High School Hardball: Family outing evokes memories of baseball past



Well, it’s a little later than I’d planned, but High School Hardball returns this week with the season more than half over.

While this blog space is usually reserved to discuss any and all things high school baseball in Gwinnett County (and I’ll get to that), I ask your indulgence for a minute in order to relay something I experienced last week.

To try to shorten a rather lengthy story, my entire immediate family — my two brothers, my sister and I — gathered in the same place at one time for the first time in roughly 10 years at my parents house in Dunwoody last week.

To celebrate my eldest brother’s birthday (the second anniversary of his 28th birthday, as he put it), we decided to do something outside, since the weather was really nice.

Unable to think of anything else, six grown people (including our father and my nephew, who was the youngest of the group by nearly two decades) wound up at Malibu Grand Prix in Norcross in the middle of a weekday afternoon with the idea to take in a round of miniature golf.

Somehow, that eventually turned into go-kart races before my brother really got a wild hair after spotting this place’s batting cages.

“Let’s take some swings,” he said.

Instantly, we were transported by Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine about 30 or so years — to a day when donning double-knit (what uniforms were made of back then, for those too young to remember) and stepping into the batter’s box were among the things we looked forward to the most each spring.

I have to admit, reality did intrude a bit by the helmets we were required to wear. Those football-like facemasks that the younger kids wear these days made it a little tougher to see the ball.

But as much a blast as it was recapturing a moment of our youths, it was nothing compared to watching our 80-year-old father, just days away from a planned abdominal surgery (which went well, by the way), grab a bat and a helmet and — after a few rusty swings — began to show the form that he had playing stickball in the streets of Brooklyn some 70 years ago.

Sure, plenty of ibuprofen was consumed by all that evening and into the next morning, but spending a day with the family was well worth it.

My point in telling this story is simple.

To today’s high school players, I know hanging around your parents or that pest of a little brother or sister isn’t always high on the list of things you want to do.

And the same goes for you parents. I know the responsibilities of the real world make things rather hectic and busy.

But every once in a while, make time to have a game of catch or take a trip to the cages or do whatever you can get everyone to agree to.

Believe me, the opportunities to do so get tougher with each passing year and you’ll be glad later that you did.

Now then, on to a couple of items of interest from around the county this week.

First, a special thumb’s up to Parkview pitcher Mac Marshall and Grayson second baseman Andrew Falgiano.

Marshall is living up to his preseason billing, which not only had him as a member of the Daily Post’s Super Six, but also perhaps the latest in a line of early-round draft picks from Gwinnett.

With the six shutout innings he threw in last Friday’s win over Grayson, the senior left-hander has not allowed an earned run in 33 innings so far this season.

Throw in the five shutout innings Marshall had in his final outing last season, Game 1 of the Class AAAAAA state semifinal series against eventual state-champion Milton, and he has throw 38 consecutive innings without giving up an earned run.

That breaks Parkview’s school record of 24 consecutive scoreless innings set by Tom Neville in 1991.

Falgiano’s accomplishment, on the other hand, seems a little more modest.

The junior holds hitting streaks of six and seven games throughout this season, and is batting .393.

However, it is the fact he has hit safely in 15 of the Rams’ 18 games so far this season that caught my eye.

While it’s not quite the run that former North Gwinnett standout Chris Hawkins had in hitting safely in 35 of 36 games in 2010, Falgiano’s run of consistency at the plate is still impressive.

Finally, a tip of the hat to Shiloh head coach Reggie Ingram, who confirmed this weekend that he will be stepping down at the end of the season.

After coming into the program following a string of losing seasons, including his first spring as coach, Ingram has guided the Generals to a 64-58 mark in his five seasons.

Included in winning seasons the past three years, in addition to a 10-7 record so far this year, is the program’s first state playoff appearance since 1999 two years ago.

“I just think it’s time to do something different,” said Ingram, who will coach the Generals the rest of the season and will remain at Shiloh to continue to coach softball in the fall. “We’ve had a good group of kids and done some good things.”