On a recent Saturday I saw an old friend - Andy Nieto, Sr., otherwise known as Mr. Baseball in San Gabriel Valley. Now in his early eighties, he continues to carry on his love affair with baseball. We met at the lower diamond at La Loma Park, the same field where our children first got introduced to baseball more than 35 years ago. The environment was deja vu all over again. In this case, they were three and four year olds chasing a baseball all over a mini-size ball diamond. I don’t know what they call this league, but it was pre-T-ball. The kids were having a lot of fun.
They all got to hit the ball and they all ran the bases to home plate cheered on by parents and team mates. When a ball was hit into the infield, the pitcher, catcher and one of the basemen tried to recover the ball and brick dust was flying all over the place.
Who ever got the ball, threw it somewhere in the vicinity of first base. They were learning the basics of baseball and having fun. Interestingly enough, all, except one of the coaches, were moms and they looked like they knew what they were doing.
Andy coached for many years in the Monterey Park Sports Club and founded the Angels Baseball traveling program. Two of his sons are award-winning high school baseball coaches. Today he is in retirement, but can’t stay away from the ball diamond to cheer on his grand children.
After a long conversation, I gave Andy a bro-hug and headed home. I tried to give my children a baseball experience, the experience that I missed as a child. Today, they have a good understanding of this very difficult sport and catch several Dodger games a year.
While I enjoy watching my grand children play soccer, baseball is still tops in skill requirements and team strategy. Unrelated to all of this, I went to see the movie “42” about Jackie Robinson’s breakthrough career. He broke the color line in baseball. Today, we think all of that is in the past, but you and I know that it isn’t.
The other night, I saw a 60 Minutes report on the fantastic Jeremy Lin. The reporter asked Lin why he wasn’t recruited by California colleges, even though he was rated one of the top high school basketball players in the state. He went on to play at Harvard, and again, wasn’t given a look by the NBA. Look at him now.Lin’s answer was very simple and diplomatic. Who would expect a lanky Asian could make it into the NBA.
Getting back to baseball. The movie “42”was enjoyable and inspirational. It rekindled my previous love-affair for baseball. I think I’ll start going to see the Dodgers again this summer.