It’s the second week of March, and baseball season is almost in view! The website has lain dormant for the last couple of months as I temporarily lost my mind…erm, I mean, lost my login information for it. I think it’s working again.
I hope you’ve survived Maine’s latest brisk winter relatively unscathed. It’s been interesting around here the last several months. I admit to being disappointed that MLB owners and players are squabbling over the millions of dollars they divvy up while the rest of us labor to pay our bills on significantly less income. Sigh.
Are you ready for some Alternative Baseball?? Drop us a line and let us know!
On a late November (or was it early December?) afternoon when I was released from my responsibilities at the correctional facility in Charleston, I made my way to Tim Horton’s coffee shop on Broadway in Bangor to meet with Don St. Amand, Brendon’s grandfather. He was waiting to talk with me about his grandson, a young man that has lived with Don and Brenda since the age of eighteen months. When I had first floated the idea of talking with families involved in Bangor Alternative Baseball (BAB) during the offseason to learn more about our players (other than my own, of course!), Don was the first to take me up on the offer.
Four o’clock traffic being what it is coming down from Charleston to Bangor on Route 15, I was a few minutes late, but Don wasn’t perturbed in the least. We entered the den of sugary temptation and I chose a table while he purchased refreshment for himself. I resisted. Yay me. At least, that’s what I remember. He may remember things differently.
At any rate, I had questions, and Don had answers. Brendon had just turned 19 on November 10th, having graduated high school in June. He grew up in Bangor without any interest in baseball. However, Brenda had worked with Kevin Stevenson for a number of years, so when she heard that he was involved in starting BAB, she suggested that Brendon try playing. He did, and he liked it, so he stayed with the team.
While he didn’t play baseball growing up, Brendon does identify as a Red Sox fan. I suppose it comes with the territory, though I commend him for it!
As we know, Brendon loves music. I asked Don what inspires his grandson each day, and while he had no particular response, we talked about music, and he agreed that Brendon’s love of music did drive a lot of his interests. He plays guitar and piano, and as we all know, he sings! It was a delight to hear him sing the Star-Spangled Banner before our practices and games this fall, and he entertained us at our closing banquet.
What is Brendon’s greatest challenge: “Overcoming unwillingness” to do things. He has a schedule that he follows that includes chores, work, time with others, and other responsibilities. However, when faced with a situation he doesn’t like or want, it’s tough for him just to do it.
On the other hand, when asked how he handles everyday challenges and disappointments, Don said, “He just does. He does what he needs to do. He’s always been like that.”
I enjoyed talking with and listening to Don. He told me of his own career in sales with Kraft Foods. I’ve never known anyone in sales as interesting as he! (My apologies to everyone else I’ve known in sales that I just insulted! You younger ones still have time to become more interesting!) I don’t know if Don St. Amand is as calm in every situation as I’ve seen him in our few interactions or not, but he seems a good fellow to have around. 🙂
Brenda St. Amand, now that I understand how you know Coach Kevin, I get how you were able to organize so much for the team in our first year! I kept shaking my head at how quickly you figured out what help he needed in September, when the team had only just begun practicing that month! (Ha ha ha. Like me, you’d known him a while.)
Our team owes YOU great thanks, too, for all the logistical work you did for us in our inaugural year. Many thanks to you and Don! And thank you for bringing Brendon to the team!
In closing, my final question to Don: “Is there anything about Brendon that the team should know—anything to be sensitive about that can be shared?” Yes, and it’s true of at least one other on the team (my son, for one). “Loud noises are an issue, so yelling or clapping loudly nearby are disturbing.”
Yelling or clapping loudly nearby. These are things we don’t usually consider, are they? I mean, what do we do at ball games when our players/teams do well? We yell, scream, and clap loudly, right?
As we proceed in 2022 with Bangor Alternative Baseball, let’s keep in mind various needs of our players: Loud noises can be disturbing. Touching the head can be disturbing. Waving hands near the head or face can be disturbing.
What else? Ask questions. Offer information to teammates, coaches, and volunteers. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Advocate for yourself or others. We want BAB to be fun and safe!
Thanks, everyone, for a great inaugural year for Bangor Alternative Baseball! Happy New Year! See you in 2022!
It’s easy to complain. Well, speaking for myself, I know that is true. At age 52, I am married to my best friend, we have two growing sons (that love baseball), extended family that love us, and gainful employment. The struggles we face are the similar to ones experienced by families and individuals in countless communities, yet our basic needs are met, and we enjoy life on a larger scale than previous generations thought possible, thanks in significant part to medical, scientific, and technological advances. So, why is it that I (or we) complain?
This is a baseball team blog, Bill, you say. Make your entry about baseball!
I don’t recall the particular occasion of our visit to Putnam, Connecticut, nor the precise time of year, other than to say that it was during MLB season. The general reason for our visit was to see Grandpa and Grandma Ames, Mum’s parents. I loved their long, gently sloping back yard, with stately, well-trimmed pine trees dotting here and there around the perimeter. Grandpa kept the lawn cut short, like a smooth carpet. It was great for croquet or wiffleball.
On this visit, I was 6 years old, and my brother was 12. Dan had introduced me to the Boston Red Sox with the aid of a poster on his bedroom wall. It featured Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, and my favorite, Dewey–Dwight Evans. Even at such a young age, I wanted little more than to go to a Red Sox game with Dan!
Our first day at Grandpa’s, Dan came to me with exciting news: Grandpa and Dad were talking about going to the Red Sox game the next day! Dan said he wanted to go, and they said yes. When he told me that, I knew I didn’t want to miss the chance to see the Red Sox with my brother, my father, and my grandfather! I asked him to tell Dad I wanted to go, and to be sure not to forget me the next morning.
Dan and I were very excited. I went to bed so happy. The next morning, though, my happiness evaporated. They had left without me!
What a miserable day I had. Dan apologized to me when he got back. He told Dad and Grandpa that I wanted to go, but they were afraid I’d get bored. Probably if I’d told them myself I might have convinced them or they would’ve helped me understand the situation better. Instead, I held onto the disappointment for decades. As in, until I wrote this just now. Wow.
I never went to a Red Sox game with any of those three important men in my life. Grandpa died in the mid-1990s. He was no longer living in Connecticut. He’d become a widower and remarried, and then he’d moved to her home in Illinois. She was sweet to us, and I loved her, too.
Dad died this year, in April. He was 88 years old. Thanks to radio and NESN, he and I enjoyed many Red Sox broadcasts over the decades. He and his wife (Mum died in 1987) attended my kids’ events as often as possible– Little League baseball, cross-country, band and chorus concerts. I’m thankful that we saw the boys play baseball together. He would have loved watching Bangor Alternative Baseball.
Dan is alive and well and…in Wisconsin. He is still very much a Red Sox fan! He and his wife raised three wonderful young men that are also Red Sox fans. They have been to several games in Minnesota, for example, and catch the broadcasts however possible.
My family, then, most likely similarly to yours, has multigenerational stories of loving baseball. As easy as it is for me to complain about gas prices, inflation, job frustrations, poor player moves by Chaim Bloom of the Red Sox, or anything else, I’m much better off remembering that I’m blessed with reliable transportation, a rewarding job that pays the bills, a MLB team that has won the World Series 4 times in the last 17 years while the NYY have just 1, and that having a GRATITUDE ATTITUDE is healthier.
Enjoy yourself today. Be grateful for however little or much you have. Ask for help if you need it. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Happy Thanksgiving, Bangor Alternative Baseball family!
At the Family Game and Banquet on October 24, I indicated that I hoped to acquire player and family information to create mini biographies for our website and blog. I’m interested in knowing where you’re from/grew up, what sparked your interest in baseball, which MLB team you root for, why, and who your favorite MLB player is and why; what you see as your greatest challenge, and how you overcome your challenges. Who or what inspires you each day? How do you handle discouragement? How do you encourage yourself and others? What is your greatest joy in life? What is one thing you want the rest of Bangor Alternative Baseball to know about you?
Finally, how can we support you best? From experience, I know that sharp, loud noises can be a problem for some, so maybe you’d appreciate it if we’d remember not to yell in your ears. Or perhaps you’d be more comfortable if we didn’t wave our arms around in your personal space. Are you comfortable answering this: I’m most comfortable if you remember that: (and you fill in the blank here).
My son loves the idea of watching parades, but he has learned that he can’t actually go to parades. He loves to see big rigs, fire engines, ambulances, police cars, and other emergency vehicles, but the sounds of them leave him shaking in terror. Headphones do not mute the sound enough for him. Headphones + hugging him to my chest and covering his ears with my arms are not enough. The tremors that wrack his frame are heartbreaking, because I know he wants to enjoy the parade, but those sounds are just too much for him. His answer to the final question above would be, “I’m most comfortable if you remember that I don’t like loud sounds.”
We want to celebrate you, the players, and your loved ones, because they support you and cheer for you each week of the season. If you are willing to answer the questions in this post, either by email (easiest way) or in person (we can try to schedule a time), please be in touch with me. You can reach me at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
At our end-of-season-banquet in October, it became abundantly clear that as much as we love baseball, many of our families want more sports to follow the example of ABO, and alternative leagues were suggested for hockey and basketball, too. To be fair, a number of people involved with BABO have spent many years already coaching and/or supporting Unified Sports teams, so this is not new for them. However, participating in the level of Alternative Baseball that we were privileged to enjoy this fall generated a new degree of enthusiasm for athletic competition for teens and adults on the spectrum and with other disabilities.
I confess that I am not knowledgeable concerning the ice hockey efforts beyond what was said at the banquet. However, our own Coach Kevin Stevenson is part of the basketball team being put together, and he sent out the following information by email yesterday:
Just want to give you an update on our potential Basketball Season. So I have heard back from 9 of you that you’d be interested in playing basketball. So that’s awesome..so we will start basketball in December. I will get back you with a confirmed date once I secure a court. I’m looking into using the Bangor Christian Basketball Court..hopefully I’ll know this week.
I will update you once I know more.
Have a great day!
Our gratitude for the contributions that each person makes to the success of Bangor Alternative Baseball doesn’t let up. We continue to be thankful for all of you that have players participating, for all that have contributed efforts–tiny, huge, or in between, given sponsorships, provided gifts or gift cards for the Celebrity game, played in the Celebrity or Family games, cheer on the team, pray for the coaches and players, coach, contribute to the website, Facebook page, share information about the team, publicize–I need to find a thesaurus so I don’t miss anyone!–you, if you have anything that you do for BAB, THANK YOU!!
As we see loved ones and friends a little more over the upcoming holidays, let’s tell them about Alternative Baseball! Direct them to us on Facebook (facebook.com/BangorAlternativeBaseball) or to our website (BangorAlternativeBaseball.com). A Google search will help them find us, too. We can help Maine’s ABO grow!
I can’t tell you how many strangers I’ve talked to and directed to our website (which links to our Facebook page). I’ve even told my personal fitness coach, who checked out the team and loved what she saw! (She’s coaching me in my weight loss program, in which I’ve lost 45+ lbs since late May. <— That’s free information right there. No extra charge for that.)
What’s up, then? Enthusiasm for Alternative Baseball, that’s what’s up!
Raise your hand if you remember the iconic TV show by that name. Raise your hand again if you weren’t allowed to watch it. You see that? My hand is up for both of those questions. Now, raise your hand if you watched it anyway. Ehhh….yep, my hand went up again. (Sorry, Mum and Dad. You’re up in heaven now, so it doesn’t matter to you anymore, but still, disobedience is disobedience.) I digress.
To close out our Inaugural Season, Bangor Alternative Baseball(BAB) took on Family & Friends (F & F) on a chilly October afternoon at Mansfield Stadium, narrated and entertained by Bob Beatham, our friendly Public Address Announcer. (Remember, that’s Beath-um, not Beat-ham). We had parents, grandparents, cousins, nieces, siblings, significant others, siblings of significant others (I think)–all manner of F & F required to take on BAB–and did our best, but we came up short. At one point, BAB player Christian MacDonald pitched to his younger brother Michael, who singled and eventually scored off him, after Michael pitched to Christian, who had an RBI ground out to second off the younger-but-much-taller broski.
The game was fun. Husson players served as umpires, and those that took turns behind home plate enjoyed themselves to great degrees. As photographer and observer, it was clear to see which team these guys favored, but how could we blame them? They’ve been working with our “kids” all season, after all!!
I am biased when it comes to baseball commentators. There, I’ve laid it right out there. No hidden agenda, no passive aggressive subversion, just my views, bare and open before you. That also means that there are play-by-play announcers that I like and those that I loathe.
It’s Game 6 of the World Series as I write this, and I’m triggered by one of each category (announcer and commentator) while watching the game. Some of my closest friends from college went to high school with Joe Buck. My poor opinion of him is not opposed by my friends. I dislike his inability to call a game with equal enthusiasm for both teams. As another friend recently quipped, “Why can’t MLB have robot umpires to call balls and strikes? They already have a robot doing the play-by-play for the playoffs.”
Additionally, the network that broadcasts the playoffs habitually employs masters of obvious statements to do the color commentary. For too many years, that was what’s his name, the guy whose name I’m forgotten because every season became so painful for me that I began scratching my ear canals with sharp knives? Oh, right. Tim McCarver. Now, it’s John Smoltz. Good pitcher. BORING commentator. Master of stating the obvious. For example, “One of these teams is going to have score more than the other in order to win.” Or, “One of these two teams is going home as the loser, unfortunately.” No, really?
Give us Vin Scully, Bob Uecker, or Jon Miller, if you want a good play-by-play man. They’re good. Better yet, give us Sean McDonough or Dave O’Brien. (Ned Martin was one of my favorites ‘back in the day’.) But if you’re talking the best play-by-play in TV today,then you need Don Orsillo, currently with the San Diego Padres.
For 15 years, Don Orsillo, a New Hampshire native, as the voice of the Boston Red Sox on TV, and he was the best the Red Sox has ever had at bringing the audience in, keeping us tuned to the game, and returning us the next game all season long. Throughout those years, Don was paired with the unforgettable color commentator, Jerry Remy, former 2nd baseman of the Red Sox. Don and Jerry entertained Red Sox Nation with ease and class, and no duo ever made tuning into a game more enjoyable. Petty jealousies by a producer at their network pushed Don Orsillo out, and the broadcasts stopped being as fun to watch.
Jerry remained great, and Dave O’Brien was all right, but Don was the best. When Dennis Eckersley joined the booth for three-man broadcasts, the pairing of color commentators as interesting as RemDawg and the Eck improved the program tremendously. Sadly, on Saturday, October 30, 2021, during his 7th battle with lung cancer, Jerry Remy succumbed to the disease, ending nearly 40 years in the broadcast booth.
This evening, before I sat down to write, I dug out my copy of the RemDawg’s first book, Watching Baseball: Discovering the Game Within the Game. A couple of years ago, when Remy visited Bangor for a Hot Stove session at Gracie Theater on the Husson University campus, hosted by 92.9 The Ticket FM, audience members had the opportunity to stand up with a microphone and ask him questions.
When my turn came, I thanked Jerry for coming, and I brought up “Watching Baseball.” I told him that as a fan of baseball all my life, I’d never played the game, and when I read his book, his passion for the game taught me more about it than I’d ever known before. I was able to express true gratitude to him for writing it. For 5 minutes, I conversed with Jerry Remy about the game of baseball. I loved it, and I will also cherish that.
Now, Jerry is gone, but his book is still available. I recommend it. I also recommend to the network that broadcasts the playoffs that they get Don Orsillo and Dennis Eckersley to replace Joe Buck and John Smoltz on their broadcasts. Or bring in Pedro Martinez. Or Lou Merloni. Lou is really good, too. Tell you what: Don, Dennis, and Lou, with a visit by Pedro from time-to-time. Yes, even for the national games. These men know baseball, and they are interesting to listen to. I bet fewer people would be scratching their ears out with knives.
That’s what he says at the end, and I agree with him. Who is ‘he’? He’s Taylor Duncan, a young man from Dallas, Georgia, who was born with disabilities on the autism spectrum that affected his opportunities to play organized baseball as a youngster. Coaches were concerned that his autism would inhibit his ability to play at the level required of his age group and that he would suffer injuries as a result, so they refused to let him be on their teams. After many attempts to play, he gave up on others and formed his own league.
In 2016, Taylor formed the Alternative Baseball Organization (c), which offers professional-rules baseball to teens and adults ages 15+ that have autism and other disabilities. As they learn and play the game, they also learn social and life skills for on- and off- the field. Now, in October 2021, there are more than 80 teams across 34 states. My older son plays on the first team established in Maine this fall. It’s a dream come true for him and us–he’s 15–and we look forward to his second season next spring.
Unlike teams in Southern states, we’re not afforded the luxury of another season this time of year, so we’ll be content with what we had as an inaugural season, and we’ll begin working on the next one. In the meantime, other sports are being offered along the same vein of developmental leagues for players with disabilities. As ABO founder, CEO, and commissioner Duncan says, “We need this.”
A few weeks ago, one of my adult education students started a project in his spare time, creating fleece hats with BAB letters sewn onto them. He intended to give them to the team before the end of the season. He made the prototype, which you have already seen in pictures or on my head, no doubt.
As we all know, the best laid plans do not always work out as designed, and this case is one of those. My student, whose name is Chris, was unable to get the letters in time to complete the project before the final practice in October (today). However! The letters are on order, and when they arrive, he will make the hats and give them to me to pass along.
The hats are a donation. He feels firmly that he should be giving back to the community as a demonstration of reconciling with society and community when he re-enters after his time in the Department of Corrections. I am proud of him for the initiative he is taking to make amends with the community in general, even though he is not from around here, showing that he understands the need to be connected to the people around him, just as we have become connected to one another through Bangor Alternative Baseball!
“So, Bill,” you say, “what does this have to do with the title of your blog post??”
Ah, that. I really was getting there. When Chris realized that he couldn’t deliver the hats in time, he came up with another gift for this week. What could possibly top a hat?
I don’t know what it’s been like for everyone else. My older brother, six years my elder, played baseball growing up, including in high school. It was a determining factor for his choice of college when the time came for that. Our mom expected him to choose a Christian, liberal arts school, but conceded that he could select one that had a baseball team. At least, that’s how I heard it.
My brother used to play catch with me. When the yard didn’t hold us, we’d play on the road, keeping an ear and an eye out for traffic that might appear in our rural location. He was understanding regarding me utter lack of hand-eye coordination and didn’t unduly torture me with fly balls or hard throws. He taught me proper throwing and catching technique, though, for which I remain grateful to this day.
He also gave me a love for the game via his admiration of the Boston Red Sox of the 1970s–players like Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski, Dwight Evans, Jerry Remy, Butch Hobson, Dennis Eckersley, and more. He taught me how to play a version of “fantasy baseball” using baseball cards and dice. Once I learned it, my cousin and I played it, too. That was a lot of fun. That same cousin played baseball like my brother did–both are older than I am and both were skilled players for real. I remained a fan.
When my boys were much younger, they play Little League for our town. One year, I had the privilege of coaching their team. My knowledge of the game came from the many years of being a fan of the game. The technical coaching skills came from a cadre of assistant coaches the took on the duties of helping the team learn and play the game better. My role was more managerial and logistical. However, it was also the last year Christian was able to play organized ball until ABO came along. The speed of the game had simply outpaced his ability to react to the plays in a manner that wouldn’t impact his safety, or so he and his potential coaches feared.
I’m glad for the years he did play Little League, though, and for the coaching he received. And despite the rivalry that brothers inflict on one another at times, I’m thankful for the ways he’s learned from his more experienced–though younger–brother. On top of all that, I’m happy that for the players of Bangor Alternative Baseball, it’s their turn.