My first experience playing baseball was in the North Vernon Little League. My cousin, Gary Baker, a better player, suggested to the coach that I could play the game due to the two of us often pitching and hitting against one another in a country field. Well, I got my opportunity and played first base for a really good team. My first trophy will always be cherished even with it being the smallest.

Later, I played softball for the Lovett Cubs. It would be hard for the education world to believe that we actually played games during the school day against other country schools. All grade levels would be dismissed to watch and cheer us on. I can't recall fences for any of the diamonds. We played in our jeans, T-shirts, and tennis shoes. Some of our players would hit the one and only game ball into the woods. Of course, we had to find it or play with very old softballs due to a very limited athletic budget.

Then, I played many games for Tea Creek Baptist, on a diamond on the church grounds. Eventually, I was invited to play on a team representing Commiskey Baptist. One year, we were fortunate to win the Church State Tourney. Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find the tall trophy still in the church.

Eventually, I was asked to play on a team in North Vernon at Capital Field. It was a major transition, and it was a wonderful feeling stepping on that diamond for the first time. It was known as one of the best places around to compete against other teams, several coming from other cities. Each game was announced and detailed stats were taken. I vividly remember a helicopter actually trying to dry a very wet infield for one Fourth of July Tourney. We played basically in the mud, but it didn't matter; we just wanted to play the game. Some of the best times of my life took place there as well as in Columbus and Seymour while playing on several excellent teams.

All kinds of memories are resurfacing after watching the Reds clinch a spot in the playoffs by beating the Minnesota Twins 7-2. I have been a fan of the Reds for years while really getting hooked on them when they were referred to as the “Big Red Machine,” 1970-1979. My family shared I would practice on our farm hitting and throwing balls while pretending to be each player on that team. The Reds have had other memorable seasons with 2013 being their last time for making the playoffs.

I was thinking the Reds would likely miss the postseason again as I watched them struggle to find consistency, a season that for awhile did not even look possible due to the coronavirus and negotiations. They seemingly could not put their pitching, hitting, and fielding together. However, I did not give up on them because I saw their potential and continued to watch game after game just hoping something would turn around. Sure enough, their chances of making the playoffs changed from 10 percent to 90 percent while winning a high percentage of games toward the end of their schedule.

It was enjoyable watching the players celebrate after defeating the Twins. Much excitement and happiness was expressed from a team that somehow pulled together collectively all those elements that make a great baseball team. Even though they were underdogs, they never stopped believing in themselves as well as their teammates. I can personally recall playing as a perceived underdog team several times only to win because of our team never thinking that way.

The grounds crew in Cincinnati became among their greatest cheerleaders. Fans gathered outside the stadium to watch games on a large screen. During their deserved celebration, new shirts with the words, “Respect Cincinnati Reds” were passed out and proudly put on. Undoubtedly, the Reds have earned and gained much respect, and I look forward, like many, to what happens in the playoffs. And, I know there will be young people watching and pretending to be each player on “The Odds-Beaters.”