Labor Day weekend across the United States marks in many ways the end of summer. For students this means a return to the lab and the classroom. For working Americans it means, well, I’ve never really been a “working American”, so I’m not exactly sure. Regardless, at Grinnell College in central Iowa, Labor Day meant, at least for a collection of baseball alums, a return to the town and school that was our home for four years. For this particular alum, it marked the first return trip since 2008. In fact, despite frequent communication via text, email, and this blog, I had not seen Arlo (Mike) since we bid farewell to Robbie prior to his departure to London for veterinary school around three years ago. Words simply cannot explain what it meant to see these people again. In many ways the entire weekend truly felt as though I was still a member of the GC baseball team getting used to a new semester back in Iowa with my friends and teammates.
Grinnell College and Tim Hollibaugh, the head coach of the Pioneers, have shaped the lives of each player who has stepped between the lines for GC. It is impossible to say what each of us would be doing had we not been teammates at Grinnell, but what each of us has done since we graduated is rather inspiring, at least, for me. We all seem to be moving in directions that will allow us to be happy adults and positive contributors to each of our environments. While we all probably had very busy weeks and months ahead, everyone seemed able to let go of work/school for the weekend and very relaxed as a result. During our time together, I’m not sure any of us had what could possibly constitute a serious conversation. Amidst an entire weekend full of inside jokes and recollecting our times shared years ago, we walked away from Grinnell still in nearly every way the same kids and ballplayers we were during our time in the scarlet and black.
The good fortune and persistent recruiting that somehow was able to land us all in the same small town in Iowa will never fully be accounted for by any of us, but there is no way to really describe how thankful I am now for spending my collegiate experience there with the group of guys that I did. In talking with some of the current GC players, I was reminded of just what it felt like to be a student and athlete there. They surprised me with how aware they were of who they are and what the game and the team meant to them. The Pioneers of today make me endlessly proud to call myself an alum. I am very confident that they will hoist the MWC trophy in 2012.
I don’t think the game ever leaves our lives, even after our play between the lines comes to an end. During fungo work over the weekend, I was reminded of what it was that made me a valuable member of the Pioneer team and even before. My hands in the infield allowed me to stay on the field well beyond what my bat could justify, and picking the ball up was always something I could do pretty well. In watching Robbie and Arlo take cuts, I was reminded of just how well they swung the bat. Robbie got more out of his set of tools than anyone I’ve ever known and continues to do so in London today. Mike may not even be done improving. His arm has held up better than any of the rest of the other alums’, and I think his bat has a little more lift in it than it used to, although it’s a little tough to recall since I had not seen him take a cut in three years. It is my belief that if not for baseball and constantly trying to grip four-seams as quickly as possible that my hands could not adequately control a dental handpiece or forceps. Labor Day weekend reminded me of that, but this time it likely was dentistry that had kept my hands in decent shape for groundball work instead of vice versa.
My experience at Grinnell is something I am very proud of, but I don’t think I understood how proud until I returned after some time away. Seeing the new yard and the new athletic center as well as the current crop of players reinforced in me the positive direction in which the program is headed. I feel very proud when Coach Hollibaugh suggests that Rob, Mike, and I helped begin the program’s climb, even though it is my belief that Kevin Byrne essentially taught us how to be captains. As we’ve moved into our own lives independent of one another, this weekend, more so than perhaps anything else, reminded me that we are not and will never be fully independent of our teammates. My time at Grinnell particularly shapes what I do on a daily basis, and I could not be prouder of the friendships I made while I was there and the time I spent as a Pioneer. I would like to thank all of my fellow baseball alums for making Labor Day weekend as meaningful as it was for me. Marsh, special thanks to you for helping organize it.