New column from an old friend

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

In Friday’s print edition of The Times-Gazette, we introduced a new feature. It’s an advice column from local real estate agent Randy Butler, and it will appear in the newspaper and online every other week or so.

Randy and I go back a ways. Since were are both 1979 Hillsboro High School graduates, I am sure we first met in a classroom or on a playground somewhere, but my first real memories of him are from the summer of 1971, when we both played on the Hobart “C” League team that my dad coached at what is now Shaffer Park in Hillsboro.

My brother played on that baseball team, too, and I have several memories of it. I pitched the only game I ever pitched in Little League that year, probably only because I could throw strikes consistently, at least in practice. In a real game situation I was timid and afraid of beaning the batter, so I struggled to find the strike zone. Couple that with the fact that the velocity of my pitches would have been better suited for coaches’ pitch and, well, you can understand why it was the only game I ever pitched.

We struggled with finding pitchers that summer, and one day at practice my dad was trying to develop a new one. The kid could throw strikes fairly regularly, but since my dad had seen me struggle when a batter came to the plate, he asked me to come over to the side of the field where he was working with the kid. Dad wanted to see how the kid would respond with a batter standing there, so he had me, with no batting helmet, stand in like a batter while my teammate pitched to him. The kid evidently didn’t have the same timidness problem I had, because about his second or third pitch plunked me in my right cheek bone, just a couple hairs beneath my temple.

I’m pretty sure we corrected the practice of not wearing a helmet from that time on.

But there is one memory from that summer that stands out above all others. Randy and I have discussed it often, and I believe it would have played well in “The Bad News Bears.”

We did not win many baseball games that year, but this one evening we were in a somewhat close game when a hit bounded toward our right fielder. To say that we were all more than a little surprised when he caught the ball would be an understatement. But it doesn’t hold a candle to what came next.

Instead of throwing the ball to an infielder, the right fielder tried to outrun the batter to first base. When that didn’t work, the right fielder chased the batter to second base. By that time I had recovered from my initial shock and was screaming from my position at catcher for our outfielder to throw the ball — to anyone. But when he couldn’t catch the runner at second base, he chased him to third base. And when that didn’t work he chased the runner to home. When the runner crossed home plate, he finally tossed the ball to me.

If that wasn’t enough — and I do not mean to be rude here but up to that point in my life this may have been the most funny thing I had heard — when we finally got our third out and went back to the dugout, we were all sitting there, still bemused, when the right fielder’s mother stuck her head inside the dugout.

“He was just too fast for you, wasn’t he, Dougie?” she said.

I’m not sure how many times Randy and I have chuckled about that day 47 years ago, but it has been many.

When Randy approached me about writing a column for The Times-Gazette a few weeks ago, I was intrigued by the idea of being able to offer our readers some local real estate advice. I wasn’t sure what Randy intended to write about, or what kind of writing skills he had. As it turns out, he writes well and informatively, and has a knack for mixing a little humor into it all.

Every month or so Randy puts out a newsletter called “Highland County Real Estate” for the Classic Real Estate Company.

When Randy was first inquiring about writing for The Times-Gazette, he sent me a sample of his newsletter. The following story was part of the newsletter. It brightened my day, and I hope it does yours, too. It is reprinted below with his permission:

It seems like only yesterday, but in fact it was about 50 years ago. We didn’t live on a farm. But my father, Scott Butler, farmed for several years.

I grew up in Hoagland on Route 50 in the house my mother, Glenna Butler, still lives in today. My Uncle Truman and his family lived just down the road, and he farmed as well.

Truman had left his tractor running in the yard (still not sure why) and went down to the store to get a pop. My cousin Duane, 5-6 years old at the time, decided it was a good time to take the tractor for a spin. This decision did not go well for him at all. Now, I wasn’t there and am not quite sure the route he chose, but his little sister Donna was sitting in a chair in the yard. He straddled her, going over her completely. How he didn’t hit her is still a mystery! He ended up against a tree about 15 feet or so from the road.

Fearing for his life, as he should have been, he jumped off the tractor, ran upstairs, and hid under his bed.

Sometime later when Truman came home, he saw the tractor running against a tree and digging massive holes in the yard!!

What a red letter day that was for the Butler’s!!

Thanks Randy.

Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist Gilliland Staff columnist