Pride is back in Decatur

Team doesn’t miss a beat in return

(click banner for original news story)

By Mark Tupper – H&R Executive Sports Editor

DECATUR – There’s no telling how many men’s fastpitch softball games Don “Doc” Boyer has witnessed at Borg-Warner Field. Maybe all of them from 1980 through 1995.

As the former trainer for the ADM and Decatur Pride softball teams, he has tended to more sore muscles, bloody contusions and overheated pitchers than he could ever count.

He cherished the camaraderie with the players and for the years of tireless work all he ever asked in return was a simple thank you.

But like so many of the players, coaches and fans of the game, Doc had slipped into the shadows, vanishing along with the sport that all but disappeared when the Pride ceased operation in 2001.

Then on Wednesday night – a night so glorious in its warmth and summer-like spendor – there he was again, one of the many ghosts of summer’s past strolling through the gates of Borg-Warner Field to welcome back an old friend.

Welcome back, softball. Welcome back, Decatur Pride.

And there was Arnie Gross, back again to operate the scoreboard. And Jim Cairns, back again to man the microphone, stumbling over a pronunciation or two because, he claimed, he missed out on spring training.

And there was Dick Cain, the longtime poet/proprietor of Tom’s Grill, stopping by to check on this curious collection of players old, young and in between.

When the decision was made to bring men’s fastpitch out of mothballs, someone had the good sense to assemble the new Pride with a mix of players who helped Decatur win four national championships in the 1980s and 1990s along with a group with young, fresh legs who have a chance to write another success story.

Wednesday was the home opener, the first Decatur Pride softball game in eight seasons, and in an eerie way, some things looked and felt exactly the same.

When Rick Minton drilled a home run to center in the second inning, it was a sight many of us had seen for parts of a quarter-century.

When David Boys pranced around at shortstop, it was a reminder that for years and years there was no slicker glove in the game.

When 60-year-old Larry Moffett raced home and side safely across home plate, it was a reminder that if you truly love the game, it ignites a passion that may not die until the legs do.

When Brent Stevenson pitched the Pride to a 7-0 victory in the opener, it was a reminder that very few men who have ever thrown the ball underhand have made it look so easy. His bedazzling changeup still comes in looking like a beach ball and leaves hitters looking like a beach bum.

And no matter how many years have passed, a look around the lush, green ballpark proves that kids still love to chase foul balls and that adults still seem to enjoy a cup of cold beer, which at $2 for 14 ounces makes major league suds seem like armed robbery. Doc Boyer came out to see some softball, but mainly he came to see old friends.

“I miss the people,” he said. “Every once in a while I bump into people I used to see at the ball park and I feel blessed to have known them.”There were a couple hundred fans at Borg-Warner Wednesday night and there may never again be crowds in the thousands that turned out for some memorable national tournaments in the 1980s.

No matter. Those who came cheered enthusiastically. They renewed friendships, munched popcorn and enjoyed the warm night air.

After a wait of eight years, it seemed more than enough.|421-7983

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.