I had mentioned earlier this week that my time with Buck and his son Jacob had moved me to the point that I needed to retrace the journey my son Chris and I took eight years ago around the Northwest League. It was all about a Father and a Son back then and visiting with Buck and Jacob actually gave me a part of that back.
The time with this father and son team led me to ask Buck if he would take the time to put his thoughts down on paper and he did just that. I read the e-mail just a minute ago and I know my daughter will probably post it before I finish my thoughts but if you only read one more thing on this site-Please let it be from Mr. Buck Smith!
A Father and Son Journey Around the Valley for All the Right Reasons
Written by Buck Smith
Jacob and my trek around the league began in mid-June at Rebel Park in New Market. After showing up half way through the first inning, we found a seat in the bleachers and settled in for what we hoped would be an exciting game. After an inning or so, a good friend of the family, Charlie Dodge sat down to say hello. We talked for a few minutes about summer family plans, school schedules, and the hopes of an exciting Valley League baseball season. Over the public address system I heard Around the League in 60 Days--My first thoughts were of Jules Verne's novel--Around the World in 80 Days and I made a comment to Charlie. He responded with a laugh and explained what Around the League in 60 Days was about. I loved the concept. Great promotion --great challenge--especially for someone like myself and Jacob who enjoys competition. Charlie moved back with Melissa and we continue to watch the game. Towards the later part of the game, I went over to the souvenir stand and asked for two passports. Jacob and I got our first stamp that night. As we left the park, Jacob talked about how cool it would be to cover all 11 parks. I agreed and we decided to stop at McDonalds and get a McFlurry (Oreo). Over some ice cream we decided to accept the challenge and conquer the Valley League in less than 30 days. We figured 60 days was for whimps!
The next day, Jacob had mapped out a schedule for us to cover all 10 remaining parks.When I got home, he showed me the schedule. We had always talked about the importance to plan but I could not help to notice the gleam in his eye when I said "Good Job." The following day we went to our second park. We talked, we joked, and we finished the night with an Oreo McFlurry. The ice cream after each game became a trend. There is something special about eating ice cream in the summer as compared to any other time of the year.
After a few more games under our belt, my wife asked about our adventures and Jacob starting talking about the trips, the foul balls, the ice cream, the crazy fans, etc..I could tell both he and I were up for this challenge and couldn't wait for the next game. He spoke of how unique each park was and how cool it was getting a souvenir..sometimes a ball, sometimes a game program...A few days later we went to Harrisonburg to watch the Turks. After the game, Jacob stopped in the parking lot and said--"Hey I did not get a souvenir." I said I have a surprise. We drove by a house off of Willow and Bruce Street and slowed up. I asked what do you think of the home place now?..In the Spring of 2002, our family moved from Harrisonburg to the Strasburg area. We both sat there staring at the house that our family once lived in. No words were exchanged but I know the memories were running through both of our minds. We left and got a McFlurry. Before leaving Harrisonburg, I noticed my gas tank was nearing empty. I dreaded to pull up to the pump with the price of gas. I pumped the gas and press "Yes" for a reciept--$80.00 printed on the reciept. WoW!! We drove home that night and I thought of whether this challenge was worth it....by this time Jacob was sound a sleep in the cab. We got home and I put him to bed. My wife asked how things went and I explained how we saw the old home place, saw a great game, my concern about the price of gas and finishing this challenge. I know that Jacob was enjoying the games, loving the food, and spending time with his dad. My wife wanted us to move forward with the adventure but I wanted to sleep on it.
Later that night, I woke up with a conviction to watch my favorite movie, "Field of Dreams." I realize that watching a two hour movie at 2:00 am isn't realistic so I did the short version on Youtube.com. I have always believed in listening to my convictions; I guess that is why this movie is my favorite. I typed in Field of Dreams and clicked on "People will come Ray"....What I heard was..."People will come..They will come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom--they will turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they are even doing it...they will arrive at your door...as innocent as children, longing for the past...of course we won't mind if you look around..you'll say..it's only $20 per person...they will pass over the money without even thinking about it...for it is money they have but peace they lack..." I stopped the clip. I sat back and reflected back to when I was a kid. I grew up in Madison County, Va. At that time we had a Valley League Baseball team--Madison Blue Jays. I remember sitting in stands, eating popcorn, watching the big college boys (my heroes) play. I remember how important it was to me for my dad to be beside me sharing in the moment. (I believe this is all little boys dreams--to have a relationship with their dad) Wow! Gas prices no longer were an issue and the entire purpose of our trek changed from a challenge to an investment..an investment in the relationship with my son. I realize now--this was the original intent of the architect of this idea..Around the Valley in 60 Days...it was about offering an opportunity to others to use sport as a vehicle to build relationships...to develop or expand on an appreciation of each other..I also realized that Jacob, my 11 year son, realized the purpose of this experience before his dad. It wasn't to him a conquest to conquer the Valley in 60 days but rather an opportunity to spend time with his dad.
The few last trips were filled with more excitment, more McFlurries, more foul balls, more souvenirs, and an experience Jacob and I will never forget. Over time many things can be taken from us..our youth..our hair..maybe even our ability to function but the experience we shared will be etched in us forever.
A note from Rebecca:
We at ATV-60 want to congratulate Buck and Jacob once more for visiting all 11 teams in the season. Whether you bring home memories of 11 nights of nail-biting baseball, 11 programs, 11 tickets, 11 hot dogs at the concession stand, 11 close-calls on your car almost getting hit by a foul ball, 11 nights of your home team winning, 11 McFlurries or 11 bug bites, we hope every person who goes to all 11 baseball parks this season senses the loves of the game of 11 teams, sees smiling faces at 11 entrance gates, feels at home in all 11 seats and comes away with a new perspective, a new relationship, or maybe a new friend (maybe even 11).
Thank you so much, Buck, for taking the time to write that amazing article, reminding each of us of the purpose of this promotion and why we're all so enthralled by this amazing organization called the Valley Baseball League.