The sun was shining brightly Monday, a rarity in a year that threatens to come and go without a summer. The cumulus clouds, although trimmed with a little gray, puffed up from one horizon to the other.
My cell phone rings and it's Gorman Heimueller, one of my best friends who I hadn't spoken with an awhile. I met Gorman in 1981 when he pitched for the West Haven A's in the Eastern League. He had the proverbial "cup of coffee" with the Oakland A's in 1983.
We re-connected when he became pitching coach for the New Britain Rock Cats in 1995, a position he held through 1997. He was with the Reading Phillies when they were in New Britain, preparing to take on the Rock Cats in the 2001 EL championship series. The date was September 11. Need I say more?
Well, Gorm is the minor league pitching coordinator for the Philadelphia Phillies now and has enjoyed his time there. He and his terrific family had a great time dancing the night away in the City of Brotherly Love late last fall when the Phils disposed of Tampa Bay in the World Series.
Anyway, it was great to hear from an old friend. We talked about the high times we've had, we talked about the sad times, we philosophized about what we've learned concerning the human condition and where we're headed.
By now, I was in the parking lot at New Britain Stadium for the 12:05 p.m. game. Any tie I talk to one of my best friends, I become energized, because there's little in life more valuable to me than the dear friends with whom I share it. You tend to realize how fortunate you are to be able to enjoy the sport you love best in a tremendous atmosphere and just 15 minutes from home.
Win or lose, Rock Cats baseball continues to be one of my guiding lights after 12-plus years covering the team.
The game itself, however, tested my optimism as much as any game can. The Binghamton Mets, cellar-dwellers in the Eastern League's Northern Division, chose this idyllic moment to erupt for six runs in the first innings and five in the second. The final seven innings had little redeeming qualities for anyone except players trying to improve their statistics.
But in spite of viewing lopsided baseball, the sun gleamed and the camaraderie couldn't be better. It got even better than usual when longtime Connecticut scribe and esteemed Chester bon vivant Peter Zanardi came up to spin a few tales. You had Joe D'Ambrosio and Jeff Dooley describing the action (or lack of it) over the air waves. Scott Gray was in the house.
It was a wonderful day, or as wonderful as they get when the hometowners are losing 14-0.