We can’t play pickup baseball on the Terps’ field?

Back in the day, at Shipley Field. (From 1979 Maryland yearbook "Terrapin")

Back in the day, at Shipley Field. (From 1979 Maryland yearbook “Terrapin”)

Fresh to the University of Maryland campus, the three transfer students ran around the baseball field like the little boys we were just a few short years prior.

We tested our throwing arms from shortstop to first base, and stood at home plate and did that little self-toss and crack-the-bat move to try to whack the ball over the outfield fence. We took turns pitching from the mound and catching behind the plate. I’m pretty sure we ran the bases for the sheer thrill of rounding first and digging to second and imagining beating the throw in from right field as we slid into where we figured the second base bag would be.

Three juniors on an August day, New York Staters all, baseball lovers, brand new Terrapins getting the feel of College Park, some three or four miles from our new apartment in the big and roach-infested complex in Adelphi, Md., frisky before our first classes even started.

Aggo, Twenty and I suddenly saw a man leaning against the field’s fence.

Hell, it wasn’t a field. It was a small and inviting on-campus stadium, the green, green grass of the home Terrapins.

And that probably wasn’t just any old man. He sort of looked like a coach, wise, belongs right in that spot, wearing a baseball hat with an “M” on it.

He asked us if we were having fun. He was smiling.

Phew.

Sure, we said.

He asked us if we were new students.

How’d he know?

He said Shipley Field wasn’t open for just any old baseball any old time for any old student.

He said the Maryland baseball team played its home games there, and all students were always invited to drop in to root for the home team.

He said there were open tryouts for walk-ons every year, if we thought we were good enough.

Many classmates at Maryland, one bad haircut in 1979.

Many classmates at Maryland, one bad haircut in 1979.

Later on, what with my Phys Ed minor to go with my Journalism major — I oh-so-badly wanted to be a sportswriter — I had Elton “Jack” Jackson, the University of Maryland baseball coach, as my teacher for a class plainly enough titled “Coaching Baseball.” Yes, it was taught by the man who was the head coach of a varsity sport at an Atlantic Coast Conference college from 1961 to 1990, the very coach, in fact, who took over guiding the Terrapins’ baseball team from H. Burton Shipley, for whom the on-campus stadium is named. No wonder he would show up to kindly inform new students they shouldn’t be throwing the ball around inside that important plot of land.

The memory came back during the last two weeks as my Terps’ baseball team has, quite surprisingly, hung on as the last squad to represent Maryland as part of the ACC. I thought it would be one of the lacrosse teams that would hold the ACC banner aloft before this summer switch to the Big Ten. Well, yes, the Terp men did make the lacrosse Final Four, and the Terp women did even better, beating Syracuse to win the lacrosse national title.

But after that on the diamond, Maryland won the ACC Tournament down in Greensboro, N.C. And that earned the Terps their first berth into the NCAA baseball tournament since 1971. That year, the Terps, coached by Jack Jackson, were 11-4 in the ACC and 15-10 overall.

Last weekend, the Terps won three straight games in the sub-regionals in South Carolina, advancing to this weekend’s best-of-three in Charlottesville against ACC rival Virginia in the round that’s dubbed the Super Regionals. The winner goes to the College World Series. That would be sweet for Coach John Szefc and his squad. The Terps are one of the hottest teams in college baseball. The ACC record was just 15-14, but they are 14-2 since the calendar flipped to May, and the overall record is 39-21.

No, the Terps that I used to root on as a student in Shipley Field were not this good, but I did have fun following along.

Some of them were in my Coaching Baseball class. By then, Jack Jackson used to throw me an extra arched eyebrow because he knew how badly I wanted to be a sportswriter, and likely followed my stories in the campus daily, the Diamondback, on men’s soccer, women’s basketball and men’s lacrosse, my three beats, one each for the three collegiate sports seasons.

Jeff Schaefer got a baseball card to mark his spot as a major leaguer forever.

Jeff Schaefer got a baseball card to mark his spot as a major leaguer forever.

I ended up becoming friends with Jack Jackson’s shortstop, a fiery Long Island kid by the name of Jeff Schaefer. Jeff was from Patchogue, just a couple towns away from where I grew up in Stony Brook, and when he heard that I was a Ward Melville High School grad, we clicked.

We liked talking about baseball strategy, perfect for that class, and about the New York Mets, perfect for that class, too.

I was thrilled that Jeff’s persistent effort and strategic ways continued to pay off on the baseball diamond following his Maryland career.

He played in the minor leagues, and I became the assistant sports editor of the daily in Syracuse, then home of the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

One game Schaefer was on the opposing team.

I went down by the opposing dugout and called his name.

He poked his head out and gave me the big Jeff smile, and we caught up as quickly as we could in a hurried moment.

In 1989, Schaefer was called up by the Chicago White Sox, and played four games at second base.

I was watching a game on TV, against the Yankees, and a beanball led to one of those benches-clearing things. And there I saw rookie Jeff Schaefer wading right into the skirmish, my friend from Terp days, still determined to get in his licks.

His career also included parts of major-league seasons with the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, and his baseball almanac line reads five seasons, 225 games played and a batting average of .203. Nobody ever told him to get off the field. He belonged.

(Photo from umterps.com)

(Photo from umterps.com)

There have been other Terps who’ve gone on to play in the major leagues.

In fact, one of my all-time favorite New York Mets, Ron Swoboda of the 1969 World Series champion Amazin’s, was a Maryland Terrapin for a season or two before leaving college to try professional baseball.

Pitcher Eric Milton was a Terrapin, and lasted a decade in the bigs, most notably for the Minnesota Twins and Cincinnati Reds.

Brett Cecil is still in the major leagues, pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays.

A Terp punter whom I covered in high school while working for the Prince George’s (Md.) Journal, Alan Sadler, went back to pitching after his Maryland years, and his career in the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization brought him through the Syracuse Chiefs’ stadium for a hello, too, but he never got above those Triple-A seasons with Denver.

Maybe there will be others to rise to the majors from this year’s Terp squad, which is still playing, long past when anybody thought they would.

Here’s the source for Jeff Schaefer’s pboto.

Here’s the source for the Maryland 2014 team photo.

Have you ever played a pick-up sports game on a field where you weren’t supposed to be? Were you friends with somebody who went on to play in the major leagues? Have you ever watched a college baseball game?

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45 thoughts on “We can’t play pickup baseball on the Terps’ field?

  1. Ahhh, baseball memories. Nothing like ’em, and you have fine ones to savor despite getting the heave-ho from the Stadium that day. And Ron Swoboda! I went back to my 12-year-old self seeing that name. Your tale reminded me of the day I took my 3 boys to The Ohio State University when they were high school/middle school age and I took them onto the field in Ohio Stadium. The gate near the Jesse Owens sculpture garden out front was wide open, so we proceeded to toss a Frisbee on the field inside that hallowed stadium. I was in nostalgic hog heaven, as were the boys. Until … the voice over the PA from somewhere up above (Woody?) … “Get off the field …. get off the field NOW!” But hey, we got our cup of coffee out there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great hallowed field story, Jim! Woody from above!

      The best thing about the Maryland facilities then was that they were always unlocked and open to the students. Byrd Stadium, the football stadium, with its aluminum bleachers, was the sun-tanning spot come May. Cole Field House, the basketball arena, was used as a place to hang out between classes in the winter because it was mid-campus and the seats were comfortable. Odd but true.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. what an ode to your beloved terps and to the world of baseball. and to stunning facial hair. i wish them a continued good run for the rest of the season. this post really had it all. i dated a bartender when i was a waitress ,who was a major league catcher for a short time, who blew out his knee, then played south american ball for a bit after. kind of a sam malone character, but he never really got over it. i always have wanted to run the bases at the old tiger stadium , something on my list )

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    • Stunning facial hair. I like that description, Beth. Thank you for that one! A bartender who was a major leaguer who blew out his knee. A Sam Malone type. That must have been an interesting workplace relationship, my friend. And the thought of running the bases at the old Tiger Stadium is pretty darn cool. They should open up all old major league stadium for longtime fans day and let us all run the bases, at our own risk, of course!

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      • quite an adventure, he had a deep voice, a great laugh, facial hair, and a larger than life presence. but he just had a hard time living life outside of the world of baseball. good guy though. if i saw him today i know we would give each other a huge hug and laugh together. ) and i agree about the stadiums –

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  3. This was extremely entertaining to read, Mark. I do like the nicknames your friends have, by the way. What are some of your nicknames?

    I lived in Omaha for seven years and truly enjoyed being there when it was time for the college world series. I have no problem watching 5 yr olds or 75 yr olds play baseball. I just love the game. My favorite was driving up to A&M last spring to watch K-State play against the TX, Aggies. Two similar types of colleges head to head.

    You make a fine sports journalist.

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  4. You have the most amazing memory. I didn’t even remember that incident until I read this. Pretty funny that we were that naive. But how about them Terps!? Love to see them in the College World Series.

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    • Little moments that we shared in our lives, Twenty, have managed to become big memories for me.

      A few weeks ago, I included in one of my stories here an anecdote about your wonderful wife Wowie allowing me the mesmerizing, magical moment of staring up at her magnificent horse Proofreader in the TenEyck barn.

      And, yes, if our Terps beat the ‘Hoos two of three starting today, it’s on to Omaha, a wonderful parting shot to the litigious ACC.

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  5. This had a lot of memories that came out of my mind. I could hardly focus on your own story! I am so glad to know more about your college days and the choices that you made along the way in life. Wishing you a great season of teams’ that you love winning! Fun days, as someone in the stands, cheering the teams you love to victory!

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  6. What a great story! I think you would be pleased to hear that Coach Jackson is still going strong!! I took over a small high school baseball program 3 years ago. A friend had mentioned to me who Coach “Jack” was & that he spent his summers fishing on Black Lake just a few miles away from where we play our home games @ Maxon Field in Onaway, MI. I sought him out & after some convincing, mostly to his sweet wife, talked him into helping out with the team. After our 2nd season, we were once again hanging out own banners from our rafters in our high school gymnasium. We had won our Conference & District titles that year, the first ones in over a decade! At 87 years young, Coach Jack is still inspiring young men to become the best men they can be

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    • You have made me very, very happy today with this story about Coach Jack Jackson, Michael Crull. I am so glad you found my piece and took the time to write to me. If you speak to Coach again, please tell him that one of his Terrapin students from 1977 to 1979 still remembers him fondly enough to include him in a blog post 36 years later. Congratulations on your Conference and District titles and allegiance to molding young men to be great.

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  7. I absolutely will. I spoke with him this morning and wish I had read this article beforehand. He often times speaks fondly of former players and students that have stayed in touch over the years. I’ll also be sure to send him a link to this site…he’ll appreciate reading it.

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  8. Fantastic! I missed this last year because I was traveling so I’m so glad that you linked to it now. I’m just crazy about baseball and baseball connections 😀

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    • I was baseball crazy even back in my college days, obviously, Angie McFly. After I wrote that last year, a coach from Ohio commented (it’s on here above) that the Maryland coach, almost 90, was helping him with his high school squad, and he showed him this story. I was so pleased that Mr. Jack Jackson saw it and was pleased to be remembered by me in this way. 🙂 Happy dance.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have tears in my eyes and I freely admit that to you, Mark! This is good stuff….great stuff! So cool that you received this feedback. You just never know when your written word will connect in a meaningful way with another. Good for you!

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