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photo Sarah Carroll

Rick “Stonewall” Stratton grew up in rural New Hampshire, in a place with… well, a lot of stone walls. “I ended up playing catcher, which has a backstop,” Stratton explains. “So I’m kind of like a wall back there.” Some players want to choose their own nickname, but the team discourages it. “We try to get it to come about organically,” he says. “Something funny or embarrassing, sometimes it fits with your background or your name. We say that once you have a nickname, then you’re really part of the club. Sometimes it happens the day you show up, and sometimes it’s three games in, or even half a year.” Although a wide variety of people play the game, there is a sizeable contingent of history and baseball buffs on the team. Naturally, there are lots of teachers, especially history teachers. “I’m a civil engineer,” Stratton offers. “There are a couple guys who work in the restaurant business and the manufacturing industry. One guy works at a biomedical facility.”

For all its adherence to vintage rules and aesthetics, the modern-day version of the game is welcoming and inclusive. “We’ve played with people as young as 16 and 18 to people in their 70s, men, women, anyone who wants to come out and play,” he states. “The rules are the great equalizer. We have people who played in college ranging all the way to people who have never played. Our rules allow those two types of people to play together.” Typically, the club discourages players under 18, but they’ve made exceptions in the past. There is even a woman on the team these days: Allison “Kat” Howell, who plays second base. “Back then, women didn’t play,” says Stratton. “Today, there is a team in New York called the Mutuals, and on certain days, there are up to three women playing on their roster. And they’re just as good as anyone out there.” It is the range of people — and the relationships formed — that keeps team members coming back. “Just the camaraderie,” reflects Stratton. “You meet

some pretty neat people from other teams. Being part of the community is really special.”

G O I N G BA C K I N T I M E One of the most noticeable differences from modern baseball is that no gloves are worn in the vintage version of the game, for the simple reason that they hadn’t been invented yet. Mercifully, the ball is also a little bit softer, with a different stitching pattern that comes together in four quarters called the “lemon peel” stitch, rather than the curved lines of today’s figure eight style. In addition to the slightly softer ball, players’ hands are also granted some reprieve by the catching rules. “You can catch the ball on the fly or on one bounce, which helps,” Stratton says. “If something is hit really hard and you don’t feel like diving, you can time it to catch it off the bounce—although if you’re a really good player and you rely on that bounce, you’ll get heckled a little bit.” Let’s not leave any uncertainty here, though: “Without a glove, it’ll get scary

NOVEMBER 2019 THEWCPRESS.COM

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Profile for The WC Press

The WC Press Vintage Issue - November 2019  

Voice of the Borough

The WC Press Vintage Issue - November 2019  

Voice of the Borough