A Gained Reputation………………….#183 (80’s)

Robert – not a starter but a finisher

.  The little league baseball season having arrived,  Robert endorsing it with his first year of participation,  the baseball contingent being made up of fourth and fifth grade students, many of the  fourth graders novice at their first experience of fastpitch hardball.  Keith Rathgeber being the coach,  the youths all wearing K signature baseball caps,  and green embossed tee shirts displaying the team’s name,  Kiowa.   Young Robert Willson wasn’t a starter, taking more aphorism in the wearing of the uniform than excreting an athletic presentation on the field of play.   The Kiowa team having eleven players,  finding Robert and Shawn Alexander starting the game on the bench, the two somewhat non-enthusiastic spectators, aware that eventually they would end up in the game, Keith accomplishing the little league rule,  all members of the team would participate in the game

.  Gary allocating his Saturday mornings with his son, recalling his past in what preceded Little League baseball in Oakland California in the early 1950’s, the Police League,  sponsored by the Police and the Oakland City Recreation  Department.  Gary could identify with Robert,  as a youth he addressed the same situation, a nonstarter,  except when there was a no-show, but found a way to be activated in almost every game.  Gary’s dad instructing him on the fingering used by pitchers to acquire that different pitches, but more important was the ability to get the ball in the strike zone.  Robert acquiring confidence,  developing his pitching arm,  the two spending time at the ball field, his sister Sandi a reluctant participant in returning the baseballs during a batting practice session.  Gary having his son concentrating on just throwing strikes, even a five finger release,  just get the ball over the plate.   Gary approaching Keith about Robert’s acquired ability of consistency getting the ball over the plate,  which sometimes  was the quandary of the team.  The base on balls from the opposing team accounting for their score unless the incomparable Matt Tucker was pitching.  Robert soon gained a reputation, the bases loaded from a previous pitcher missing the strike zone ,  finding he would be called upon to enter the contest and not walk another batter.

.  Medicine Lodge was hosting the final championship game, the score tied, Medicine Lodge at bat in the last inning with the bases loaded.  Matt Tucker, the workhorse starter of the team,  having exhausted his pitching arm in the grueling game,  a chant from the Kiowa residence in attendance,  “Robert,  Robert,  Robert”, all expecting Keith to call Robert, but instead of Robert, the coach addressed his son Brad, who was playing shortstop.  Gary not  recalling  Brad ever pitching,  but hadn’t attended every game and knew  Brad was stout in athletic ability.  A censure echoed from the Kiowa fans  in disappointment,  the coach’s son taking  the mound and without hesitation, promptly walked in Medicine Lodge’s  winning run.    What could have been a shining moment turned out to be a cloudy day, what could have and should have, wasn’t

.  The Kiowa Service Company was no longer under the reign of Steve Miller,  Miller having relinquished ownership, the John Deere dealership proclaiming a new name to Kiowa,  Darrel Surface.   Gary having difficulty picturing the Service Company without a Steve Miller, and was totally surprised when receiving a phone call from the new owner.  Gary noting,  Steve McCreary,  whom Miller had instilled to replace Gary as parts manager had given notice,  he and  wife Tudi,  who operated Conejo’s restaurant were moving back to Wellington.  The parts manager giving notice just weeks prior to the beginning of harvest.  Darrel having been informed of Gary’s experience, inquiring if he would be able to give some assistance thru the rigorous upcoming custom cutting season.

.  Gary having never been introduced to Darrel,  agreeing to work evening and weekends,  his  curiosity aroused about the new proprietor.  Darrel, unlike Steve Miller, was a hands-on person,  the new owner vested with experience in all aspects involving the company, working the parts counter,  mounting a ten-wheeler for a combine delivery, assisting in the shop setup contingency,  a hegemony in leadership, a man for all seasons.  Gary’ brief harvest employment was meaningful, having invested over five years of his life behind the parts counter,  and the experience of working for Darrel Surface was a pleasure



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