Saturday, August 9, 2014

My retirement from Cricket.

It’s time.

I need surgery on my wrist (I’m going to see the doctor August 25th), but that is the least of it.  My body aches, my priorities have changed…and it’s time to retire from cricket.  To that point, I want to take the time to that those who have made my 17 years involved in the sport enjoyable.

In 1995, I was at the Damascus French Film Festival with an Australian friend of mine when I met an English college student studying Arabic.  We became fast friends, and I learned cricket through him.  When Freethy spoke about cricket during our time in Syria, he was filled with emotion and passion, and it would have been hard for anyone to not get excited about the sport listening to him.  When we weren’t playing rugby, we were down at Medina Al-Shabab playing pickup cricket games.  My first game didn’t go well – golden duck, and the first ball I bowled was hit for 6. 

When I returned to the States, I practiced for a local rugby team, but my heart wasn’t in it.  It was mostly Americans, and definitely boring.  One night after practice, I picked up The Philadelphia Inquirer and there, in the sports section, was a three-page article about cricket in the area.  I began making some calls to the clubs mentioned.  All of them suggested I reach out to an Englishman named Alfred Reeves.  When I spoke to him on the phone, he asked if I were a native American, and what would I possibly want with cricket.  He then mocked me for having “that baseball thingy” in my arm from playing baseball – I know now he meant a crooked elbow, but at the time I was only faintly amused by his comments.  When I met him a few weeks later, he and his wife Betty warmly welcomed me, and for the years I remained with the BOCC, I (as many other members would say as well) was treated as an extended member of his family.  Thank you for everything Alfred.

In those years of the BOCC, there was room for enthusiasts, no just proper cricket players, and during practice a number of club members looked after me and helped me to become a tennis player who swung a mean backhand while batting.  To al those that took me under their wing, I thank you.  A few that deserve mention:

·      Bruce Gottschalk, who coached (or rather, lambasted) me every time I bowled down leg side.  “What the fuck are you doing?” he’d ask me in his South African accent.  “Bowl it at the fucking off stump!”  Needless to say, the next one would be further down leg.
·      John Hoyes, a club member who treated as an equal, drove like a maniac, and invited me back to his house after a big night at the Wild Onion…only to be sent packing after we put away the better part of a case of Guinness because he had a league game the following day…and I said there was no way I’d be able to play following that night’s drinking. 
·      David Caldwell, who coached me and built up my confidence on the pitch.  One day at practice in 2001, he turned to me and said, “I think we should organize a tour to England next year.  What do you think?”  I loved the idea.  “Good.  You can be treasurer.”  The BOCC tour to England in 2002 was one of the great highlights of my career.
·      Chris Lawrence, who coached me and captained many of those games early in my career, thank you.  I’ll never forget our tour to Toronto in 1999 when you asked me to bowl.  It was intimidating:  on a proper ground, facing a proper team, and the BOCC needing me to complete my 7 overs (needless to say, we were a little short of bowling on that tour).  As I ran into bowl, I completely forgot how to deliver a ball…and I wound up to pitch it like a baseball.  The batsman dropped his bat and ran towards leg umpire.  It was a high rising fast(?)ball, which almost reached the boundary before bouncing.  I went 6 straight balls before I was finally able to gain my senses.  Needless to say, I didn’t complete my 7 overs.  Chris, I apologize.
·      Tahir Maqsood, a BOCC member who has more love and passion for the club and its spirit than anyone I know.  Tahir, I always loved stopping at the border on the way to Toronto and picking up some fantastic scotch…then having to stop on the way home as well since we had finished the bottle.  Thanks for everything.
·      Mike Thomas, who opened up his home and ears to listen to my problems.  I stayed with Mike when I first confronted my mother in 2002, 24 years after she walked out of my life.  The first meeting didn’t go well, and Mike had to hear me talk about it and the struggles I had with trust and relationships.

Thank you.

In 1999, I was traveling in Europe with a friend, and I was invited to meet up with a team of cricketers in Bloemendaal.  Freethy was playing for the Free Foresters, and it was then that I met many of his Cambridge mates:  Nutter, Jonesy, Chuts, Dr. Arnie among others.  During that tour, I truly learned what “touring” was…and in the subsequent years, the Free Foresters visited Philadelphia twice.  In 2001, I played with the Foresters in Holland again (or, rather, sort of – many of the games were cancelled and we responded by going to Amsterdam rather than playing sport.  On the last day of tour, he commented that we looked more like Bosnian refugees than cricketers…and to this day, I couldn’t think of a more a propos metaphor to describe that week).  That winter, I was nominated to become a member of the Free Foresters, the highest honor I have ever received. 

·      Freethy, thanks for the introduction to a great group of university friends, who welcomed the Yank and treated me as one of their own.
·      Nutter – thank you.  I won’t be specific, but thank you.
·      Chuts – thank you for giving me your F.F. jacket and hat at Brownie’s one night, saying, “Here – you need to this more than I do.  I have my accent.”
·      Jonesy, who played wingman that night, and as a result missed playing the following day.

Thank you.

In 2008, I was invited by David Caldwell to come join him in Sydney to get away from it all – I had gone through a difficult patch in life, and I wanted to run and hide…and there is no place further on the Earth than Sydney, Australia.  Over the first few weeks, I did a lot of writing, and I spent a bit of time with he and his boys in the batting cages at Balmoral Beach.  DC and I signed up for the Over 40 Mosman Cricket Club team.  Not 40 Overs, mind you, but Over 40 – I raged at the thought of being that much closer to old.  But cricket was a crutch to me at that time; something that comforted me while the rest of my life swirled out of control.  I clung to it like a life vest after fleeing a sinking ship.  One day, while hanging around the cages again, a group of rag-tag “athletes” rolled up and began a session in the nets.  “Give me the ball.”  I told Dave, and wandered over and asked if I could bowl a few.  I did, and I gave them my e-mail address.  A few days later, I met them practice again.  The practice may have lasted but an hour; the next three hours were spent at the BV Hotel, drinking and laughing.  When I got back to DC’s place that evening, I told him:  “Forget Mosman – we’re playing for Tramway.”

Our first game was against Pigs (both the team name, and their attitude).  It was my true introduction to two-day cricket, and Australian sledging.  Our skipper Richard Hindle asked if I minded going in at 3.  I’m more comfortable between 4 and 6.” I told him.  You can either go in at 3 or go in at 10 – your choice.”  I went in at 3, and was a part of a great win against some tough opposition.  The rest of the season was fantastic.  I can truly say that I’ve never met a closer team/group of friends/brothers in my life.  By the end of my stay in Australia, we were hanging out 5 days a week, and when my wife Sandi and I returned three years later, everyone gotten together again and made her feel welcome.  Of all my friends, Sandi has said she loves Tramway the most. 

·      Andrew Price – thanks for opening up your apartment and allowing me to be a roommate for a few months.  I’m sure I put a dent in your social life, though “Frank” never minded when I cleaned up the remnants of a light night McDonald’s run off his chest and sofa.
·      Grats – thanks for letting me be a roommate as well. It seems like we’ve ended up landing on our feet after some trials and tribulations.  I wish you nothing but the best going forward.  I hope our families catch up sometime in the future, before we’re senile.
·      Hindle – thanks for the opportunity.
·      Buff – thanks for opening your home to Sandi and I while we visited Sydney, and made Australia be everything Sandi thought it might be.  I can only someday hope to repay the hospitality.
·      Red Bull – I was amazed how well you played after a hard night…and I think you surprised yourself as well, seeing that you went at it even harder the following weekend to see if you could do it again.
·      The rest of Tramway – while we may not play cricket any longer, may the spirit live on.

Thank you.

Finally, over the last two years I’ve played for Voorhees/Smart Choice Philadelphia.  What I learned about cricket playing for you was that cricket here in America is more than a sport – it’s a brotherhood.  We all know each other here…I was amazed when I showed the first time for practice that I knew a bunch of guys on the team, and I welcomed more than I could have ever hoped.  Thank you for everything.

There are so many people I haven’t mentioned, and I apologize.  Thanks for the competition, the camaraderie, the memories and the stories I can (and can’t) share.  Thanks and good luck to all.