Out of Left Field
by Bill Reznak
Loco about the LoCoBat: A Trilogy
Part II: The Loco Bat is Dead
In the spring of 2007, when Beau was 15, he organized a group of his friends and myself to play as a team in a charity Wiffleball tournament. That group of 13 to 15 year-old boys with one 42 year-old man became the Westside Washout. While preparing for the tournament, Beau told me they had better bats available at the games, but I assured him that I would remain true to my official yellow bat. As we were warming up before our first game, I took a few swings with the LoCo bat. I decided to give it a try, and I hit a homerun on the very first pitch I saw. Although I’m not too sure the pitcher was trying his best to get me out so that he could keep the game interesting, I hit two more homers in the contest. Needless to say, I have never stepped to the plate with a yellow bat in organized competition.
After playing in that tournament, we joined the BWBL for the 2007 season. We didn’t have a great record, to say the least, but we learned one valuable lesson by the conclusion of our inaugural season--we needed some serious batting practice. So in the spring of 2008, we decided to purchase our own LoCo bat to use for team practices. It was actually Washout original Dylan Moore who doled out the money for the bat, but Beau and I somehow gained custody.
In addition to using it for practice, we intended to utilize our shiny blue bat in competition. Since we didn't want our equipment to get mixed in with the league bats, I decided to inscribe our team’s initials with permanent marker on the knob to identify it as property of the Westside Washout. As any of the ruler-wielding nuns from my dreaded Parochial elementary school days could attest, I am not blessed with great penmanship. What was supposed to read “WW” looked more like “mm” and the bat henceforth came to be referred to as the M&M bat.
While the M&M bat did not turn us into hitting machines, It did help us improve. It’s nice to have your our own piece of equipment to practice with whenever you want. It’s also somehow comforting to use a bat in gameplay that you have a familiarity with. Our level of play increased on a yearly basis, and our LoCo bat remained as effective as the day we got it.
Two years ago, I’m not sure how, the barrel flattened just a bit, making it something like ¾ Wiffleball bat and ¼ cricket paddle. The defect was surely the result of mishandling on our part, but I'm not really sure how it occurred. Even after the M&M became a little disfigured, it remained the Washout’s bat of choice. If you planned your swing right, you could give yourself a little extra sweet spot, but if you messed up you were sure to pop up or hit a grounder.
Then, on June 2, 2013, after more than six years of heavy use in practices, tournaments, and regular season play, the unthinkable happened. The M&M bat cracked, that is if it's even possible to refer to split plastic as “cracked.” Players who actually use wooden bats are taught from the beginning to never hit the ball with the label because it's the weakest part. Well, that's exactly where our prized bat broke. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and I guess the label is the weakest part of our plastic/wooden hybrid. Although it could continue to be used, it has lost some power, even on the side of the barrel opposite the label.
We never abused our LoCo bat by slamming it in disgust or smacking it off a fence, but we never babied it either. The fact that we got so much productive use out of it for so long is actually remarkable.
After discovering the crack, we had to face the sad reality that the M&M’s days were numbered. We decided that the M&M bat needed to go out with a fond sendoff, kind of like the Cal Ripken farewell tour or Ted Williams retiring as he rounded the bases on a home run. We didn’t want our treasured friend to struggle as a shell of its former self and hobble into its demise like the ill-fated 1973 season Willie Mays played with the New York Mets. On June 9, 2013, while facing the Dupont Hennas, the Westside Washout paid their final respect to their treasured bat with one last use and a moment of silence.
|Dan Rish, Bill Reznak, Beau Reznak, and John Devers paying their last respects to the "M&M" Bat.|
We’re not really sure what we shall do in the future with our relic. We've considered returning it to Dylan who retired from Wiffleball two years ago. Maybe we’ll bring it out now and again for practice. Maybe we’ll even showcase it once a year, like those retired players who limp around the bases in oldtimers games. Who knows?
I have watched these boys grow into young men using this bat, and its imminent demise made me nostalgic for some of its finer moments:
- John Devers’ opposite field grand slam that struggled to remain fair in an important matchup against divisional rivals the Jagerbombers in 2009
- The dozens of times Dylan swung at a pitch two feet over his head with a 3-0 count
- The hundreds of times Dan Rish crushed a foul homerun
- Laura Barna’s 100+ foot home run last year against Saturday Crush that proved to be the game winner. It was her first year on the Washout, and this blast was one of the few home runs ever hit by a female in BWBL history.
- Although we lost the game, the time Beau and I hit back-to-back homers on Fathers Day 2010.
Of course not all of our memories are good ones, but the bad ones were the result of our inability to make contact with the bat, not the bat itself. One thing can remain certain--although the Westside Washout and the SRL will own many bats in the years to come, they will merely be pieces of equipment. The M&M bat, with all of its history and nostalgia, shall always hold a special place in our hearts.