Do you have your nickname?
by: Self-portrait Sports Editor John Brewington

Watching the county Tournament of Champions championship game on Sunday was quite a treat. Often ball games at the youth levels can be lopsided, and not that interesting.

This game was quite different. It was an exceptionally well-played game pitting two of the best local pitchers against each other. The St. Helens' Dutch Bros. team had Levi Norton, and Clatskanie's Fultano's Pizza had Will Burghardt. Together they struck out 25 batters in a six-inning game, facing just 44 in all. And they only had 85 pitches before they would have had to leave the mound. (That's a Little League rule-of which there are many.) Only eight players reached base, three on walks, two on errors and three on hits. Burghardt had more strikeouts (14), but Norton didn't give up a hit.

That's pretty good ball playing.

There's a lot of ball going on this summer. Little League's district tournament is coming up in a couple of weeks. All of the tournaments except the 9-10 year-olds are in Scappoose this year. That includes softball as well.

There are several local high school level teams playing baseball, some tournament softball teams, and a number of local softball players scattered on ASA teams around the state.

It's a lot of ball and it keeps the kids busy with something to look forward to during the summer. There are also summer basketball teams, soccer teams, some volleyball, and a number of other athletic pursuits for kids.

Not all of the kids playing summer ball are on great teams, but most of the kids are having a great time. The level of play varies. Not all of the kids playing will be starters on their varsity teams. Some may never even make the varsity. But it's a good experience for most, and at the least it builds a sense of camaraderie on teams. Those bonds can last a long time. I still remember most of the kids I played with and I'm still in contact with some after all these years.

My daughter played on a softball team and still keeps in touch with those kids as well.

Years ago, I helped start a men's slowpitch league here locally. We had 14 teams the first year and 16 for several years after that. Players moved around a bit as some teams concentrated on building competitive tournament teams, while others just wanted a little recreation. It was a lot of fun for quite awhile. I still see a lot of those players in the area-mostly out on the golf course. Sadly, the first team I was on, the Firefighters, has had a number of those players from the old days pass away. Five in all. That's a lot, even for old guys like us. St. Helens High baseball coach Tim Lokken, who died this past spring, was one of them. Another one of those players may be the new coach of the Lions.

I think it's the bonding that goes on, particularly the male bonding. I think I like the good-natured ribbing that goes on in sports. I'm not a psychologist, so it would all be psychobabble if I pretended to know the reason behind it. I know it can be pretty funny. I've heard lots of nicknames over the years. I remember a men's fastpitch player they called 'Dufur' because that's where he'd grown up. My nickname for the couple of years I played fastpitch probably should have been 'Ofer' as in 0 for eight at the plate. Remember the fighter Roberto Duran, 'Manos de Piedra' or 'Hands of Stone.' That's good for a fighter, not so good for a baseball player or wide receiver. Nicknames are given for a variety of reasons, some for physical attributes, some for types of play, some just to poke a little fun.

Personally, I like them just for the sarcasm. So, for all the boys (and girls) out playing ball of one type or another: Enjoy and if you feel like it, give your buddy a nickname. Try not to be too cruel about it, though.

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