Athletics & Recreation / DU Alumni / DU History / History

Essay: A baseball band of brothers

Members of the 1981 baseball team still maintain a bond.

“Hey Spike! Whazzup Spiker?”

As I walked into my 25-year baseball reunion on a warm Friday night last summer, I was instantly transported back to a simpler time — a time free of the pressures and responsibilities that would mount in the ensuing two-plus decades. Spike was my baseball nickname and also my calling card for membership in this fraternity.

Back in the day, we were brothers. A cliché yes, but we did everything together. Our connection was built around a simple game played with a bat and a ball, but it was forged from living with each other 24/7 and openly — and sometimes emotionally — sharing our ups and downs as budding adults.

As I hugged and high-fived my way around the room, I knew this reunion thing would be more than OK. I belonged. I was once again part of this special team, if only for a couple days. I hadn’t seen a lot of these guys since we lost our last game in the 1981 playoffs. It was a sad way to end, but only one page from a wondrous 40-11 season.

Conversations were a strange mix of current and past. One minute we were rehashing an old road-trip story and the next we were telling each other about our kids’ athletic exploits. Whatever the topic, the words flowed like water.

I’ve developed some good workplace friendships through the years. Yet, for whatever reason — career concerns, a sense of vulnerability — I’ve rarely divulged intimate details about my life with the people with whom I share an office refrigerator. Yet, there I was at the reunion, easily revealing personal details with old teammates I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years. Being myself with these guys still came easily.

There’s something about the college experience — in combination with the freedom of mind and spirit that exists when you’re 18 to 22 years old — that allows us to cultivate exquisite lifelong bonds. And in our case, there was the added experience of being part of a team, having a common purpose and sharing a special collection of unique moments both on and off the field.

The reunion had all the typical activities, but the highlight of the weekend was that by the end each of us had come to the realization — like all aging athletes eventually do — that the best thing about sports is simply this: Sports connect people — often for life.

It’s a beautiful thing. And in the end, it’s that connection — not batting averages, home runs, or playoff losses — that really matters.

To a man, we left knowing the bond of that ’81 team had endured. Nevertheless, it was much harder to say goodbye at 47 than it was at 22. When we separated 25 years ago, we thought time would last forever. This time, from the perspective of nearing 50, we were painfully aware that wasn’t true.

In 1981, we said goodbye with the customary high-five and a quick “catch ‘ya later.” This time the farewells came with hugs.

And they lasted a little longer.

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