HOWELL — Rich Robinson has organized the Howell baseball alumni game for a decade now.
But never, in his wildest dreams, did he ever consider himself a contender for the Bert Tooley Award, given to the game’s most valuable player.
He hadn’t planned to make more than a token appearance in the game and had prepared accordingly.
“Usually I start throwing in February or March,” he said. “I only started throwing with my son two weeks ago, and I hadn’t had a lick of batting practice.”
But, in a game where all but one of the 22 participants had at least one hit, Robinson led the way, going 3-for-4 as his Green team edged the Gold, 7-6, in the semi-annual game played at Howell High School.
“It was a close game,” he said. “That’’s what we like to see. We want to see a lot of offense and we want to see a good competitive game. The winnign run was at the plate, so the game was contested to the very last out. That’s what we like to see.”
And, after the teams shook hands and posed for a group photo, Robinson seemed to be the only player on the field surprised when he was announced as the winner of the Bert Tooley Award, named after a Howell native who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1911-12.
“No one was more surprised than me,” he said. “We were short of players and it forced my role to be greater than I thought it would be.”
The game was played at a brisk clip, coming in under two hours for seven innings.
At least one player joked that Robinson’s performance might have been his greatest in a Howell baseball uniform, which he didn’t disagree with.
“For baseball, probably,” he said, laughing.
Besides those who still live in the area, a few players came in from out of town, including Robinson, who lives in Washington, D.C. And, for him, the game was the thing and entirely worthwhile.
“The great thing about this is the joking around and everyone getting to hang out with their friends,” he said. “That’s really the best part. Howell baseball holds such a fond spot in my heart, and I only played for one season on the varsity. But I’m just happy I get to share it with a bunch of guys, some I don’t know and some I’ve known for all my life. It’s fun.”