It may not be perfect, but I did it.
Oh, LAWD, I think I did.
Which, funny enough, really could be a reference to the year I spent being a general manager of this crazy-ass baseball team called the Watertown Bucks. It was all glued together with chewed up bubble gum picked up from a sidewalk on a sunny summer's day. A train wobbling down the tracks from the second the locomotive started puffing away from the station.
Jesus, was that real life?
Still, this extended deep sigh of relief I am huffing right now is because I finally finished the book that's devoted to my crazy year in indie baseball.
It was just one season, and we were as small time as small gets. But I'm pretty sure if it happened to someone else, I would want to read about the creation of the Watertown Bucks and about how two random guys somehow created a freaking league in the matter of days.
Seriously, I still can't believe what it took for us to get to opening day, to get to each game day and to get to that the championship game. Just the same, I can't believe I wrote an entire book.Thousands of words hopefully crafted into something worthy your attention. (That's my hope, anyway.)
And as someone who has written for this wonderful Website for the last four-plus years, I figured I would debut it here. Sean has allowed me to kind of do my own thing from time to time, so why not once more? The boss has graciously allowed me to promote the book a little, so I've included a portion of the prologue below.
What you're about to read, and maybe even the entire work, may have some errors and possibly even look a litle off in spots on your Kindle or iPad (it is self-published). Honestly, it's raw, it's real. And above all, dagnabit, I wrote a book.
(And if you are so inclined, please download my book: The Bucks Started and Stopped Here: A wild ride inside the world of independent professional baseball. It's available via Amazon.com for $2.99 and all proceeds go to charity: me.)
"Matt, Lyndon needs to speak with you right now."
Being summoned was nothing new to me by that point in the summer of 2015. At any point, morning, noon, or night, I could be texted, called, or yelled at by anyone needing something. It just came with the territory. Actually, it just came with the job. The position of general manager and "league executive" is filled with never-ending burning fires to put out. And while plenty of positions in the world of employment are seemingly endless, there’s something uniquely different when it comes to working in the world of indie baseball. There was plenty unique when it came to my Watertown Bucks and the North Country Baseball League in 2015.
Like that one night back in July when I was sitting in the public address box overlooking third base at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds in Watertown, NY. For that summer of ’15, the Fairgrounds, which previously housed affiliates of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians, was now home to the mighty Bucks. The newest tenants were in the middle of another game and I was taking something of a breather, chilling out with our PA guy for a few seconds. It was about the seventh inning, right when my jobs wind down for the night and, to get away, I often perched myself in the press box, far away from the madness of ticket taking, on-field games for fans, and the usual drama of putting on a baseball game. But taking something of a breather wasn’t going to happen that night. In fact, at about quarter after nine, my workday was really just beginning to get interesting. And that’s saying something.
All I kept thinking was that Lyndon, our team’s manager at the time, wanted to speak to me because there was an injury, or maybe someone’s pants ripped. Maybe our starting pitcher needed ice? That was common place: running across the street in the middle of a game to the store to buy a bag of 99-cent ice for a sore arm. But as I rounded through the corridor, past the concession stands and our team/league office, I sensed there was something more urgent going on. I mean, while I was typically being tugged this way and that way during games, it never had a "rush to get here" quality to it in the past, which is what I was feeling as I saw Lyndon standing on the top step of the dugout, waiting for my arrival.
"There is a guy with a rooster over there near our bullpen. The guy let the rooster out of its cage. The rooster ran around for a bit and is now in our fucking bullpen. The guy is literally doing circles trying to catch that fucking rooster."
It wasn’t a joke. A guy really did bring in a rooster. The rooster really did get out. And the rooster’s owner apparently really did run around trying to catch it. By the time I got down there, though, the poultry problem was more or less solved. But still, a rooster? At a baseball game? The fans standing watching the game down near the bullpen, this little area of grass where we put a few picnic tables, were all bent over laughing. It had this feel of a Bill Veeck stunt to it. You’ll see some strange sights at Major League games across the country, but you’ll likely never see a bird being chased by a wacko in a team’s bullpen during a game. As an ode to the great Veek, I probably should have promoted the whole thing, built up the publicity and signed the rooster to a one-day contract. I’m positive the thing would take the record for "shortest batter" in the history of baseball. I didn’t have time to give the rooster a tryout because its "owner" was leaving and, recognizing a person you want to avoid, I didn’t want to stop his progress out of the park. As you can probably figure out, someone who brings a frigging rooster to watch baseball is not exactly someone you want to spend too much time with. I should also point out that he had been at our stadium just about all day. This guy showed up a good eight hours before first pitch—camping out in the bed of his truck, with several mounted deer heads cascading the ground near him. What’s that? Oh, the "dear head" thing threw you off a bit? Yeah, me too.
I remember leaving my office some time mid-morning that day, needing to stretch, I would often pace the outfield of the Fairgrounds, a stress-relieving exercise. That particular day I saw someone lying out in a pool-side chair with a dog at his feet and multiple mounted deer-heads on plaques by the dog. I should have figured the deer heads were because our team was called "Bucks," but my honest-to-God thought was, Hmm, he must work for the fair and is just waiting to set up his trailer for the week. The Jefferson County Fair was starting in a couple of days and the prep work was well under way. The entire property, our parking lot and the rest of the grounds in the massive complex are overrun by the event each and every July. It’s the oldest continuously running fair in the country and it really has carte blanche when it comes to the Fairgrounds. So I figured the guy was just there for a bit and would eventually get settled in at or near his Ferris wheel or dunk tank or cotton candy shack.
Turned out he had nothing to do with the weeks-long fair. Instead, he was just a self-proclaimed "big Bucks fan," and he couldn’t wait for the game to start that night. I found that after asking a fair official if they could "move one of their guys" away from our main gate. "He’s not one of our guys," I was told in a fairly dismissive manner. Okay then, I’ll ask him to move his pickup truck, lawn chair, dog, and his fucking mounted deer heads myself then. There was a moment for the book I was daydreaming about writing, chronicling my days in the strangest and most hodgepodge minor league. I knew then, as I was trying to explain to the guy that he couldn’t campout in our parking lot all day, that if I ever did write a book, this guy was going to be featured in some way...