Tag Archives: goffstown baseball

We Weren’t Done Yet!

Isn’t there another chance to learn that play? A chance to show the new skill being mastered? When can we cover this again? Why does it always have to end?

Those who are closest to me in the baseball circles that I tread upon, they know how the last day of the season means to me. How much it affects me. And they probably know how much I have written on the subject over the years.

But this year was different. Aren’t they all.

When my Dad died on April 14th this year, it was baseball season. When I couldn’t bring myself around the team or the game for 3 weeks afterward, our coaches and parents picked up my slack. And when I did return, the game was there, like it always is, to rescue me and lift me slowly to my feet.

Then when the playoffs ended, we started the all-star season. Our first team practice was on June 27th, just 20 days ago. We practiced for 7 straight days. We had the 4th of July off, then another practice on the 5th. On the 6th the District tournament started. We hosted the tournament in Goffstown, at Allard Park. Then another practice on the 13th. Bang, the State tournament started on the 14th. Again, we hosted (we are still hosting).

On Friday the 15th, I drove to Canada for a family commitment. I drove back, nearly 400 miles on Saturday, hoping to get back to Allard Park before our game was done. I missed. So close.

So did we. We missed, as a team. So close. We lost the final game of our season, 3-1. Just writing the words makes me cringe, and reminds me how difficult sports are, as only ONE team finishes the season with a win. Yes, just ONE.

I pulled in among the pines as the crowds were just starting to disperse following our game. I felt the pain that I always feel when there is no competitive tomorrow. I felt bad for having missed the game. But as much as I love baseball, family is more important, and that’s where I was needed.

Knowing me I will write too much and blow some readers out. But, as I usually do, I give the feeling of the good, or the bad, the great, or the disappointing, a chance to wash over me. A chance to resonate. Because the taste left in your mouth doesn’t always have to be bad even when things don’t go your way. And I do that by staring the reality right in the face, and I feel the pangs, while taking accountability for the parts I caused, corrected, or corrupted. So take away what you will.

Last year we had 27 days. This year it was just 20 days. So much work. So many throws, and swings. So many words and methods of communication. So much heat and frustration. So much fun. So much improvement. So much effort. So many lessons. So many chances to grow and learn, together. So many positive results that always seem to get less attention than the ones we stop to correct. I hate that about baseball because there is so much failure in the game. But then when skills are being mastered, appreciation should absolutely soar. Most kids are done playing baseball by the time they reach the age of 12.

Ya it was a different year. We had 3 players who practiced regularly with us as to improve their games while not being on the roster at all. I am thoroughly impressed with them for showing up and taking reps all in the name of improvement. Thank you to those kids and their families. You helped us all get better.

It probably goes without saying far too often, so I will say it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. To the parents, the families, the players, the coaches, the volunteers, and the entire support group we all count on. You all are second to none. As one Dad from another team said to me last week, “Hey coach, you guys have a great facility here. What really stands out, is all the work you all do to make this a great experience for all of us. (Laughing, he added) And you look like you have so much fun working together”. I thanked him sincerely for taking a moment to share that with me. I heard a lot of similar commentary from coaches, parents, and officials who happened to spend time with us at the gem we know as Allard Park. So, again, thank you to all of you and those who support your efforts. Thank you to the Allard Family.

Finally, I point out that several folks approached me with encouragement as they relayed their own perspective of how much they thought the team had grown or improved, or both. As a coaching staff, we don’t have the effect on these young men to the level a college football coach might have over four years, but I think there’s a valid lesson in a quote from the great coach, Amos “Alonzo” Stagg when he was asked if one of his college football teams was his best team ever, he answered: “Is this my best team ever? I won’t know that for another 20 years or so.”

So many things to learn. How to improve mechanics. How to make this play or that one. What to do in a game situation. Situational thinking and execution. So many lessons. How to be a better teammate. How to overcome adversity. How to win and lose with grace. How to approach each opportunity to be on the field. How to carry yourself as a fine young man. The list goes on and on.

I am proud of the team, and how hard they worked to improve. I got to see them raise their compete level to a previously unprecedented height, without losing sight of the game, or respect for their opponent. I love the spirit shared, as they willed flawless execution for one another while working to do their best on the splendid symmetry of the diamond. It was my pleasure to work with all of you. And despite me getting fired up to make a point every once in a while, I am truly humbled and honored to walk among you all, and be called coach.

Some previous writings on this subject:

From 2007

Last Season

2014 Season End

It’s Alright to be Impacted by the Game

Sometimes I stay up quite late just so I can let my mind run away from the real, and approach subjects that I would much rather touch, or certainly feel.

Then there are times when I lengthen the day just to wrestle free from the noise, you know, to get out from under the distractions, and that which just annoys.

So, what. So I can prove that, maybe, something good happens after midnight, and I descend to the depths of thought, just to get to the core, then I sit and write. Continue reading

The Last Day of the Season

To Coach Hartwell, Coach Dodge, our baseball community, and the parents and families surrounding the players on our team:

As gravity took over and the baseballs’ path fell from the sky and rested finally into the opposing left fielder’s glove, my hopes for a miracle comeback were replaced with the reality that I knew could come. Almost immediately, I found the softer, sentimental side of me taking over and countless thoughts and memories started messing with my mind. I mean, I was still just making my way on to the field to shake hands with our opponents, and my mind was flashing memories of my own personal collection of “The Last Day of the Season”. As we shook hands, and I congratulated the other team and wished them well moving forward, a coach from the other team asked me to make sure that Goffstown, please, put in a bid to host the State Tournament next season. This was a vote of confidence and a compliment to how well our community had run the District Pool Play Tournament over July 8-14 this summer. Then, as I turned away from the end of the line, back towards our dugout, I could feel that choking feeling rise into my throat, and my eyes started to water despite my best efforts to keep such things at bay. Continue reading

Chatting with Baltimore Orioles Prospect, Riley Palmer (Goffstown, NH)

I remember the day, June 7th, 2014 for a very special reason. I was on the beautiful campus of Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. My wife and I, and our family were up there to celebrate the commencement ceremonies for my oldest son, Stephen. The day was gorgeous; featuring beautiful sunshine and a clear blue sky. I remember walking across the campus to meet with Stephen that afternoon.

Meanwhile, as we made our way across the campus, and I was trying to contain the internal fatherhood glow of my oldest son just hours before graduating from one of the most prestigious schools on the planet, I heard other news that made me almost giddy.

Riley hitting at Dover High School. (photo by 1inawesomewonder, 2009)

Riley hitting at Dover High School. (photo by 1inawesomewonder, 2009)

I heard that Goffstown’s, Riley Palmer, had been drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 31st round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft. I sent a message to Riley’s dad and another one to Riley. I was so truly happy for all of them. What a day.

The thought of Riley being drafted sent my mind’s eye into a hyper-speed journey back through time. The Villa Fields in Goffstown, and the memory of Palmer’s Rocks in right field, out by the best concession stand in Little League baseball. I thought of the towering home run my own son Stephen had hit way up into the trees in a team practice despite being cut from that 2004 Goffstown Little League All-Star Team. I thought of the highs and lows that Stephen and Riley had shared on the diamond in 2005 when Goffstown won the first of 3-consecutive State Championships in Babe Ruth baseball, but lost in the Regional Tournament, falling just short of the World Series. I raced to 2008 when my sons, Stephen and Ryan, alongside Riley and the rest, competed on an undefeated Junior Varsity team for Goffstown High School. Some where in there, probably in 2008, I remember being at Lion’s Field in Goffstown with Stephen, Ryan, Riley, and his dad just talking about baseball after one of many impromptu gatherings we did over the years, to work on hitting, fielding, throwing, or whatever it was that day. I remember Riley talking about wanting to play baseball at Miami, and wanting to play professionally.

Ryan, Riley, and Stephen celebrate a State Title at Holman Stadium. (photo by 1inawesomewonder, 2010)

Ryan, Riley, and Stephen celebrate a State Title at Holman Stadium. (photo by 1inawesomewonder, 2010)

Of course, I thought of 2010 and the State Championship American Legion team from Goffstown, featuring Riley, Stephen, Ryan, and a host of other wonderful ball players. I thought of Riley’s career at SNHU and his heroics in the NCAA DII World Series. Then, I thought of just how happy I was for the young man, Riley Palmer.

If you don’t know Riley Palmer, that’s okay, a lot of people don’t, but I am guessing a lot more people will come to know him, especially those who follow baseball. I have known Riley for many years, and although I am no expert, I can shed some light on him from the perspective of a coach, a father, a family friend, and one of Riley’s biggest fans. I wrote this piece last year, before Riley was drafted, and it might help describe Riley, at least a little bit. If I had to put a single line or thought to all of this, I would put it this way. To me, Riley is one of those rare individuals who lives in a world that he has created by hard work and a relentless will, where reality and his biggest dreams coexist in close proximity with one another.

Riley Palmer hitting with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Riley Palmer hitting with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

For several months now I have held this idea that I would like to interview Riley and just talk with him about baseball, his career, his dreams, his reality, and just visit with him. I presented the idea to him at least a few months ago, some time last year, but I never really acted on it. He readily agreed, but I just sat on it, well for my own reasons I guess. I questioned my own ability to ask him pertinent questions and to do any of this any real justice. Even though this is just my own little space in the massive expanse of blog-o-sphere, I want to do it the best way I know how. Finally I sent over some questions to Riley and we started talking about getting together to chat. Well today is that day.

The questions might not be the best questions ever posed, that I can admit. Either way, I know the conversation will be great, and the topic will be one that Riley and I both love dearly; baseball.

Let’s get to the questions and answers.

What was MLB Draft Day like for you and your family? Draft day for myself was probably one of the longest days of my life. It was a day that I dreamed about my whole entire life. I remember the day like it was yesterday, a hot day in June and the sky was blue and the sun was shining. I woke up right away and I can tell you right now that I knew it was the last day of the draft and my heart was racing like crazy. The first half of the third day (of the MLB Draft) I was with my SNHU head coach Scott Loiseau and assistant coach Pat Austin. I remember my father telling me that he was running around like crazy trying to find me. Finally after a while we came across each others’ paths at 780 chestnut Street. We set up the computer on the back deck and listened to the draft on the computer. Now most kids are out relaxing, waiting for the call with their friends. I was sitting right in front of my computer listening to every pick in every round. One of my best friends was with me that day; Jon St Charles. Finally the 31st round came and the Orioles were up. That’s when I heard my name. I didn’t know what had happened. I had to wait to hear them repeat it to believe it. After that I was on cloud 9 and everything from there felt so magical.

Riley Palmer loosens up his arm with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Riley Palmer loosens up his arm with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Did you know going in that you were likely to be drafted, and by whom? In the back of my mind I knew I was going to be drafted. Whether it was a team that had spoken to me or a team out of the blue who just needed someone to take a chance on. Going into the draft I knew either that it was between the Seattle Mariners or the Baltimore Orioles.

Did the schedule at SNHU get you ready for pro ball, or do you think the two atmosphere’s are completely different? It definitely helped. Playing college baseball and the schedule at SNHU, but to be honest, they are completely different from pro ball. In Pro ball its a game every single day and then once your home stand is over you head home, pack your stuff, wake up, and get on a bus the next morning. In College you traveled a good amount, I know my sophomore, junior, and senior years we opened up in South Carolina. Summer ball was where I really got to understand long bus rides. It was a combination of summer ball and college. In Pro ball you are doing baseball all of the time. It’s 100% baseball and in college you’re worrying about other things like going to class and showing up. The part that is similar is the relationship you share with your teammates and coaches.

Who has been the one (maybe two) player you have patterned your game after? Or who is the player you try to emulate most? The player that comes to mind for me is Josh Hamilton. I loved his swing, his stance, really everything he did. I also read his book so that made me an even bigger fan of him because I know what he has overcome.

Who has played the biggest role in your development as a ballplayer, leading to an award-winning collegiate career, and now a successful start to a professional baseball career? The thing is, there isn’t just one role model, there are quite a few. The first is my dad, a man who taught me about the game and introduced me to the greatest game on earth. The second is my mom, a woman who taught me to never give up and was always there to pick me up when I needed it the most. The third is my brother who taught me everything I know. He is someone who I always looked up to and I wanted be just like him because he was such a tremendous athlete and was so good on the baseball field. I look up to both my high school coaches who made a big impact on me. My college coaches are also in this category because of everything they helped me with in my career. Probably the biggest role in my development as a player is Bobby Tewksbary and Austin Wasserman. Those two have never let me plateau  as an athlete, neither has anyone else I have mentioned in this answer. Austin and Bobby changed my life that first summer.

Riley Palmer finished his career at Southern New Hampshire University, an NCAA Division II Baseball powerhouse, in the top 20 All-Time of numerous offensive categories at SNHU despite playing only three seasons at the school.

Riley Palmer getting ready to hit for the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Riley Palmer getting ready to hit for the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

What has the off-season looked like for you? Training? Workouts? Goals? etc. What are your plans for Spring Training? Where will you be? When do you report? At the beginning of this off-season it was a lot of relaxation and time to myself. As a couple of months go by though, you start to get back in to the swing of things with lifting and hitting. For training, I go to AB Athletic Development located in Nashua, New Hampshire. I work out 5 days a week with a movement day somewhere in-between those 5 days. My goals this off-season are to become stronger and faster. From what I see and from what my trainers have seen, they will agree that, since I came in, I have become stronger, faster and become a better hitter, which is what I wanted out of this season. My plan for spring training is to go in there, stay healthy like I always do, tear it up, and show them how much of an asset I can be to the Orioles organization. I will be in Sarasota, Florida attending my first spring training as a minor league baseball player. I report March 10th but I am heading down on February 28th to get down there early and acclimate myself to the life style I love.

What is your realistic goal coming out of Spring Training this year? What would be your stretch goal coming out of Spring Training? My goal is to make a long-season team coming out of camp. I really think that I can make the Frederick Keys coming out of camp and I am really striving for that. I think that a stretch goal would be making the Double A team coming out of camp.

What have you noticed to be the biggest difference between playing ball at a nationally ranked D2 program and playing pro rookie ball? I would have to say the difference is that you see so many nice plays made in pro ball and in college you maybe see one or two a game. The competition changes a lot and its a much higher skill level. Pitching is so much better in that you have guys who throw 3 to 4 pitches for strikes consistently.

What would you say to youngsters in Goffstown Junior Baseball (or anywhere) who want to pursue baseball as a livelihood? To youngsters who want to get better and pursue it as a livelihood; Start making sacrifices because that’s what it takes. Start making baseball a life style and love it. Also, go to AB Athletic Development in Nashua, New Hampshire. Want to get better everyday. It’s a grind; understand that. You will fail but don’t let that stop you or make you quit. All of the greats have failed, never give up; That’s what has made them great and unbelievable players. Don’t ever give up. Guys you want to make baseball a life style? You do that.

Riley Palmer showing proper throwing mechanics with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Riley Palmer showing proper throwing mechanics with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

What is your favorite baseball memory to date? It’s okay if you have more than one. My favorite baseball memory was my sophomore year in college, because it was my first time ever winning a Regional title. What makes it so important to me is that it was my first Regional win and my first World Series berth after so many times. Over my career, starting at a young age, I was so close to so many world series berths but always came up short. When we won the NCAA Regional title it was so amazing! I will never forget that night and waking up the next morning with the feeling of knowing you are going to your first College World Series. It is way better waking up knowing you won rather than knowing you lost. The next favorite moment on my list of 2, is winning the American Legion NH State Baseball Tournament when I was 18. That was such a special moment my last year, with a group of guys I will never forget. I will never forget any of the teams I was on because they were all so special.

What do you feel is the one thing, the most important thing, you need to do better in order to advance through the ranks of Minor League ball towards the Big Leagues? Improve everyday and get better everyday. I never want to plateau. I want to stay healthy which is another key to my success.

How would you say this past summer compared to the dreams you’ve held towards a professional baseball career? It’s the summer I have dreamed about ever since I was a little kid and made the decision I wanted to be a professional baseball player. It’s amazing because you dream about it your whole life and then the next thing you know you are living the life style you have always wanted. Every summer it was getting better and getting closer to my goal. This summer I’m living my dream but still getting better because I still have more to achieve.

Have you received any feedback from the Orioles as to what they thought of your progress this past season? If so, how did that match-up with the assessment you gave yourself? The information I have received back from the Orioles is very positive to me. In my mind I thought I had a great first year of pro ball and they noticed it. They have had very nice things to say about me and my first season. It definitely was a very big plus to hear what they had to say about me. It made the thoughts I had about myself much more of a bigger deal to me.

Riley Palmer played his rookie season of pro ball with the Aberdeen IronBirds. After being drafted in June, he joined a team made up of many players who had been rostered since Spring Training and had an outstanding campaign. He finished in the Top 5 on the team in nearly every offensive category. Aberdeen is the Short Season Single-A Affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, competing in the legendary New York-Penn League.

What is the hardest thing you face every day, week, month being a baseball player? I’m not sure because I love waking up everyday and going to the baseball field, day in and day out, no matter what. I enjoy what I do so I’m not really sure. I love this game so much.

What is your favorite baseball movie(s)? I’d have to say, Field of Dreams.

What fields, or venues, have been your favorite(s) to play on so far in your baseball career? In high school, or even Legion ball, it was Holman Stadium in Nashua, NH. In college I loved playing at our home field at SNHU. In Pro ball, it has been Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, MD, home to the Aberdeen IronBirds.

As it turned out, Riley and I sat and talked for two hours. We asked and answered many more questions; all of them regarding baseball. We talked about all kinds of things regarding ‘The Game’ we both love so much. More than once today, Riley told me he “was getting goose bumps just talking about it”. The ‘it’ he referred to was baseball, or Allard Park in Goffstown, or clips from Field of Dreams, or the feeling of winning the State Championship in American Legion Baseball back in 2010, or it was discussing “blackout” moments in hitting. There were a few times to say the least.

We sat and talked with nearly every other sentence leading to another subject found under the vast umbrella of ‘The Game’, that we each were excited to get to. Then, the clouds outside the windows where we sat seemed to part. The sun shone brightly and the blue skies revealed themselves. We discussed a reunion of sorts someday at Lion’s Field or Allard Park where the boys could once again, just be boys.

Riley Palmer launches a rocket for the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Riley Palmer launches a rocket for the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

I asked him about the logistics of being a professional ball player and all of the when’s, the how’s, the how long’s, and the why’s. I asked about how many reps they get at throwing, fielding, taking throws, making throws, hitting, running for speed, base-running, and how often they are measured. Riley had the answers, and to his credit, he welcomes it, all of it. Baseball is now his job. Officially it’s his job, even in the adult world, he’s a professional baseball player. But really, look closely at his answer to what he would say to youngsters wanting to pursue the same dream, and you’ll realize that baseball has been Riley’s job for a long time. Until now, the majority of the adult world would have played along with this little game, this charade of “when I grow up, I want to be a baseball player”, just waiting for the reality of adulthood to bring this boy back to earth. Not Riley. Not his family. Not his closest friends and supporters. Because we all know him, and in him we see, what we have known, that baseball isn’t a job for him, it’s his true love. Just ask him about ‘The Game’ and before the sound of his voice reaches your ears, your eyes will have already seen how he feels about it.

One thing for certain when talking to Riley, today, and really anytime I have talked with him over the years I have known him; he is exuberant. He shared a story with me today from his first professional game that reminded me of a story involving a rookie in the NBA named “Magic” Johnson and the emotional toll the team game took on a young athlete. Time and leadership with help temper the emotional ebb and flow of winning, losing, performance, and constantly being measured. Then again, another word for temper would be weaken, and some things are just better left in full strength.

It happens all of the time; life tames youthful exuberance, leaving one to live out their days in a shell of their former selves. Days turn to weeks, weeks run on to months, then years, before decisions are made in an attempt to regain some of the life supposedly lost and mourned. So on it plays out; you know what I am talking about. To Riley; to my kids; to the like; don’t let another dim the light that shines from the sparkle in your eyes. Hold on to; no; better yet, cultivate youthful exuberance and carry it with you in everything you do. The world will teach you how to be an adult, a grown-up, as it were, but I suggest you get several opinions before following the masses, because nobody ever said the masses were right, for one, there’s just a lot of them and that doesn’t determine a verdict.

Riley will head south next week so that he can be ready to begin the Orioles Spring Training for Minor League ball players on March 10th. He will be in Sarasota, FL. He is optimistic and confident in the tireless work he has done to hone his skills, improve his game, and to be better equipped mentally. Last year at this time, he was heading to Myrtle Beach, SC to begin play in his senior season at SNHU. Just a year later, he has played another 130 games or so, spanning the SNHU season, the IronBirds season, and an, invite only, fall Instructional schedule. He has worked to improve his foot speed, his strength, his bat speed, his swing mechanics, and even his throwing mechanics. He eagerly awaits the next challenge. He looks for the next opportunity, and if he isn’t offered one, he just may create his own.

 

 

Local Baseball Trivia ~ What town?

In 2012, during the NCAA Division II Baseball College World Series a player from this town hit the first home run of the tournament. Then, this year, 2014, during the NCAA Division III Baseball College World Series, a player from this same town hit the first home run of the tournament. What is the town?

 

Answer: Goffstown, NH

Goffstown in Baseball, and the NCAA Tournament

Yes, I have lived in Goffstown, NH for the better part of 20 years. I am quite proud of the sports teams in our small town (population of roughly 17,700), especially in baseball. New Boston, NH (population of roughly 5,300) is part of the Goffstown School District and is very much a part of our community.

This is just an update of some players from the Goffstown School District or Goffstown Baseball Districts playing college baseball this season. There are a few more players who have either missed this season due to injury or are playing Club Baseball in the NECBA for their respective college or university.

Goffstown’s Riley Palmer and the SNHU Penmen won the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament and earned the #1 seed in the NCAA DII East Regional which SNHU is also hosting. Palmer earned Second Team All-Conference Honors and leads the team with 9 HR’s, 91 Total Bases, and a .479 Slugging Percentage. He also tied the SNHU Single-Season HR mark with this, “Good Grief! That ball was hammered!…”  Baseball to host NCAA Regional

Goffstown’s Ryan Smith and St. John Fisher did win 31 games and their second straight ECAC Metro Conference Championship but did not earn an at large bid to the NCAA DIII Baseball Regional. Smith led the team in saves with 6 and struck out 24 batters in just 16 1/3 innings pitched. Baseball Crowned ECAC Metro Champs

Goffstown’s Adam Routhier and Franklin Pierce University did earn an at large bid to the NCAA DII Baseball Regional. FPU is making their 10th consecutive NCAA appearance. Routhier is hitting .323 with half of his base hits being the extra base variety in limited playing time thus far as a Freshman. No. 21 Baseball Named #2 Seed in NCAA Regional

Goffstown’s Jake Glauser and the University of Southern Maine Huskies are in the NCAA DIII Baseball Regionals. They lost their bid for a 3rd straight Little East Conference Title despite Glauser’s heroics but did earn an at large bid. Glauser is hitting .282, has played in every game this season and has scored 33 runs thus far. USM Receives NCAA Bid

Goffstown’s Connor Shaw and the UMass-Dartmouth squad had a feisty run in the Little East Tournament and won 21 games this season. They did not qualify for the NCAA’s this year, but Shaw is off to a fine start in his career having collected 77 career hits in 69 games and accounting for more than 80 total runs thus far.

New Boston’s Mike Bisceglia and Wheaton College won 27 games but lost in their Conference Tournament Finals. They did not get an NCAA bid this year. Bisceglia batted .302 on the season with an On Base Percentage of .417. He also went 3–1 with a 3.14 ERA in 21 appearances on the mound.

New Boston’s Nick Nalette finished his 4-year baseball career at Merchant Marine this season, averaging nearly an RBI per base hit over his career.

New Boston’s Tyler Barss and the URI Rams are wrapping up their season. It has been a tough season for the Rams, but Barss, a Freshman, has allowed just 18 hits in 22 2/3 innings pitched while also earning a save.

Thank You to Youk’s Kids

On Saturday, August 4th, 2012, lightning struck Allard Park. It certainly wasn’t the first time lightning struck Goffstown’s hidden gem. For the most part the lightning strikes have been of a baseball nature when kids pull greatness out of the improbable. This strike, however, momentarily turned the storied Goffstown Babe Ruth Baseball program upside down. Lightning caused a fire to ignite and ultimately destroy the building we all know simply as, ‘The Barn’.

The Barn. This old building with so many stories tucked away in every nook and cranny. The building offered by the Allard family for baseball use year round. The Barn, where players worked to get better. The Barn, where so many took shelter in thunderstorms past, like the one that was its undoing. The Barn, where coaches met to get their season’s equipment. The Barn, where GBR All-Stars felt a little more important. The Barn, where any reason for a meeting was good enough. The Barn, where uniforms, equipment, first aid kits, and all things GBR Baseball were housed. The Barn, where each of us has memories we will hold forever.

Amidst the rubble and the disbelief that our baseball icon was gone we came in for a look at the fire ravaged building. I went over on a quiet morning or three to visit one of my all-time favorite spots. I sat down on the ground and just remembered the scenes playing in my mind. I remembered countless times in and around The Barn. I wrote a poem inspired by the history we shared, The Barn and I. It came out in the moments I sat there, next to the rubble of The Barn. The spot where I sat, I have shoveled snow from that spot, I have parked in that spot, I have played catch with players in that spot, I have retrieved foul balls from that spot, I talked with baseball friends in that spot, I have welcomed shade from The Barn in that spot, and it was the spot I reflected from.

So, this little baseball program, from not such a baseball hot spot in Southern NH, lost it’s baseball storage and workout facility. Just another New Hampshire weather related, sad story, for a little baseball program. I dare say, this is not your average, everyday, little youth baseball program. I could be wrong, but I think that this community has, does, and will come together and rally around our national pastime unlike most. People here plan their vacations for the end of August, or not at all, so that baseball can be completed. This often times means that Goffstown has teams playing post season ball through July and into August, competing at the District, State, and Regional level. As the pictures show, there is a history of winning in this program. Over the years, I have heard many local sentiments that unknowingly refer to the Goffstown Babe Ruth baseball program as ‘too competitive’. First, as it should be, it is competitive. What meaningful part of life isn’t? Second, I have also heard many praises from many of those same folks, who did sign their teen up to play, and were blown away at how much they loved it, how much the kids learned from it, and how wonderful the experience was, even if their player wasn’t an all-star. It’s a youth baseball program, a very good baseball program, but it’s still about the kids. Kids who enjoy baseball, want to get better, and even enjoy competing. As it should be.

So, with all that said, the emotion felt and shared, the stories told, the memories shared, and the reality of loss setting in, from the smoke and the smoldering, emerged one of the good people. Kevin Youkilis. Well, Kevin Youkilis and his foundation, Youk’s Kids. Almost six weeks after Youkilis was traded some 850 miles (in a straight line) away from this area, he still responded. He wasn’t asked to respond. He, and his foundation reached out to Goffstown Babe Ruth President, Kevin Baines. The phone call they made that Monday morning is one of the biggest reasons the GBR program was turned upside down only momentarily. Youk’s Kids offered to replace the lost baseball equipment up to $20,000, as I understand it. Wow! That’s incredible. One phone call in response to the Boston and Manchester news stations that had picked up on the story in this little baseball community.

In a day and age when too many people dismiss most things as, ‘not my problem’, it would be easy to dismiss this story from a Time Zone away. Dismissed? Not a chance. Youk’s Kids stepped up to do what they do. They help kids in need. Goffstown, New Boston, and Dunbarton make up our school district and also many of our youth athletics programs, and these kids aged 13-15 were in need for someone to help. Thank you Kevin Youkilis and Youk’s Kids for stepping up and helping this baseball rich community in a time of dire need. This baseball program means everything to many people each summer and with the thankless help of people like Kevin Youkilis and organizations like Youk’s Kids, this program will rise from the ash and be strong again. Thank you to Kevin Youkilis and his foundation.

Allard barn fire 2

Once this smoke cleared and the remains were left to stare at in disbelief, Kevin Youkilis and others emerged to help GBR move forward.

Allard barn fire

It’s hard to believe that this very real picture played out in our own backyard.

053 (2)

GBR, where champions are made.

054 (2)

Championship teams from this little community bonded together forever in triumph.

055 (2)

These pictures don’t capture all the history and success, but they give you an idea of what this program means to so many people in town.

056 (2)

The pines. The pines that shielded The Barn from hundreds of foul balls. The pines looking different without the back drop of The Barn.

058 (2)

Our little gem took a hit, but will carry on, thanks to so many caring, wonderful people.

Dr. Moe and the group showing off the bat at Allard

Dr. Maurice Allard shares a commemorative bat with us. This picture, at the time, shows GBR players and coaches from past and present. We were there practicing baseball for the love of the game.

IMG_3093 (2)

Jake Glauser, now playing baseball at the University of Southern Maine, works out in The Barn a few years ago. Not much of a view in The Barn, but hard work isn’t always pretty.

IMG_3293 (2)

Ryan Beal, now playing baseball at Central Connecticut State University, hits in The Barn, offering a different view of this place we cherished.