The boys of fall: Turning three by the bridge

By Lou Scrima

After enduring what appeared to be an interminable amount of just unbelievable, ill-timed, yucky weather during the spring and summer seasons, the stage was set. A divinely orchestrated crisp and clear October Sunday afternoon, perfect for anything the mind and body wanted to do, in this case Junior Division fall baseball.

The Junior Division, organized around players 12 to 14 years old, is the steppingstone from Little League to “big time” hardball play — a turning point for many.

Red, yellow, green and blue are not just the colors in a crayon box or the ink cartridges in your printer, they are the team names of our local Junior Division baseball teams, a combined effort of both Greenwich Village Little League and the Downtown Little League. Starting with rosters in excess of 16 players each (a record turnout for the age group), the four teams were ready to play baseball at the first sign of fair weather.

The stage, back-dropped by the soaring majesty of the Manhattan Bridge lit in a glancing autumnal light, was set for a dramatic act. Yes, strangely enough the normally homely near 100-year-old “blue collar” bridge (constructed between 1901-1909) takes on a majestic aura when seen from the dugouts and batter’s position at the impeccably maintained Murry Bergtraum Field (the Junior Division’s home field, on the Lower East Side.) The venue has to be personally experienced to be believed. The vision is almost Alpian in grandeur and beauty.

Getting back to the “play” — Aaron Greenwald, the lead actor in this three-act play who normally plays for the Green team, joined the Red team for this eventful game to fill a momentous role.

Let me explain. The “cast” of characters in fallball does not always stay with their “cast” colors. It’s a matter of prior commitments, availability and desire to play all the time that moves the players around. The color palette is mixing constantly, e.g., a Yellow team member can fill in for a Red team member and therefore becomes a quasi-, I guess, Orange team member? Wait. There is no Orange team. Perhaps rainbow-colored shirts for next year.

The beautiful thing about the leagues’ attitude toward fallball is that the numbers don’t count, the players do. Fallball is a time for experiment and development, a time to have fun playing baseball. This reporter has not seen a single scorebook at any of the games, an indication that this is meant to be serious fun. I can’t give any final scores, because after the first few runners cross the plate, the managers and coaches don’t care about who’s winning. The game is about trying new combinations. They ask the players, “Do you want to pitch? Fine. Pitch. Can you play shortstop? Fine. How fast are you? Centerfield?” It’s a joyous occasion for all.

Oops, once again I got sidetracked about telling you the story of the “great play.” Here it is. Aaron Greenwald was playing shortstop for the Red team; there were men on first and second, nobody out. A line drive was hit directly to Greenwald who tagged out the runner moving to third and threw it to the first baseman, prior to that runner getting back in time. End of inning. How many triple plays have you ever seen in your life?

Let’s just pray for the weather to be benevolent until spring. That’s when we start keeping score again.