First off, let me apologize for my delay in releasing any new pieces for all the people of Sombrero Nation. This last month has been quite a ride. First there was the state tournament (in which the Scorps lost their semi-final game in heartbreaking fashion), then I had to finish up my first year, as a high school teacher, and most recently I have just become an uncle for the first time. Big ups go out to my sister, Blaire. She needed a mere 3 pushes to pop that beautiful baby out and into the world. Congrats, I love you Blaire and baby Londyn.
Anyways, on to what the article is really about, Ricketts Park. As I helped as an assistant to the varsity squad in May, I took notice of how special Ricketts was. This was not the first time I had felt this way, but it was the same feeling from a different perspective. I had casual conversations with graduating seniors about what it meant to have played at such a great field. I also had conversations with younger guys who have their whole high school career in front of them. There were as many similarities in their answers as there were differences. No matter who I was talking to, I started each conversation the same way, “So what has it been like to play as a Scorp at Ricketts?’ Older guys answered with comments like, “It’s fuckin’ awesome, man” or “It’s so badass” and one kid, who will remain unnamed, responded with “It’s the fuckin’ shit. There is nothing else like it.” The second half of this last quote is what stuck with me, mostly because there really is nothing like playing at Ricketts Park.
In a previous article I took a brief moment to inform you about Ricketts. For a Farmington High Scorpion, it means even more. When you finally head to Ricketts for 7th hour class and after school practice it means one thing…you’ve made it. For me that moment came as a sophomore. For others it didn’t come until their senior year. And even more, there are those few who make it on the varsity squad as young freshmen. Now making the varsity squad that very first time is something special for all aspiring baseball players. But the first time you step foot on the luscious grass of Ricketts, you become keenly aware of just how sweet the grass is on the other side of the fence.
Ricketts park is a field owned and maintained by the city of Farmington, as all the ballparks in Farmington are, and has one of the greatest grounds crew outside of Division one and professional baseball. Sure, they become lazy as shit during the summer, when they don’t have the high school season or the Connie Mack World Series to worry about, but when they are on point the field begins to twankle and glisten thanks to their efforts. Once you make the varsity team, this all becomes clearly apparent. There are no more shitty hops on the regular, or grass so tall it makes even the hardest hit GB a slow roller. Being able to play and practice on that field for the first time is similar to stepping on to a pro field for the first time (I was fortunate enough to experience this during a pre draft workout for the Brewers at Miller Park.) Some people might think about when they first put on the varsity white uni, or when they first get their legendary varsity boathouse jacket. But they would be wrong. The first time they feel like they have made it is when their feet feel the crunch of finely raked dirt; the first time they step foot in the grass and it feels like they are walking on clouds. Simply put, this feeling is purely euphoric. For most of us who have come up through the ranks of FHS baseball, it is the closest feeling we will ever have of “making it”.
Another thing about Ricketts is the on-field equipment. It is the only place where BP is taken inside of a true turtle shell cage. It is the only time that the shag group has a net to protect them from batted balls. It is also the only team in the program that gets to practice with real baseballs. Now I don’t mean real as in balls that exist in fact. I mean real as in balls that have not been used for the last 6 years straight. These baseballs are white. These baseballs have seams. These baseballs have their covers firmly attached to the insides. Now these may seem like small things to some. But as the C-team coach for the program, I know what a difference it makes. When I came up as an assistant to the varsity after my C-team season ended, I even felt like I had made it as a coach. Throwing BP felt like a dream. So you have a nice field surface and some good equipment for the first time; so what? How does that make Ricketts so special to a high school baseball player? Let me tell you about the best part of Ricketts.
If you recall, I mentioned that Ricketts has stadium seating and holds up to a few thousand fans. This is what fellow blogger Dee and myself call tits. When those seats are filled to capacity it is harebrained. And it fills up this way twice a season, for the showdown between cross-town rivals FHS and PVHS. The stadium is overflowing with passionate, semi-intelligent, wild and crazy fans for these games. The first time that you walk up to the plate with all the noise going on in the background, it feels as if you are playing in a World Series atmosphere. Ricketts literally begins to shake and bake with such abundant energy. Put simply, it is cooler than the ice on any rapper’s wrist. There is just nothing that can compare to playing in front of thousands of fans as a teenager who can’t even buy porn or tobacco legally.
Anybody who has played high school sports aspires to become a varsity player. They long to be able to say they made it. This is no different for FHS baseball players. The only difference between you and us is one thing. Ricketts Park.