GC celebrates youth baseball

 Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
 Joe Obyrne rounds third base and heads towards home plate as his Grove City Dawgs took on the Ohio Village Muffins on May 31 at Windsor Park to celebrate 55 years of youth baseball. Obyrne, seen wearing shorts, had to apologize for showing off his legs, which was deemed too ungentlemanly for the vintage baseball game.

The city of Grove City celebrated 55 years of baseball at Windsor Park on May 31 by inviting the Ohio Village Muffins to play an exhibition game against Grove City volunteers.

"We pushed hard to get the Muffins to come again," said Pete Kazmierczak, a board member with the Grove City Parks and Recreation Department who volunteered to take on the Muffins. "It’s a joy to play against these guys and it brings back the gentlemanly nature of the way sports are supposed to be played."

In 1953, a local newspaper in Grove City called for citizens to grab a shovel and meet at what was then called Community Park to dig and help finish the ball fields. That was the beginning of Windsor Park – the hub of the city’s youth baseball programs today.

To celebrate local history, the Muffins came.

The Ohio Village Muffins were formed by the Ohio Historical Society in 1981 to showcase how baseball was played in the mid-nineteenth century.

"We try to recreate the feel of how the game was played in 1860," said Steve Rauch who is in his third year of playing vintage baseball with the Muffins. "We play by the rules and customs of the time."

Some of those rules and customs include no bunting or sliding, as they are considered too ungentlemanly, the use of any actions that would offend a lady would result in the docking of a day’s wages, an out is declared if a hit ball is caught on the first bound, and no wearing of gloves.

"Usually we have a ‘broken finger’ poll," said Rauch. "We collect five dollars from each member and whoever breaks their finger first gets the money.

"We haven’t had that pool in two years, which is bad because Brian Mitchell, who is playing his first game with us here today, just bent his fingernail back and dislocated his pinky."

Despite the heat, all of the Muffins have to wear a long, white sleeved shirt with a shield containing the team emblem, a pill box hat, a leather belt with the team name on it, a bow tie and a pair of plain long pants.

"A true gentleman would never expose his legs from the knees down," Rauch said.

Despite winning the game 15-11, their opponents, the Grove City Dawgs, did not get that memo. Several of the team members (comprised of board members with the Parks and Recreation Department, high school students and general baseball fans) were wearing bloomers or shorts, showing off their legs.

"A few of our guys were fined $25 cents and had to offer an apology for not dressing correctly," Kazmierczak said.

Rauch said it is all in good fun and hopes more people will come out during Labor Day weekend when the Ohio Historical Society holds their annual two-day vintage baseball festival and learn more about the true gentleman’s game.

"I love baseball the way it is today, but this is living history," he said. "There are so many nuances to the vintage game and that makes it a lot more enjoyable."

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