Over-25 team plays Arundel High way

The shadow of their former baseball coach cements the bond among the men of the county rec league's Pirates.

SUMMER In Anne Arundel County

July 20, 2005|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When a player for the Pirates in Anne Arundel County's over-25 baseball league makes a mental error during a game or a practice, a teammate invariably shouts, "On the line!"

Though their high school days are faded memories and most of the Pirates are pushing middle age, the order is a "Bernie-ism." That's a unifying habit, one that players say helps them keep a strong bond and keep on playing.

Seven of the 13 Pirates once played for longtime Arundel High baseball coach Bernie Walter, though not all in the same period. But regardless of which Walter era they're from, the Pirates know that "on the line" refers to Walter's punishment for mental errors - "Everyone, get on the foul line - it's time to run some sprints."

"It's all about the team," said team captain John Goode. "We've all been playing together so long that [we're] like a family."

The Pirates win a lot, but they're not the dominant team in the Department of Recreation and Parks league. Their 10-5 record heading into a rained-out game Sunday had them fourth of 10 squads.

But as competitive as the Pirates can be, they're like many teams in adult leagues in every sport. They have a core of players who make playing ball well - after most contemporaries have either given it up or gone into youth coaching - a pleasurable thing that transcends the sport and competition.

The Pirates simply love baseball.

If nothing else, that love is reflected in the commitment they have made to practice twice weekly from March to May, before a 22-game league season begins, a season that ends with a double-elimination tournament.

Others in the league sometimes jokingly refer to the Pirates as "the Arundel guys." But the former Wildcats take pride in coming from Arundel and having served under Walter's tutelage.

Goode, 38 and an Annapolis resident, played for the Arundel junior varsity before going to Southern High. It's easy, he said, to see how well the former Wildcats remember what they were taught long ago.

Pat Overton, 36, is a football and baseball coach and teacher in Howard County who also played for Walter in high school. A Columbia resident, Overton graduated from Arundel in 1986 and said those from the school practice now just as they did then.

"We do it the same way we were taught 20 years ago," Overton said. "It certainly gives us a good fundamental knowledge of the game."

Overton said the team even got permission from Walter to use the Arundel baseball field for preseason practices this year, another thing that strengthened the team's bond.

"It was a lot of fun, going back there to practice," Overton said. "I enjoy going back there."

The players are from different age groups, but those who toiled under Walter at Arundel feel connected, regardless of when they played.

"It's like the Arundel guys speak the same language," said Bryan Beauchemin, 36, of Severna Park, a general contractor. "Going to Arundel and playing for Bernie Walter, it [brings] us together somehow. You know all the same sayings, the same philosophies. The way he coached baseball really hasn't changed. We all use the same Bernie-isms, and we've been together a long time."

Goode works hard at keeping the team rolling.

The players spend time together after the games, away from the field. They get together with girlfriends, wives and children for cookouts after games. They routinely gather at an Annapolis piano bar, a night that has nothing to do with baseball but everything to do with friendship, and often meet during the off-season.

The entire team went to Brandon Sands' wedding July 9 in Catonsville. This is the fifth straight summer that someone on the team has gotten married with teammates in attendance.

When Overton was married last year, he brought a cake listing the single members of the team, with an added line that named Sands as "on deck."

This year's cake listed Matt Tanner, in a relationship for about 1 1/2 years, as being on deck.

"It wouldn't be any fun if it wasn't with all of my friends," said Goode. "It would be more like a job. As much as I enjoy the game, it's the camaraderie that's the fun part of it."

Competitively, Goode said, the Pirates haven't been able to "get over the hump" in the past few seasons.

But even if the team isn't winning in a manner that Walter would like, his aging players now find enjoyment in just trying to win.

The Pirates know how to talk smack to each other during the game. They're ready to get "on the line" if the situation warrants, but in the end, they're just playing a game they like.

"We've been together for a long time," Beauchemin said. "We can get on each other pretty hard, not being mean. ... Out on the ball field, it's serious baseball. But the family just keeps on growing."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.