Regal Radio co-founder Sean Terry hosts The Varsity Show on Thursdays at 9 pm central with fellow co-founder Joe “Champ” Tanksley. Terry has spent the balance of his life in baseball, playing it, following it and even working for a time within the Los Angeles Dodgers’ scouting department.
I’m looking at a first pitch start of 3 pm, the first Sunday of June on a dusty field on the South Side of Chicago — thousands won’t be looking, it won’t be broadcast on WGN or Comcast, highlights won’t run later on the 10 pm news, but my prep work started weeks ago, months ago actually.
No matter how many years one plays a sport, the sour taste of losing never goes away. And for me, playing hurt and playing amidst the confusion and drama of a team not fully committed by the end of a season stings. Losing really hurts, no matter what stage its on.
That feeling by the end of my last romp through the Metro League South Baseball Association is what fueled my drive during the off-season, an off-season that didn’t make it easy to get off my ass at any time to train due to Chicago’s continued flirtation with the polar vortex. In spite that, the conditioning and determination needed to ready myself for this season began back in December.
Back in December is when the gym regimen got going, as did the hitting drills done during late night indoor cage sessions and the side toss all counts.
Now, at the age of 33 and staring my baseball mortality square in the face, I’ve been determined to have a bounce back season ever since last year’s season ended in a playoff forfeit loss.
Assuming responsibility and taking on a role leadership is something I’m no stranger to, but this would be different. I hesitate to call myself a captain, choosing to lock in on the tasks at hand: recruiting players, playing liaison to a league merger, contributing to branding campaigns as a league marketing director, or making out a lineup card — my role as I see it is to respond to a need with action and leading by example. Outside of that, my man Champ makes the lineup on Sundays and I just play.
We Make the Game
The amateur baseball scene on the South Side is a strange and odd commodity, its a culture so ingrained in the hearts and spirits of a precious few, a continued essential element of summertime Chi that is as fragile and at time tumultuous as a run-in between David Price and David Ortiz.
Is it just baseball? Not at this point, it’s more of a lifestyle. A lifestyle that embraces challenge (baseball at any level is a game of failure) and one that provides a sense of community, competition and good fun weekly in the park on a warm summer’s day.
We help provide the backdrop to your Sunday drive past Jackson Park, Washington Park and many other Chicago parks where league play occurs in the city but the numbers aren’t as strong as they once were.
Declining numbers in the game would suggest a possible broken spirit or delusion at had for those of us who still play, but to suggest that to any number of the players who make sure the baseball diamonds out South still makes sense aesthetically is an even more foolish pursuit. Plus, immersing oneself in the middle of a Sunday rec league and you’d get a different vibe than the washed-up playing an antiquated past-time.
The Game Makes Us
Baseball is a game that is defined by individualism within the construct of team play — a nine- player lineup is like a series of islands with each man standing waiting for his opportunity to impact the game with his stick, glove or arm.
For me, baseball has been a passion of mine since I fell in love with the game as a child and this season marks my 10th as a amateur player. Uncertain how many years I have left in the tank, I approach every season and every opportunity to play the same way, fueled by a love and respect for the game that is real and has built up over time.
Sunday is one week out, the Monday prior it starts to get real. Everything is baseball starts with the legs and core, so Monday thru Wednesday is all about laying that foundation. Whether it’s the stair master or hitting the lakefront for a skate, getting those legs and that core together will be key getting me ready to play for about three to four hours on the diamond.
As Thursday comes thru Saturday its best to get one or two lifts in and get some cage or tee work in. Facilities in Chicago is a tough nut to crack for us in this game, so if you wanna get your swings in you have to be willing to travel, I’ve gone as far as 25 miles from home just to find a cage — that’s just what we do, why even be involved in the league if you’re not willing to prepare?
I’ve played with a number of teams in and out the city, but the Windy City Orioles and the Metro League South feels like home to me. In our second year of existence, our league is defined by its character and our familiarities with one another — the experience I have is shared by my teammates and opponents alike.
Gameday is Here
Saturday is all about rest, hydrating, and a little baseball vanity. I like to criss-cross my bat tape on Saturdays, it helps keep the hands loose so I can “play the flute.” Between bat maintenance and last-minute laundry my hands are full that day, before you know it the day of reckoning is here.
Early birds catch the worm while early players settle for long stretching sessions and mental preparation — both are imperative at my age and this week sets the tone for another summer in every way.
Game time means it’s on now and I only have warrior paint (eye black) left to ready myself before the full assembly is ready. Once that goes, I’m in that zone until the game is over!
And until this season its over, make sure you stay tuned for the the chronicles of the Windy City Orioles as Champ and I relive the glory days and share our present baseball experience with our fans in a season-long diary as we chase the bling and chase down Father Time.
Sean Terry is a co-founder of Regal Radio and co-hosts “The Varsity Show,” which you can follow on Twitter @varsityshow1 or follow Sean himself @craftbeersochi.