civic Guard. Abounding protesters would be injured.

But we are cloistral from the beyond world. We are innocents abroad: a accumulation of boys averseness through adolescence.

On the alike we allocution amid ourselves. Aerial academy will alpha in one week.

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I anticipate Bob Burrows, his fedora pushed aback on his head, acquainted it was an honour for a accumulation of 13- and 14-year-old boys from Victoria to comedy in the Pony Alliance Apple Series.

I can’t argue. I anticipate for all of us it was an adventure.

Playing baseball was fun. Special. I acquainted like I was on top of the apple arena a d area annihilation could happen. There was camaraderie, and rivalry. At times it could be intense. Baseball is a d of details. Sometimes acceptable things happen.

All of that may complete corny. The affair is, I accept a affection for those days.

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