Dreams get referenced often, yet I contend that they’re one of the least understood elements of our brains and subconscious.
All of us dream. Researchers tell us that people can spend two hours of their sleep in some stage of dreaming.
Sometimes reality impersonates the dream fugue. Visiting former haunts and places that once occupied significance in our lives can unleash memories that we’d stored away.
The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach was built in 1983, principally fueled by the vision and dream of a successful Bangor lawyer, Jordan Kobritz, who didn’t want to practice law anymore. Kobritz believed that OOB’s summer influx of tourists and vacationers would provide the population necessary to support a minor league baseball team, one played at the AAA-level.
I found Kobritz quoted in an older article (published in the Boston Globe) by the late Boston sportswriter Will McDonough, saying that “I just didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore.” According to McDonough’s article (from 1984), Kobritz had been thinking about doing something else for a while and during a business trip to Atlanta, realized he was finished with practicing law.
Dreams that are vivid to us, are equally opaque and hard to fathom to those on the outside. To Kobritz’s friends (and likely, family), he probably seemed like a man that had taken leave of his senses.
This man on a mission formed a limited partnership consisting of 24 partners. They raised $4 million to build a ball park and acquire the rights to a minor league franchise. Ground was broken on June 23, 1983. Things began well but ultimately, they didn’t proceed as Kobritz probably hoped for.
My first visit to The Ballpark came a decade later, after it had been neglected for a period of time. The community wasn’t sure what to do with a ball field built to professional baseball specifications, tucked away from the beach in a grove of pine trees. A local group attempted to bring it back as a venue for baseball and even music. I actually saw Bob Dylan perform there. I also pitched a few semi-pro games there during the tail-end of my time playing competitively.
There is now a baseball team, the Old Orchard Surge, occupying The Ballpark as their home base. They play in the four-team Empire League, likely the lowest rung of baseball’s professional ladder. Their home dates fill two months of programming, but the facility remains under-utilized and unknown to most Mainers, even baseball fans 20 minutes north in Portland. Their summer fixation remains the Portland Sea Dogs.
On Wednesday night, I returned to The Ballpark, stepping foot on the field for the first time since I struck out Bill Lee. This time it was as a member of the “blue fraternity,” also known as umpires.
The evening was warm and pleasant. The field looked immaculate when my partner and I strode towards home plate for our pre-game conference. Other than us and the 20+ players making up the two teams playing—members of the Southern Maine Men’s Baseball League (SMMBL)—there were four other people sitting in the stands, the night’s fan base.
Being a base ump is very different than calling balls and strikes. Part of the night is spent standing, waiting to spring into position to call a bang-bang play at first, second, or even third. Most of your action is filled with routine outs, however.
My thoughts drifted back to my own playing days on this surface, as well as a host of other diamonds not quite as fancy. I also thought about the ghosts representing players from the past. The late Mark Fidrych was part of the barnstorming contingent that Lee brought to OOB in August, back in 1993. Fidrych would meet an untimely end when he was killed in an accident involving a dump truck, in 2009.
Whatever happened to Jordan Kobritz? His dreams live on in a slightly altered state. While no longer a minor league owner, Kobritz is still connected to sports—he’s now a professor at SUNY Cortland, and writes a syndicated column called “Sports Beyond the Lines,” detailing the ancillary, but important elements buffeting sports—things like the financial, marketing, management, legal and ethical issues that are often equally important as home runs, and three point shooting proficiency in today’s corporate framework—if not more so.
The dreams I once harbored 35 years ago of playing professional baseball are long gone. Other aspirations have been altered, and life continues to move me towards new and different configurations.
I remain tethered to baseball in ways I never dreamed about when the game first captured me and populated my imagination, nearly 50 years ago.