Baseball graduate reflects on Vassar after alumni game

Alex Cooper, Class of 1983, is pictured with three of his Vassar baseball teammates. Cooper and his fellow alums were a part of the original Vassar College baseball team. Photo courtesy of Alex Cooper

 

Alex Cooper, Class of 1983, is pictured with three of his Vassar baseball teammates. Cooper and his fellow alums were a part of the original Vassar College baseball team. Photo courtesy of Alex Cooper
Alex Cooper, Class of 1983, is pictured with three of his Vassar baseball teammates. Cooper and his fellow alums were a part of the original Vassar College baseball team. Photo courtesy of Alex Cooper

There is a great cliché in sports: the game be­tween the lines. For me, the most beautiful game between the lines has always been base­ball. I love the shape of the baseball diamond and the picturesque nature of an old stadium.

Last weekend I came back to play in the Vas­sar baseball alumni game. I was joined by three fellow early ’80s alumni and founding fathers of Vassar baseball. We had all played on the first ever men’s collegiate team. It was a chance to reminisce and tell stories about how, with both sweat and frostbite, we made the old Prentiss Field into our field of dreams. Every game we picked out the rocks, glass shards, weeds and daisies that grew back as fast is it took to play an endless inning of Vassar baseball. We raked, laid lines, rolled and toiled in the fields. We found our first coach, Dan Gordon, and let our fearless captain Phil Kahn plunge us into the unknown of our first season. I still look back at our inau­gural season and record of 1-9 with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Each time I visit the beautiful new athletic fa­cility at Prentiss, the first thing I do is run into the fieldhouse to search out our team picture. Fittingly the photo, the first one on the wall as you walk through the door, is in black and white. For someone just growing up in the 21st century, it probably looks as old and nostalgic as a pic­ture of the 1927 Yankees with Gehrig and Ruth. Well, maybe not.

I used to look forward to my visits back in time for the alumni baseball game to relish and relive the “Glory Days” as my favorite Jersey musician likes to say. But this year was differ­ent. I had boycotted the inaugural Celebration of Athletics at Vassar held last May in New York City and I was still ambivalent about attending a campus event. My recent bout of distress and frustration with Vassar is related to the ongoing maelstrom around the BDS movement on cam­pus. I have strong views and opinions on this issue that I have vocalized before. But I will pur­posely not state them now or use my voice to influence or inform the discussion.

Luckily one my teammates and friends con­vinced me to put aside my differences for the day because he said: “I should separate my feelings for the institution from the friends and experiences I had.” Honestly, I still love the in­stitution too.

Maybe the reason I fell in love with Vassar the first time I took a campus tour is because it reminded me of a baseball field. The walled in campus was like the chalk foul lines. The beauty and symmetry of the quad were like four bases on the infield, and the interconnected walkways were the base paths. Inside the field everything was safe. Just like on the baseball field, I could focus simply on the task at hand. I still can feel the goosebumps of my first RBI and when my roommate let me drive his ‘67 Pontiac GTO to take a girl out for dinner.

Back then, what happened outside my fenced-in community just did not seem to matter as much. I learned more about the world from the great scholarly texts and professors than what I saw on the television or read in newspapers. I commend the students today for getting in­volved and caring about the most important is­sues of the day. Of course with the 24-hour news cycle, the internet and social media, blocking out the daily news or noise is as hard as put­ting your smartphone down for more than a few minutes. But information is not knowledge.

As I read about the actions and reactions to world events on campus my fear is the Vassar community just like everyone else is becoming victim to the “FOMO” culture–fear of missing out. If we don’t check-in on Facebook or check our Twitter feed we may miss something im­portant. We all agree we have too much infor­mation. Journalists, political pundits, academia, pop culture, we are all guilty of falling into the trap. Group think replaces thinking critically about an issue. Tweeting what some else said or wrote replaces taking the time or having the time to really research a topic and come up with original analysis or independent opinion. Some­times, I think it’s better to just play the game between the lines and block out all the outside distractions.

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