Like the United States Marines, the Michigan Timberwolves are looking for a few good men. Fellows of good cheer, gentlemen of a certain age (45 and up), and oh yeah, if you can play a little baseball, that would help too.
The similarities to the Marine Corps pretty much end there, inasmuch as the Marines usually win and the Timberwolves never do.
Five years ago, after I retired from The Blade, I signed with the Timberwolves, who play in a Roy Hobbs summer baseball league at Skeldon Stadium in Maumee. I had played for several years for another team in the league, the Toledo Barons, but took a couple of years off.
I missed playing baseball more than I thought I would. So I pulled on the Timberwolf pinstripes. I had no idea what a challenge awaited.
Five years later, I’m still waiting for our first victory. We don’t just lose — we rewrite the record books. This year’s team went a perfect 20 and 0. Twenty times we took the field and 20 times we lost. How badly? We got shut out 10 times, scored just 27 runs all season, and surrendered 270.
Six of our runs came in one defeat; five in another. For us, those were offensive explosions, but we still lost.
I don’t have the won-lost records for my previous four years as a Timberwolf, but because we never won, it’s an ugly number, somewhere between 80 and 90 consecutive defeats. Real wolves everywhere are angry with us.
So this is a plea for help.
If you’re old enough, if you miss the game you loved as a kid, if you’re able to endure the emotional pain that comes with standing for prolonged periods on defense while your opponents run wild on the bases, we want you — far more than Uncle Sam does.
If you can pitch, you can pretty much name your own salary, as long as it doesn’t involve money.
We can also promise you a snazzy uniform. I think the Timberwolves’ uniforms are the coolest in the league — a nifty jersey vest with the “TW” logo on the front, and matching cap, belt, and socks. We’ve had the best team photo three years running. Of course, we seldom get dirty, so that helps.
Worried about injuries? I won’t say they don’t happen. I can speak from personal experience.
Two years ago, I sustained a concussion when I fell backing up on a popup behind second base. I had never noticed the dropoff from the infield dirt to the outfield grass before.
Last year, I tore a bicep lunging for a ground ball. This year, I dislocated a finger on a pickoff play at second base. The good news: We got the out all three times and I have since relocated the finger.
Since the pitchers in our league throw hard and occasionally inaccurately, it’s necessary now and then to take one for the team. Also, pulled hamstrings are not uncommon.
Remember, there’s no crying in baseball. But screaming is OK, for which I’m grateful.
Our opponents look at the schedule and count their games against us in the win column before they’re even played, so you might think we’d catch a team taking us lightly. But no. None of the other six teams wants to be the one that loses to us. You can understand that. The embarrassment. The humiliation. The humanity. So we get their best effort, which trumps ours.
We consider a rally a moral victory, although our rallies always come up short.
I’m reminded of the advice I got from my high school baseball coach. After I hit into a rally-killing double play, he took me aside and said: “Son, next time you’re in that situation, just strike out and keep the inning alive.”
Our worst loss this year was a 20-0 shellacking by a team called the Surgeons, who showed us what a scalpel feels like without anesthesia. How do you lose a baseball game by three freakin’ touchdowns? At least we blocked an extra point. Our third pitcher of the day was perfect: He never missed a single bat.
But you know what? I love my band of brothers. We have great fun together, and I still think the Wolves are getting closer to respectability. If baseball truly is a game of inches, I figure we’re only about 50 feet away.
Still think you can’t do it? Consider this wonderful quote from the late Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Men do not quit playing because they grow old, they grow old because they quit playing.”
So come on out and join the Timberwolves next season. What could it hurt? Uh, let me rephrase: What have you got to lose?
Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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