Baseball for the ages, ageless
EWU’s Kerry Pease, former Eagles, are part of Cheney Tigers’ senior league team
Eastern Washington University’s Kerry Pease keeps his longtime baseball fires stoked by playing for the Cheney Tigers adult league team with other former Eagles.
Kerry Pease thought his baseball career ended nearly 40 years ago when in 1976 he suffered a painful broken finger as a senior at Sunnyside High School.
Fast forward to 2013 and Pease, the Associate Director of Eastern Washington University’s Sports and Recreation Center, is still at it as a member of the Cheney Tigers men’s senior baseball team that plays in the Inland Northwest Men’s Baseball League.
And yes, there’s still pain, some tendonitis, but it’s more self-inflicted for the 55-year-old who just can’t seem to shake the sport out of his system.
“At my age there’s multiple things that bother me at this point,” Pease said. “As long as they’re just a bother and not bad enough to shut me down, I can deal with that.”
So Pease, along with a handful of others with ties to EWU’s baseball past, continue to live the diamond dreams on their 35-and-over team.
There are teams across the U.S. that are sanctioned by the Men’s Senior Baseball League, or the Roy Hobbs Baseball League. “To me they’re very similar to AAU basketball except they cater to baseball and gentlemen that are older,” Pease explained.
There are hundreds of teams around the country that participate in leagues and then go on to regional and national competition.
There’s also an 18 and over group called the Men’s Adult Baseball League. “They’re not ready for that senior moniker yet,” Pease said. There are five teams playing over-35 and eight in the younger division.
Pease is the only Cheney resident on the Tigers, but he’s joined by former Eastern players, Jim Ewing, Shawn Mackin and Jim Straw. “(Ewing and Mackin) played here when it was a varsity sport,” Pease said. In 1991 Eastern’s baseball program fell victim to budget cuts associated with the implementation of Title IX, which equalized the financial pie between men’s and women’s sports.
Mike Lee is another teammate who’s maybe best known because of his father, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, formerly of the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos.
“Honestly, these four guys have more ability in their little pinky then I have in my whole body,” Pease wrote in an email.
While Pease is quick to downplay his abilities, there’s no ignoring his Eastern baseball history. Amazingly, he says, it spans parts of five decades. “I am happy to say I have the distinction of pitching for Eastern in the 70s and 80s with the varsity program, and 90s, 2000s with the club team,” Pease said. “In 2011 the club guys let the old man pitch one more time in a non-league game against Idaho for two shutout innings.”
However, had it not been for Pease wearing his high school jersey around campus none of it might have happened. As a college freshman, he thought his only way to play was being recruited. But he got invited to play fall baseball. Pease talked with then EWU coach Ed Chissus who also encouraged him to come out.
“I pitched in a couple of games and I remember still – he had a chew in his mouth – ‘kid, why don’t you come on out, I think we could use you,’” Pease recalled Chissus saying.
That next spring Pease earned his roster spot in 1977.
The following season, one of the Eagles’ games versus Eastern Oregon University was quite memorable. It would have been like any other game, except for the location, Pease explained.
“We played inside the Washington State Penitentiary,” Pease said. “From what I understand we were the last group to go in there and do something like that.” It was a regulation baseball field, too.
It was a phenomenal experience, he said. “(It was) a little bit scary because we weren’t really separated from the inmates.”
“I remember being a greenhorn, naive kid and there are two ladies walking towards the game,” Pease said. “I said ‘guys, what are those ladies doing in here?” His teammates started laughing as they informed Pease that they were guys dressed as women.
And what would a prison visit be without a crime being committed? “I got my hat stolen,” Pease said, but he got a win.
“Most of us are just community guys,” he said. “We’ve got a (school) principal on our team, we’ve got some guys that played college ball, and maybe even played some professional ball.”
And some, Pease said, never even played on their high school team. For whatever reason, be it lack of support at home, work commitments or whatever, they’ve turned out. “And they’re pretty talented athletes, they’re pretty darn good,” Pease said.
“It helps keep us younger, it’s motivation to stay in some type of fitness,” Pease said of still lacing up the cleats. “And doing thing like that with guys, your buddies, helps keep you young.”
Playoffs are local and then you can go onto nationals, usually joining an existing team from southern latitudes in October. National tournaments generally take place in Florida or Arizona at various Major League Baseball spring training facilities.
(Further information on the Inland Northwest Men’s Baseball League can be found at: http://www.playhardball.org.)
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.