When our children were small Sally and I brought them to Disney World on a couple of occasions, then to Disney Land when our son-in-law was stationed at Camp Pendleton, and we had two grandchildren to take to the park along with our children. On all occasions to the "Wonderful World of Disney," we got on the ride called, "It's a Small World." As I've found, and still find myself in so many unique situations in my life, I've come to realize just how small this big, big world really is.
This spring, I took on a high school coaching job and it allowed me to visit some small cities and towns in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties, and I ran into some people from my past, people who have left an indelible impression on me and who've been a part of some very special activities in my life.
At our game in Olean this season, I saw a gentleman sitting down the first base side and I thought he looked familiar. After receiving the lineup card and seeing the last name of the pitcher for Olean, I knew who it was, and how and why I remembered him.
In the early 1970s, I was a member of both the Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties' Baseball Umpires' associations. I had the opportunity to make some money while attending college by driving (at a much more reasonable price for gas) across both counties umpiring high school and college baseball games.
One of the schools I enjoyed going to was Salamanca. There was a young catcher for Salamanca who was probably the best catcher I ever went behind, as he gave me great views of every pitch, and protected me by blocking balls in the dirt with his excellent agility and quickness.
What impressed me most, though, was his attitude and respect for the game, his team, his opponents and us officials. Whenever there were check swings, this young man would turn and ask politely if I'd check with my partner to see if the batter swung or not. I've had players and coaches demand that I check, but this young man politely asked. I checked every time because of that respect.
When he graduated in the 1970s I never saw him again, until that Monday in early May when my softball team traveled to Olean. I went up to him, called him by name, and proceeded to renew our acquaintance from a good 38, or so, years ago. The impression he made on me has remained in my memory, and I had a great time reminiscing with him. I got a chance to do it again when Olean made the trip to Falconer.
Another team in our division is Fredonia High School. I have connections to Fredonia which go back to the days when I coached teams that went to the Cooperstown Dreams' Park for three consecutive years. The last two of those years, I opened the experience up to the entire county and there was a great response from the Fredonia area. Every time I've had the opportunity to umpire games in Fredonia, and now coach in Fredonia, I run into many of those connected with Cooperstown, and other Fredonia coaches with whom I've attended coaches' classes and first-aid classes, and one of those people has a daughter who ended up at the same college as my son in Buffalo, and we ran into each other there as well.
Every time I see these people, or they see me, we greet each other with handshakes and hugs. They've become truly great friends, and I love renewing our association with each other every time I see them. One of them once asked me to organize and put on a baseball coaches' clinic a few years back for Little League coaches, which I did with my son, who also had connections with all of these people because he was on those Cooperstown teams.
When we played Jamestown this year, I renewed some acquaintances from many roads of my past with high school classmates (their kids were playing), from umpiring softball games in the 1970s when fast pitch and modified softball was so popular in Jamestown, and more. I just keep running into people with whom I have connections with from past experiences.
When my kids were small and we went almost anywhere, I usually met someone I knew and we stopped and I talked. My kids once asked their mother if I knew everybody. Her response was something like, "almost."
As I renewed acquaintances in the situations mentioned here, a few of my softball players came up to me and asked if I knew everybody. I probably could've responded with references to someone as old as I am having opportunities to know a lot more people than they would, but my ego wouldn't allow me to use age as an excuse. I like to think it's because I've had so many great opportunities to have met so many memorable people in my lifetime.
I've been lucky to meet so many great people and these are just a sampling of how things keep coming back in circle. I'm glad I can remember these people and the circumstances with how we met and why they're imbedded in my memory. I only hope my children and grandchildren can meet with scads of people from their past when they're my age and realize that it really is "A Small World After All."