Time flies, Rich Robinson says, when you’re having fun with old teammates.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years, already,” said Robinson, the 1978 Howell graduate who is putting together the 10th annual Howell Alumni Baseball game, which will be played at Howell High School on Aug. 5 at 12:30 p.m.
The first five games were annual events; since 2011 the game has been played every other year.
The cast of players changes every game, but there’s a universal appeal to putting on the uniform and playing with old teammates and new under what has been, most years, ideal conditions.
“I think a lot of it is it’s baseball, and that speaks to a certain sense of Americana and nostalgia,” Robinson said. “There’s a scene in ‘Field of Dreams’ where (James Earl) Jones describes how baseball connects us from generation to generation. It’s funny how the game hasn’t changed over the years, but we have.”
Robinson, who lives in Washington, D.C., these days, has organized and played in all eight previous games, but hints this might be his last game as a player.
“I’m 56 now, and can understand the desire to be a bystander and not get out on the field,” he said. “It gets harder to track fly balls and hit pitches. It’s certainly a young man’s game. We’re all trying our best to defy that notion.”
Proceeds for the game will go to the Howell High School athletic department.
“Celebrating sports legacies is not only a lot of fun, but good for a school’s athletic program,” Howell athletic director John Young said in a press release. “Having these alumni games is a great way for our current athletes to meet their predecessors and learn more about Howell’s baseball history.”
The game’s most valuable player has his name etched on the Bert Tooley Award, named after the Howell native who played a season and a half for the then-Brooklyn Dodgers in 1911-12. One of the quirks surrounding the game is that, while Tooley was a right-handed shortstop, the figure on the trophy is left-handed.
“The figure is of an old-time baseball player,” Robinson said, protesting mildly.
Robinson says he always has this bit of wisdom for those participating, courtesy of the late Tigers great Gates Brown: “I was at fantasy camp in 2005, and the Gator told us, “Start slow, and taper down from there.’ It’s good advice.”
Highlanders of any vintage are invited to play, although pitchers this year will be required to tailor their pitches to the age of the players at the plate.
“We’ll ask younger pitchers to, if they face someone substantially older than them, to put the ball over the plate and get it in play,” Robinson said. “We want to score some runs in this game. If they faces someone their own age, by all means, challenge them. We want to encourage competition and get the ball in play as much as possible.”
The deadline to sign up is July 23, and players can sign up by using this link: http://bit.ly/2sDK2z5.