Bringing a Community Together with Baseball

Bringing a Community Together with Baseball

​Baseball is hailed as “the great American pastime.” That can certainly be said for 74 year-old Frank Miller. Baseball was his sport of choice in school—he even played college ball—and after reading a book about pitching in early January, Miller found the itch to play again.

It’s a predicament many people who practiced sports in their youths find themselves in. Author Jim Bouton wrote in his book, Ball Four, that instead of being the one to grip the ball, many find “it was the other way around all the time.” As such a major part of Miller’s life, it’s no wonder his love for the game would grip him even into his adult years.

But with a resurgence of love for the sport, practicing sliders and curve balls on his own didn’t exactly cut it, however. In an attempt to find an outlet for her husband, his wife, Alice, took to the Nextdoor app to find someone in the neighborhood who may be willing to play.

Alice Miller’s Nextdoor post. Credit: New York Times

​“My 74 year old husband would like to have a partner to throw the ball with,” Alice writes. “He is a former high school and college pitcher and is looking for a catcher or someone who knows how to throw a baseball.”

Perhaps Alice expected to get a handful of responses, but she certainly did not expect the influx of messages from interested parties of all ages. Parents volunteered their children who enjoyed the sport. Adults in a similar boat offered their time. Surprised by the response, Alice welcomed all with a date and time to meet.

“I think people want to reconnect a little bit right now,” Frank said a few days before the meet-up.

So, Frank and Alice showed up at the park ahead of time—the former with his equipment bag filled with new baseballs, a Nokona glove, and a catcher’s mitt he has owned for six decades. They weren’t sure if anyone would actually show up, but Frank came prepared just in case.

He was not disappointed.

Some of the baseball-lovers who joined Miller. Credit: Jonathan Zizzo.

Credit: D Magazine

A man in his 30s arrived. Three boys and a staff member from the high school team arrived. An avid Yankees fan around Frank’s age from the neighborhood joined. A woman who saw the post stopped by simply to watch. The group lined up opposite one another and began tossing the balls.

As the day went on, the group slowly grew. Young men striving for their futures and senior men moving towards their golden years exchanged passes and stories. When their arms grew tired, they just stopped and talked for a while. As night began to creep in, they wrote their names in a notebook Frank brought—a promise to meet again.

2020 was a divisive year. It doesn’t matter how old, what gender, or what creed you belong to—the fact that 2020 was a mess is something everyone can agree on. For many people in this Texas community, a new kind of connection was something many people were clearly looking for.  

Sports have a special way of bringing people together that otherwise wouldn’t have connected. With the age gap of Frank Miller’s baseball game spanning as much as 60 years, this becomes even more apparent.  

“What a wonderful way to bring people together and start 2021 with a positive note,” a neighbor wrote on the initial post. “This makes me smile.”

Credit: Jonathan Zizzo.