Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cooperstown Bound

Tomorrow morning, I will hop in my '98 Subaru and head for the central New York village of Cooperstown, for an annual ritual known, quite simply, as Hall of Fame weekend. This will be the 21st of the past 22 years that I've attended, and the 8th in a row, having had to start over after missing the 2000 induction to be the best man in Rob's wedding. It's still hard to believe he scheduled his wedding for that weekend, and had to go and get married in Kamloops, British Columbia, thereby making it impossible for me to somehow make it to Cooperstown the next day.

But I digress. This annual ritual has become more of a celebration of long-lasting friendships than of baseball, at least to me. Joe, his then-girlfriend and now-wife Carol, and I began the tradition after spending a drunken Saturday night at a house party in Albany during the summer of 1987, between our sophomore and junior years in college. Joe and I still cite Carol as the critical piece to the birth of this tradition for driving two very hungover guys from Albany to Cooperstown early that Sunday morning. This year will be Joe and Carol's 22nd consecutive year, and I believe it will be their kids' 16th and 14th respectively.

Two other families from Poughkeepsie will be there this year, as they've become the other close friends that we count on as almost regulars. When this tradition began, it was definitely about my and Joe's fanatical devotion to baseball history, but to me, it wasn't long before it represented something else. Well aware that, in our post-college years, we'd all probably go off in different directions and see each other less and less, I viewed this as the one time of year that I knew I would spend with some of my best friends. Even more importantly, since we always spend a couple of nights camping, it's time that is of a higher quality than hanging out at someone's house and then returning home at the end of the evening. Maybe it's because I'm the one without my own family, and, therefore, I view many of my close friends as such, but it just feels more akin to the time we shared together in the high school and college years, although with a little less alcohol involved.

Well, a lot less for me, actually. But, if that wasn't the case, I may not have survived to last 20+ years.

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