I went to Cooperstown yesterday morning to tour the Baseball Hall of Fame, I enjoyed wandering around the place. I am huge on nostalgia and dreaming about the past. Thinking about the players, the announcers, the games, the atmosphere; and, how everything evolved to what it is today. For me there is magic and romance in the stories. I laugh at how much I contemplate what these games meant to the people who participated – be it a fan, player, concession stand merchant or umpire. I equate it all to simple living, something I believe we all strive for, the feeling of joy and happiness.
People have called me emotional. I tend to get defensive about that label, I don’t like it. I don’t know why, I want to be pragmatic and deliberate in my decisions. I personally think, people view people like me in a negative light, that I can’t preform under pressure since I tend to “wear my emotions on my sleeve.” At times, I have been told, I will crumble in the clutch. Thus, I have become kinda guarded with my thoughts and expressions. I know I probably haven’t totally relaxed in years. I accept is about me as being part of my personality.
However, I love the people who get a little emotional. The people who understand the gravity of a pressure situation. Or, are passionate about a topic, thing or a belief. Some just have that “swagger”, a confidence within that they understand about what is right, what is wrong and they don’t “give a shit” what others think of them. Respect is earned with people like this. You can disagree with them, but you better have your facts straight or they will have no use for you. They can point out a blow hard or fake a mile away. But, they figure out who is genuine in an instant. If you give your word you better mean it. I came across a man yesterday who fits all of the above, his name is Lou Presutti.
“I hear everybody always say, ‘Hey, it’s OK, it’s all right.’ Well, it’s not OK, and it’s not all right when you don’t achieve your goal. And right now, all that pain you have in your heart, all those tears that are coming down your faces — you’re supposed to feel that way. Because winners hurt and champions feel pain when they don’t attain their goal.”
“Anything in your life you do, if you have a goal and you don’t get to that finish line, you better feel exactly the way you feel right now. If you don’t, then change and do something else.”
I took the above quotes from an article written about Lou, by ESPN writer Jim Caple. Lou was addressing the team that lost in a championship game of one of his many tournaments. I thought when I spoke and met Lou I had a great story no one has written about, how naïve of me. When I was looking things up about him and his Cooperstown Dreams Park after we spoke, I came across a plethora of information. I arrived at his complex looking for a game to watch yesterday. I didn’t schedule one since, everyone I talked with that had been to Cooperstown, said they play everyday all summer. I heard of Lou’s organization from parents and kids who have attended in the past. However, I never heard of Lou.
When I arrived I was blown away at the shear size of the complex and the beauty of the area in which it was situated. The entrance was Disneyesque and I wondered how much it was going to cost me just to park. My fears diminished when I found it was no charge. There seemed to be order to everything. I was surprised there was no trash anywhere with the amount of kids running around. All the players wore the same red or blue uniforms. I chuckled at how much all of this was costing these parents. When I inquired with Lou about the cost, he gave me a look of contempt and just said, “Listen, I have had the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich come through here!”
I watched an elimination game on Field Seven between the Orion Chargers of Michigan and the Kernersville Bulldogs of North Carolina. The Bulldogs beat the Chargers, 16-5. I spoke with some of the Chargers parents about what I was doing and they were the ones who said I really needed to speak to Lou. I didn’t think Lou would have the time to speak with me. When I asked some college interns to see if he would, they inquired and said he would be over in a few minutes. When he pulled into the operations tent where I was waiting for him on a golf cart. I was caught a little off guard. Here was a man that had to be in his middle 70’s, looked to be in great physical shape. My initial thought was he was probably a drill instructor in his former life (Army Ranger), I smiled when I realized it was him. I walked over introduced myself, shook his hand and immediately got the impression Lou did not like me. The man might be in his middle 70’s, but if I offended him in any way, I got the distinct feeling he would have no problem punching me in the face and tossing me off his property.
We sat at a table, I told him I had a few questions. It started down pouring outside the tent, he got on his walkie-talkie making the statement to the person on the other end, “You said 40% chance of precipitation”, with a wry smile. Kids, coaches and parents started coming into the tent. I started asking questions, kids came over with their parents asking Lou for autographs and pins, he obliged all of them. He asked for their name, most all answered politely and respectfully, “yes sir, no sir, thank you coach”. Kids wanted his attention, he was respected, he oozed “swagger”. He engaged with his interns that are there for the summer earning money for college. Lou pays these kids a lot, he demands a lot. Even though, every intern that came to the table, he took an interest in. They seemed at ease with Lou. That is what happens when people know where they stand, do what is expected and respect is given. You don’t do what you agreed to, Lou has no use for you and has no problem sending you home.
We talk about the state of the game of baseball, how it has evolved, what the power brokers believe, what Lou believes. Lou asked me for my opinion about the game, I answer honestly and forthrightly. I see that wry smile again. I worry he might get up at any minute as he is busy, for some reason I want his respect. On the flipside, I worry he might punch me in the face, also. I tell him what I like about him. To me he represents the type of person that does what is right and he doesn’t want attention for the good deeds he does. As I say this, a kid with a cast on his arm comes to the table for an autograph. Lou asks what happened and finds out he broke it in a game. Lou asks if he wants to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the championship game, the kid was totally in agreement. When the kid leaves, I ask stupidly – you know, when it’s out there before really thinking – “Why are you letting him throw out the first pitch?” Lou looks at me in disbelief, “He broke his fucking arm!”. I realize my error, this is Dreams Park for a reason. I love the fact Lou swears, it isn’t politically correct and I don’t think Lou cares about politically correctness.
Lou and I talk about a lot of things “off the record”, I give him my word I won’t mention any of it. I admire this man I just met. He gives me a pin (every team brings pins to swap), the pin is a good one, “Johnny Baseball”. I put it on my “man bag”, Lou isn’t the type of guy to have a “man bag”. The rain lets up a little bit, we finish up our conversation. I need to get on the road, Lou gives me a ride up the hill to the parking lot in his golf cart. He tells me they will get all the games in, even if it is after midnight when they start. I shake his hand, he drives off in his golf cart, and then I start to worry I wouldn’t do this story justice as I walk to my car.
Lou is the one who told me about Jim Caple, a writer for ESPN, and his article. Lou stated, “He got it mostly right.” I could tell that Lou respects the writer. Click on this link: http://espn.go.com/mlb/hof13/story/_/id/9508031/life-village-cooperstown, I think the story is a great one and you should take the time to read it. I also want to post a story Lou mentioned, he might punch me in the face the next time he sees me for sharing it, but it will really give a full picture of who Lou is, click on the following link: http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/2000/04/03/focus14.html?page=all
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