Moss: The Jasper Wildcats — A Way Forward
by Richard Moss, M.D.
I joined Jasper nation on the long voyage up to Victory Field in Indianapolis, the epicenter of Indiana and of Indiana baseball, to support and applaud our young stalwarts, the Jasper Wildcats, at State, a great team from a great town with a great tradition and legacy. My family and I were among the more than one thousand fans that made the three-hour journey so that our team, the best of their year, the pride of their families, the glory of their school and community would know they were not alone. Twenty years ago, when I first settled in our little hamlet, the notion of making such an excursion to watch a high school baseball game would have been unthinkable. But no longer, for I have seen the light. Wildcat baseball is simply the best damn baseball around.
I have had a lifelong allegiance to baseball, a function of the neighborhood, or should I say, the borough in which I grew up, for this was no ordinary place. Indeed, there, in the Bronx, giants and titans walked among us, and immortals battled, for in that place was Asgard, the center of the universe, the home of the greatest sports franchise of all time, the New York Yankees. I had emerged over many years in the thrall of Yankee fandom, watched in awe the legends of the game, the great heroes of my youth, adorned in regal pinstripes, wielding bats as imperial scepters, punishing and dispatching would-be challengers to their throne, collecting their triumphs and trophies as predictably as the passing of the seasons and the rising of the sun. Indeed, to be a Yankee fan, it seemed, was to live in eternal light. I tracked the box scores and standings religiously, papered my walls and ceiling with images of Yankee greats, most especially, my boyhood idol, Mickey Mantle, and made regular pilgrimages on the No. 4 train to their hallowed temple, the Vatican of baseball, Yankee Stadium . . .
But over time, my attraction to the sport, especially the Major League version, waned, the devotion of yesterday, that majestic river of affection and reverence reduced to a trickle, barely noticeable in the stream of life’s drives and obsessions. I no longer cared much about the game, paying heed only, perhaps, in the odd chance the Yankees found themselves at play in October. No, the old pieties had withered and gone.
The reasons were, perhaps, obvious. What with the scandals, the free agentry, the galactic salaries, the steroids and strikes, the body piercings, tattoos, grills, braids, pony tails, and facial hair, the massive egos, the arrogance, fist pumping, and showboating, the questionable conduct on and off the field –why patronize a throng of tattooed, body pierced, pampered and whiney multimillionaires playing half-heartedly?
But I had found something far better: crisp, accomplished, and exhilarating baseball played by clean cut, fresh-faced, well-behaved athletes with egos in check, competing for the love of it, representing their families and communities, their school and town, and in a magnificent ball field – right here at Ruxer Field in Jasper.
It was here where the fundamentals of the game were taught and practiced, with often flawless execution: fielding, pitching, hitting, and base running, pressuring opponents, wearing down pitchers, forcing errors, taking advantage of mistakes, eking out victories or winning lopsided contests – and in all the ways available to them: on the mound, in the field, at the plate and on the base paths, bunting, stealing, moving runners over, hit and runs, walks, squeeze plays, sacrifices, base hits, and, yes, the towering drive or extra base hit. Year in, year out, our team was there: competitive, determined, bristling with talent and well-honed skill, and intent on winning. Drilled by their coach of 36 years, a throwback from a tougher (and better) era; he demanded excellence and got it, teaching his young wards, as they referred to it, the “Jasper Way.”
Our players carried themselves with dignity and grace on the field and off like they used to in the majors. They wore their pinstriped uniforms proudly, exuding confidence but not cockiness, which they kept under wraps. They were a disciplined, well-trained lot, their inspired play, their positive values and devotion to team and town, plainly evident – and all in a beautiful and grand ball field.
Now this was baseball . . .
It is, perhaps, in our small towns, tossed and scattered across the heartland, where we have our greatest opportunity to salvage the American republic. Here, we hold fast to the formerly mainstream verities of hearth and home, faith and family, God and country. Here, we cling to the customs and mores of a commercial republic, based on the principles of liberty, limited government, and private property rights. We uphold such quaint notions as sacrifice, dedication, and the pursuit of one’s dreams, all nurtured in an ambience steeped in the Judeo-Christian ethos, family, church, civic associations, and community.
We recoil from the 60-year assault on our culture and civilization by the Left, and its noxious ideologies such as critical race theory, radical feminism, and transgenderism. We shudder at the horrendous damage and moral anarchy that has culminated in widespread illegitimacy, dysfunctional families, welfare dependency, drug addiction, and criminality. We are aghast at the relentless indoctrination of our youth in our entertainment, films, social media, and, especially, our schools and woke churches. Yet, there remains an appetite to stand athwart the cult-Marxist wave and preserve our way of life.
At the national level, it appears we are broken, hopelessly divided between two competing visions, but we may succeed on a local level, and, perhaps, at a state level, in certain red states. It is locally, though, where we can attend school board meetings, petition our county commissioners, and lobby our city councils. Locally, we are best positioned to defend our beliefs, and preserve the sanctities and traditions that bind a community and a society, and allow a people to thrive and flourish. Here, we can best defend American values and Western civilization, and begin the long march through our institutions – to retake them – or create new ones. The spiritual rot is deep, the chaos profound, and surely it begins at the head, but there remain shoots of life, sprigs and seedlings of truth, beauty, and goodness across the vast expanses of the continent, and, yes, they flourish in small towns like Jasper, Indiana.
So, this New York transplant became a devoted Wildcat baseball fan. And their loss at State was as painful to me as anyone. But I know our boys will be back. They are, after all, the Jasper Wildcats, the New York Yankees of Indiana high school baseball.
Dr. Richard Moss, a physician in the town of Jasper in Dubois County, is the author of “A Surgeon’s Odyssey” and “Matilda’s Triumph” available on amazon.com. Contact him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A version of this essay first appeared in the American Thinker.