Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Singing on buses

We used to sing a lot in Irish baseball.

There's no sexy way to segue into this bar to say I was on a bus in the UK today and an Irish guy started singing Irish songs, and it brought back all sorts of memories. Two moments, in particular, jumped to mind.

First off was the time, way back when (summer of 2002 to be exact) when Ireland played in the European Pool B Championships in Stockholm, Sweden. We had played very well and finished the tournament in fourth place after losing the bronze medal game, by the width of a Tome Kelley almost-game-winning foul ball line drive, to Poland. After the initial emotional lull there followed a giddy high and the entire team met in the hotel lobby the evening of our last game. A legendary Irish baseball team social night was to follow, but the lead up was nostalgically enjoyable, if only for it's beautiful simplicity.

It all started with team Captain John Dillon belting out an old Irish song. He would probably admit himself he doesn't have a superb singing voice, but he makes up for that with a encyclopedic back catalog of great Irish songs and plenty of lyrical character. JD got us all started, and for hours we drank, sang and remembered a fantastic couple of weeks together.

Wonderful night that only that group of fellas and that tournament could have elicited.

Another memory on those lines. In 1996 the first Irish baseball team travelled to Hull in the UK for their first appearance in the European Baseball Championships. We had a tough start against the powerful Czech Republic, so much so that after the game we sat, silent in our team bus waiting to go back to the team hotel (well, college dormitories, actually). Former Irish team infielder, he of the golden glove and the platinum wit, Fiachra Stokes, had the cajones to literally break into song, shattering the morbid silence with a powerful, quintessential Irish song.

Nobody said 'shut up', or 'keep it down'. We all listened, a couple of guys even joined in gently. The song, cheesy as it may sound now in cynical 2008, said more than 3,456 words could have said, and helped maintain and even further a sense of unity and friendship and indeed camaraderie on that bus amongst the team.

Really, what if Fiachra hadn't chosen to sing that song? What if the team hadn't gathered around itself and won our final game against Yugoslavia? What if the Irish team had come home winless and had been disbanded in disgrace? Not a chance. Instead we came home with a win under our belt and went on to become one of the best baseball teams in Europe.

Sing, sing, sing...

You can read more about the tournament in Sweden here and the tournament in Hull here.

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Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

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