Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL


April 24, 2014

Czachorski: My own field of dreams

EFFINGHAM — A few weeks ago, I sat behind the backstop at Evergreen Park, watching St. Anthony and South Central play baseball and taking photos when I overheard a conversation.

It was a few seven- or eight-year-old kids, just talking about the game in front of them, nearly gushing over some of their favorite players on St. Anthony.

The conversation brought a smile to my face, as you could just tell how excited they were to be there, be watching their team and be watching baseball.

That momentary exchange sounded like a group of kids in love, however briefly, with the game of baseball. For me, while I'm known around here as a diehard Cubs fan, the team that made me fall in love for good was the West Michigan Whitecaps.

That name doesn't mean a lick to about 99 percent of you, and I'd be surprised if most people around here have heard of them.

One reason people might is because Effingham alum Chad Green currently pitches for them, and when I went back home this weekend for Easter, I made it a point to try and set something up with the team and interview him. (Author's note: If my family resided in Tulsa, Omaha, Surprise, Ariz. or any other place an Effingham area player is playing professionally, I would have done the same.)

That joy I described up there -- I don't feel that much anymore. Insert your jokes about the Cubs never winning here.

It's not because I love the game less, it's because I've watched more of it and played more of it than I ever thought I would as a six-year-old when the Whitecaps came to my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1994.

I had a ton of great moments there, like when I threw out the first pitch on my birthday (after an argument with my parents this weekend, which birthday it was is under dispute), or when my dad and I saw Heath Schesser hit a game-winning home run to clinch the 1998 Midwest League championship.

But now, I watch the game differently, looking at it differently and getting different things out of it. When I was a kid, baseball was everything. Now, I have my relationships, my family, and my work. My job is where I experience my most childlike joys when I feel I've done well.

So worlds collided for me Monday when I was assigned a press pass to the team I've been watching for 20 years over hundreds of games, in a stadium which nearly burned to the ground this winter and may have brought a tear to my eye when I saw the video.

It was just cool. So cool. I geeked out and the smile keeps coming back to me when I think about it. I watched batting practice from the press box, then talked to Chad when the Whitecaps finished up.

He seemed like he thought the whole thing was pretty cool as well, the whole playing professional baseball thing, not talking to me. And for good reason, because in the brief 16 months I've known Chad, 90 percent of our conversations have been about his dreams of playing pro ball.

It's a feeling I want to bottle up and keep for a while, but I know it was brief and a matter of consequences and coincidence.

But it reminded me how I fell in love with both the game and my profession. And if I need a hint about it, I'll just try to be reminded by the kids I see and hear at our local ballparks.  


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     Newton Post 20 almost pulled another comeback off against the Orient Miners, cutting a 5-1 deficit to 5-4 midway through Monday night’s game.
    But Newton’s Junior Legion Fifth Division tournament run came to an end, as Orient rattled off nine runs in the sixth inning and clinched a spot in the state tournament with a 14-4 win.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • 7-28NewtonSundaygame2.JPG Comeback win keeps Post 20 alive in 10-7 win

    Newton Post 120 didn’t let a 4-1 deficit get to them against Highland Post 439, using a patient approach in the face of an elimination game.
    Three bases-loaded walks in the bottom of the third tied the game at 4-4, and with the bases loaded down 5-4 in the fourth, Tim Weber broke the game open with a two-run double and an error.
    By the time the dust settled, Newton led 10-5 heading to the sixth inning and would hold on to a 10-7 win to keep its season alive.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-28NewtonSundaygame1.JPG Salem deals Newton first divisional loss

    Mitch Bierman started off Newton Post 20’s game against Salem Post 128 with a bang Sunday afternoon, hitting a leadoff triple and scoring on the next batter.
    Post 20’s offense didn’t follow his lead from there, as Newton had just three more hits and no runs, and falling in a Junior Legion Fifth Division winner’s bracket game to Salem 12-1 in seven innings.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0725.JPG Newton Post 20 bests Belleville Post 58 in opener 6-1
    After a 9-3 loss to Breese Post 252 Gray Monday night, Newton Post 20 coach John Grunloh predicted the five-day break until the Junior Legion Fifth Division tournament would be good for his players, especially his pitchers. 
    Mitch Jansen proved his coach right, spinning a gem in Newton's opener Saturday afternoon as Post 20 made short work of Belleville Post 58 6-1. 

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • daughertyfootball.jpg Hearts to prep with Mattoon 7-on-7

    Two weeks ago, Effingham was supposed to start shaking off the rust with a 7-on-7 football tournament in Mattoon. Naturally, it rained and was canceled.
    So Saturday, the Flaming Hearts will head up to Mattoon and play their first 7-on-7 event of the season, taking part in an 10- team field with Mattoon, Rochester, Robinson, Marshall, Cahokia and Pleasant Plains from Illinois, with Terre Haute North and Northview coming from Indiana. Rochester is bringing two squads.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mammoser3.jpg Newton Post 20 plays Belleville Saturday

    With the District 23 tournament behind them, Newton Post 20 now knows its fate for the Fifth Division Junior Legion tournament this weekend in Bethalto.
    Newton will play Belleville Post 58 at 2:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Bethalto, in the third game of six on the day.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bateman.jpg Effingham's season comes to a close with 11-1 loss to Salem

    A 1-0 lead for Effingham Post 120 rapidly evaporated, and the post’s Junior Legion season came to an end with a 11-1 loss in five innings to Salem Post 128 Tuesday night.
    The game was for the final spot of District 23 in the divisional tournament, with Newton Post 20 and Breese Post 252 Gray punching their tickets by winning their district divisions.

    July 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bierman.jpg Newton Post 20 falls short against Breese Gray 9-3

    While the District 23 title ultimately exceeded Newton Post 20’s grasp, their season will continue in Bethalto.
    Newton took on Breese Post 252 Gray for the Junior Legion District 23 title as the two division winners, but Breese’s bats proved too much for Newton in an 9-3 loss for Post 20.
    “The innings where they put some runs on us, we gave them some extra outs,” said Newton coach John Grunloh. “You’ve got to make the plays when you play better teams.”

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Barnes3.jpg Barnes' one-hitter boosts Post 120; Effingham beats Dieterich 1-0

    Ryan Barnes hasn’t seen a lot of time with Effingham Post 120’s junior legion team this season, but he showed up in a big way Monday night in a 1-0 win over Dieterich Post 628.
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    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Mammoser2.jpg Newton Post 20 tops Effingham Post 120 7-5 late

    Most of the games at the Junior Legion District 23 tournament have seen pitching take control, but the pitchers in Sunday night's Effingham Post 120/Newton Post 20 game faced an uphill battle.
    While Brock Mammoser started the game for Post 20 on the hill and struggled, he came through with the biggest hit in the game, putting Newton up for good in a 7-5 win over Effingham.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

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