Dreams Coming True: Keeping the History of the Game Alive

Dreams Coming True is a new Thursday feature on my blog, a way to highlight those whose goal is to create community. The dream might be a blog, a published book, a small business, volunteering, or even fundraising for a charity. Something that makes the world a better place . . . for others.

Welcome Matt Petty, President of Bay Area Vintage Base Ball, to Dreams Coming True! Tell us a little about BAVBB:

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Bay Area Vintage Base Ball is a non-profit educational organization that promotes the history of the great game of baseball in the Bay Area. We play by the rules of 1886. It’s a gritty, scrappier version of the modern game, and we’re always looking for historical references to more accurately portray the vintage game. We have six team around the Bay Area and almost 100 dedicated players. We black-out the logos on our shoes, put on the old style uniforms and play about 15 games a season. We also do exhibitions and parades, and generally try to get the word out about the league so we can build a network of “cranks” and “ballists”(fans and players).

When did Bay Area Vintage Base Ball begin?

BAVBB started in 2005 when Steve Gazay watched a news clip about a vintage base ball league on the East Coast. The next day, he and his son set out to start a league in the Bay Area. It started with two teams in the South Bay and has migrated North.

What makes your project stand out from the crowd?

There’s a lot of baseball and softball being played around the Bay Area, but our league really stands out. It goes beyond just playing a game and incorporates history and theatrics. You learn something about base ball when you watch a game. The lesson is that it’s ever changing, and in the beginning it rapidly changed from 1860-1900. By 1900 it had pretty much settled down into the modern game, but with more primitive equipment.

What are the goals and intentions of this project?

We’d like to further refine our dedication to the historical side of the organization. We’d like to be more active in local programs, but also attempt more ambitious projects, such as playing exhibition games in Japan, or building our own replica 1886 style field. We’d like to do an exhibition before a Giants or A’s game. It’s important for people to realize that throwback day is more than just the retro uniform.

How does your project create community?

People are delighted to see this going on in the park. They come over and ask questions and we get to talking about some of the minutia of the game, but we also forge friendships and camaraderie.

Many have creative ideas but trouble following through with them. What advice would you give to creative types who start projects eagerly…but then enthusiasm drizzles off?

Slow and steady. Don’t think it’ll happen over night. Make a list of things you need to accomplish and chip away at them every day, but always add new items to the list and push it further.

Describe the behind-the-scenes effort of your project. Where do the ideas come from?

Members of the league are always throwing ideas around. Usually after a game we’ll talk about strange plays and things we should be doing to further the league. We think big, and dream, but also take the small steps and enjoy just playing the game. We also put a lot of effort into building an online community on social network sites.

How many are involved in the process? Does each contributor have a specific role?

We have a board of directors consisting of four elected positions (President, VP, Treasurer and Information Officer) and all of the managers from the teams to total 10. We vote on modifications and issue involving the league, but also work together to coordinate events and other league activities. We’ll come up with an idea — like getting a group together for an A’s game — and someone will own that and make it happen. If everyone chips in a bit, we end up with a pretty good lineup of events and activities beyond the games.

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Photo credit: http://www.revivaltintype.com

What’s been the hardest part about getting it off the ground?

Field reservations are one of the trickiest aspects of doing the league. Many fields are not appropriate for 1886 base ball, but we use them anyway and make do. Keeping the 1886 aura during games is tricky too. High-fives are second nature to many players, but it’s not 1886 appropriate, the correct celebration would have been a firm handshake. Sportsmanship can also be an issue. The 1886 game is supposed to be a gentlemanly endeavor, but our modern outlook on sports makes it hard to resist voicing your opinion when you feel like you’ve been wronged.

Have there been any unexpected surprises?

We were asked to do an exhibition before the San Rafael Pacifics game on 4th of July the last few years, that has really be a plus to the league, and we’re looking for more opportunities to do exhibitions and talks about the league and the history of base ball.

What are the biggest misconceptions people have about starting your project?

That it’s just a baseball league with funny costumes. It as much about recreating an authentic 1886 experience as having fun playing a game.

What are some ways you promote your project?

Our best promotional tool is playing in Golden Gate Park. There are always a lot of people walking by that discover what we’re doing. I also rely on social media to attract new players and build a community around the league. We’ll mix historical facts and results from games on our page.

Creating something is one skill. Marketing and promoting it is an entirely different skill set. How has that gone for you? Shocked by the amount of work marketing takes? Or Any marketing mistakes you would avoid?

We don’t have a marketing budget, so none of our mistakes have been costly. I think having more tournaments in high-profile places like Golden Gate Park is one of our best marketing tools. Ramping up our website has also been really successful, and we’re keeping fresh content on it. It’s definitely been tough getting the message out, and reaching some of the folks who we think would be interested in what we’re doing. I think it’s mostly about being relentless and keeping the momentum going, but we all have full-time jobs as well, so the league often is thought about after work and on weekends.

What social network has worked best for you?

I use Facebook to do much of our social engagement, but I always try to drive folks back to our site, so that people see it as a source for our best content.

What advice would you give someone else who has a creative dream like yours?

Go for it. Find others who are interested in the same thing and enable them to help you grow it.

Where do you see this project in five years?

The level of play and the historical accuracy will improve greatly. Once players start, it’s tough for them to give it up, so I expect it to be a pretty robust league in five years. We’d also like to build a network of “sirs” (umpires) who are as dedicated to it as the players. Having a good sir in proper Victorian style garb really adds a lot to the viewing experience, and makes it a better game. The sirs can also play a big part in refining how the rules are interpreted and help hone our accuracy.

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How do you come up with those crazy nicknames?

Every player in BAVBB is given a nickname by their third game. It’s important to have those three games to help determine what kind of name a player should be given. Sometimes it obvious on the first day, maybe something happens that will forever be remembered. “Shoestring” had to use a shoestring for his belt in one of his first games, so his was obvious. “Grinder” works in a coffee shop, “Chops” has chops (facial hair style). There are as many fun stories about nicknames as there are players in the league!

How can we find your creative dream come true?

We’re at www.bavbb.com and facebook.com/bavbb. Those interested in joining the league or being involved can email president@bavbb.com. We are in the process of adding a few new teams and expanding the league, so now is a good time to get involved.


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About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.

Comments

  1. Thanks, Matt, for taking time for this interview! My daughter and her fiance were in Golden Gate Park a few weeks ago and saw a tournament-in-progress. They were fascinated by it! I had to find out the story behind Vintage Baseball! So grateful for your quick response to my request for an interview. I hope to see a game sometime soon. Warmly, Suzanne

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  4. Suzanne,
    Thanks so much for the opportunity to share our league with your readers.
    See you at a game!
    Ranger

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