by Randall Swearingen, Houston Hardball League member and author

Anthony Martin was 63 years old as he was playing baseball in Florida recently.  As he often did, he pulled the ball down the left field line for a double.  As he triumphantly pulled into second base and looked into his dugout, and into the joyful eyes of his teammates, he collapsed with a massive heart attack that he never awoke from.  As one of our teammates said, Anthony was all too suddenly traded to the Angels.

I (as did Anthony) play in the 55+ baseball division of the Houston Hardball League.  There are approximately 100 players that make up six teams.   Even though it is a 55+ division, most of us are over 65, and quite a few are over 70.   We have men from all walks of life on our team and in the league, including lawyers, doctors, veterinarians, teachers, college professors, business owners, just to name a few.  Keep in mind that we are talking hardball…  not softball.  We are talking about guys who keep themselves in relatively good shape, who have refused to become ‘couch potatoes’, to continue to play the game they loved in their youth.

In baseball, Anthony was what we players call a ‘gamer’ (i.e.  a player that you can always depend on when the chips are down in a game to give 120%).  He was also the biggest cheerleader on our team…  always cheering for our pitcher when we were on the field and always cheering for our hitters when we were batting.  Anthony was never quiet on the bench.  He was either yelling encouragement to a player, or he was chatting with one of us teammates.  He was just an outstanding person as well as a great teammate.  Anthony would gladly give you the shirt off his back.  Everybody he met was an instant friend.

I felt a deep sense of loss and shock when I learned of Anthony’s passing.  I am positive that my teammates, and numerous other players in the league, feel the same loss.  You see, we in the league had not just lost a teammate…  we had lost a great friend and a super human being.  To the average person, who has never played baseball in this league, it will most likely be very difficult for you to comprehend the depth of the bond between us who do play in it.

You never think that when you talk to someone in person, over the phone, or even via text or email, that it might actually be the last time you ever communicate with that person.  You always assume there will be another day…  another opportunity…  another ballgame.  I now regret not telling Anthony, face to face, how special he was in my life, and how my life is better for having known him.  And to that extent, I want to take this opportunity to tell all my teammates, and friends that I have played with and against, how special you are in my life.   I can’t imagine my life without baseball and being around you guys.  You see, we are all more than friends…  we are family. 

I would also like to thank the League for giving us the platform and the opportunity to play the game we love, even in our older ages.  Without this league, I would not have met so many great people.  Without this league, I would not have known Anthony Martin.

Anthony, you and I will undoubtedly play baseball together again some day.  Until that time, keep pulling that ball down the left field line and swinging for the fences in Heaven.  We will certainly miss you here.  Thanks for your friendship, encouragement, and all the great baseball memories.