Field of Dreams

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It’s been called America’s National Pastime. A game that turns grown men into innocent children. I love baseball. I have since I was a kid and that love continues to this day more than 25 years later. There’s something pure and magical about the game. As it’s been often quoted, “It’s hard not to get romantic about baseball.” Being that we’re now in the dog days of August and the final days of summer, it brings to mind an unforgettable baseball season my pals and I participated in 25 years ago. This article is dedicated to baseball and its fans all around the world.

RISE OF THE BULLDOGS

OK maybe not so much a rise :P
OK maybe not so much a rise :P

In April of 1994 I found myself in the thick of 5th grade, and enjoying some of the best times of my young life. That year and that grade had it all. Best friend, check. Best teacher, check. Two cutest girls in the school in the same class, check. Life was pretty good. Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, it did. That spring the two 5th grade classes began a baseball tournament. Teams were evenly spread out so there would be a fair number of random boys and girls on each team. 8 teams in all. 8 games to be played. Top 4 teams advance to the playoffs.

To call it an exciting time would be an understatement. I was a pretty competitive kid, and so I couldn’t wait to get started and help lead my team into one of the top four positions. And luck be my lady, Jennifer (one of the aforementioned “two cutest girls”) was on my team. I wasn’t sure if Jennifer was any good at baseball, but at least she’d be easy on the eyes. Who knows, maybe we’ll get to bond sitting next to each other in the dugout, talking about whatever.

Watching and talking from the dugout. Good stuff
It promised to be a baseball season for the ages

At the time the possibilities seemed endless. It was classic 10 year old fever… the thrill of growing up while still remaining very much so innocent. The first order of business was to decide on a team name. We agreed upon THE BULLDOGS. Unoriginal, I know, but hey it was a proven classic.

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I remember lunch that very same day. My best friend, Nelson, was on another team. That was about the only thing that didn’t go my way. Well, it wouldn’t hurt if the other cute girl was on my team too, but hey, you can’t get too greedy now, can ya? Anyway, Nelson was what you would call “big boned.” His team was indecisive and still hadn’t come up with a team name. I was sitting next to him in the cafeteria that afternoon when he suggested to his teammates, “How about the Orioles?” He was a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, or their team logo anyhow. Or, at least he liked the name anyway.

A fair play of homophones, good sir. Oh that Joshua....
A fair play of homophones, good sir. Oh that Joshua…

His teammate, and resident class clown Joshua, said jokingly “Oreo’s? Can you please stop thinking about food for ONE second?!” Everyone at the table cracked up. Nelson took it in stride. The great thing about the 5th grade classes that year was we all shared a common bond. We had a camaraderie that was truly special; after all, most of us had known each other since Kindergarten. And anyone who came into the fold after that was immediately taken in with arms wide open. So our ball busting jokes never carried any ill intent in the least. It was a bit like CHEERS to be honest. Everyone knew everyone’s name and a little (or a LOT) about one another.

The first game was set to be played next week. I remember hanging out with Nelson that weekend, talking excitedly about how we would both start out 1-0 (1 win and 0 losses). We were probably shooting the shit, playing SNES together, or off at the mall being carefree kids. Spring was in the air, Major League Baseball was just starting, summer was right around the corner… it was a great time to be 10 years old enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

SEASON OPENER

Some folks just don't take losing too well
Some folks just don’t take losing too well…

The first game of the season came and went. The Bulldogs won 8 runs to 5. Herman, my friend and teammate, was even more competitive than me. I never met anyone so crazed about winning than Herman. Little did I know then that it was a major foreshadowing of events yet to come…

In contrast, Nelson’s team lost their first game. Imagine the bragging rights I had that afternoon!

Playing sports can teach you a lot about life itself. You learn about fair play, how to win (and lose) gracefully, how to work together with different teammates, and so forth. There was a real beauty to it, but especially when you came out on the winning end.

A BULLDOGS IMPLOSION

Things went south and fast
Things went south and fast

It’s amazing how quickly the tide can turn. We went from playoff darlings to the laughingstock of the league. The Bulldogs went on to set the school record for longest losing streak. We started out hot smelling like a rose, but it all went downhill from there. And no matter how hard we tried, or what we tried, we couldn’t stop the losses from mounting like a snowball rolling downhill.

At first we dropped game 2 and fell to an even 1-1 record. Ah no worries, we thought at the time. It was a close loss, but surely we’ll get ‘er next time!

But then it happened. The ship was sinking fast and so was team morale. The results of the next handful of games were not pretty. In fact, they were downright brutal. We were…

Slaughtered in game 3.
Bludgeoned in game 4.
Annihilated in game 5.
Crushed in game 6.

And then… Game 7 happened…

That’s when things really hit the fan…

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There I was guarding the 3rd base line on a hot spring afternoon. As usual, we were down, but lo and behold, we were in the game. For the first time since game 2, we had a shot to win the game. It was in the later innings. We were only down by one run. But they loaded the bases with 2 outs. If we could just escape this inning unscathed, Herman and I would be batting the next half inning down only one. We could actually pull it off!

I pounded my fist into my glove, anticipating the play. The runner on 3rd base started chirping, talking trash, but it fell on deaf ears. The pitcher went into his wind-up motion. Here we go…

CRACK!!
CRACK!!

It sounded like a gunshot reverberating through the hills. The ball was smacked into center field where Herman was fielding. Like everyone else, including the base runners, I stood there and watched with eyes and mouth wide open. Herman was streaking back as fast as his legs could take him… he had a chance to make the CATCH OF THE CENTURY.

We all watched the ball sail....
We all watched the ball sail high…
Herman streaking back...
Herman streaking back…
And what a catch! Well, I wish
And what a catch! Well, I wish…
Herman reached out and...
It felt as if time had froze for all eternity

As Herman made a diving attempt for the baseball, I watched in horror as it sailed JUST PAST his outstretched glove. The runners were off immediately. I heard a sickening THUD as Herman’s body pounded the grass like a car falling off the Empire State Building. It was a class-A belly flop. Amazingly, Herman got up immediately. But even more mind blowing was what took place next…

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As the runners rounded past me on 3rd base I saw something I’d never forget.

Herman retrieved the baseball and stopped dead in his tracks. Jojo from left field screamed “THROW IT HOME THROW IT HOME!” The commotion caused the runners to actually stop running to see what the hell was going on.

Then, it happened.

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Instead of throwing the ball toward home plate, Herman turned around and let out an animalistic cry as he threw the ball as far as he could into center field. I tracked the ball as it sailed high in the blue sky. A sky so blue that afternoon that it hurt my eyes just squinting at it. Herman stormed off the field in a fit of blind rage, leaving everyone speechless. Not to mention the ball 300 feet away from all of us. It was one of those moments that spoke for itself. A moment none of us would ever forget.

Once again, the Bulldogs lost. But this was more than a mere loss; this was a total meltdown. Made me glad there was only one game left in the season.

THE FINAL GAME

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We were a pathetic 1 and 6. The worst team in the tourney by a country mile. Although the season was a wash, we all agreed we had to try and salvage what we could. Ending the season with a win would ease the pain. No one on my team had talked to Herman since game 7’s ugly incident. None of us knew where his head was at. Speculation ran rampant. Until Herman finally shattered the silence.

In the dugout prior to the final game of the season, Herman issued a heartfelt apology. Said he lost his cool in the heat of the moment. We understood. We also knew we were now playing for a little thing called PRIDE. The Bulldogs, win or lose, were going to go down swinging… together.

We played loose, we laughed, we rallied
We played loose, we laughed, we rallied

Jojo started the wave at some point in the dugout. It was a great time. And believe it or not, the Bulldogs won the final game of the regular season. We started and finished the season with a win. In-between? Lots of devastating losses but they only served as an invaluable lesson: how to lose gracefully and bounce back from adversity. Baseball taught us far more than what we could have learned in the classroom. For that reason alone, and ever since that fateful day, I have always loved the game of baseball.

I can’t remember which four teams advanced to the playoffs or who even won it all in the championship game. But what I do remember is that the Bulldogs finished an unimpressive 2 and 6, but underneath that horrible record, lied a team that truly felt like winners in the end.

FIELD OF DREAMS

My favorite film of all time
My favorite film of all time

June 2001. I’d just graduated from high school and spent that summer working at Blockbuster Video with my good friend Eddie and the “high school slut.” Interesting times they were. See Memories of Renting for more on those halcyon days.

One night I was closing up and made my usual last minute DVD run. As an employee I received 5 free rentals a week, and never failed to take advantage of such luxuries.

As I scanned the aisles for my late evening entertainment, Field of Dreams caught my eye. I had heard over the years what an awesome movie it was but I had yet to see it. Memories of the epic 5th grade baseball tournament came rushing back to me. Kevin Costner seemed to wink at me from the DVD box. Looks like a date, good sir.

Soundtrack was absolutely stellar, and haunting
Off to the races!

With stunning cinematography and a stellar soundtrack that absolutely haunts and mesmerizes, Field of Dreams easily became my #1 favorite film of all time. More than just a baseball movie, it’s actually about life, second chances and father-son relationships. There’s also a touch of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. Everyone was perfectly cast. It’s just a damn near perfect movie.

No film gives me more goosebumps than this one
No film gives me more goosebumps than this one
One of my favorite shots in cinematic history
One of my favorite shots in cinematic history

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One early evening out in the stalks of Iowa, simple farmer and family man Ray Kinsella hears “The Voice” for the first time. This spooky voice simply tells him “IF YOU BUILD IT, HE WILL COME.” Ray is understandably disturbed, and begins a wild journey to get to the bottom of things. Was this a mere hallucination, a simple prank or… something of the supernatural sort?

And so begins a magical yarn of adventure
And so begins a magical yarn of adventure

Ray decides to pursue the Voice’s wish, tears down a good portion of his live crops and builds a baseball field smack dab in the middle of his farm. The locals think Ray has finally gone over the deep end. Only his incredibly loving and supportive wife, Annie Kinsella, stood behind him. But even then, she had her moments of struggle. Who goes and builds a baseball field in the middle of their farm!? Nutcases, that’s who, and now her husband, Ray Kinsella. But was Ray a looney, or was he on to something here…

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No doubt the field was gorgeous, and a hell of a sight with the corn swaying in the wind in the outfield. But as the seasons passed, nobody came as the Voice promised that it would. Ray and Annie grow impatient, and restless, as they saw their income from the crops dwindle due to the baseball field eating up their real estate. Times were starting to grow lean, and the looming danger of the bank foreclosing became an ever increasing burden on the Kinsellas.

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And then it happened. One cold night, Ray looked out his bedroom window and spotted a haunting figure standing in the middle of his baseball field. It appeared to be an old timey ball player from 1919. But this was 70 years later, 1989. What in the world is going on here??

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The ghastly visitor turned out to be Shoeless Joe Jackson, who played for the Chicago White Sox back in the early 1900s. Long dead, Ray realized there truly were supernatural forces at play here. Ray Liotta absolutely shined as Shoeless Joe, stealing every scene he was in.

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The Kinsellas couldn’t believe it. The baseball field that was eating into their precious earnings, was finally serving a purpose. What that purpose was, they had no idea. But after their encounter with the night phantom, they knew they had to keep the baseball field erected to see what cosmic forces may yet occur.

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It wasn’t long until Ray received a second message from the Voice: “EASE HIS PAIN.” Of course, the Voice doesn’t offer explanations or clarifications. This sets in motion the next beat of the film, as Ray researches whose pain it was he had to ease. This leads the Kinsellas to a PTA meeting discussing the merits of censorship and book banning.

As an aside, the pictures above and below were taken at a Field of Dreams screening this past June. It was the film’s 30th anniversary. I had the honor of seeing it for the very first time on the big screen :)

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Over the course of the PTA meeting, Ray realizes whose pain he had to ease. Terence Mann, a great author of his time, who is now a recluse. Fun fact, W.P. Kinsella based this character in his book Shoeless Joe off real life author, J.D. Salinger. Another fun fact: Ray Kinsella is the name of a character from a short story J.D. Salinger wrote entitled A Young Girl In 1941 With No Waist At All. There was also a character named Richard Kinsella that appeared in The Catcher in the Rye.

Love love LOVE this book
Love love LOVE this book
So stoked when I ran across it in a book store!
So stoked when I ran across it in a book store!

This leads Ray to make a cross country trek to track down the reclusive Terence Mann. Shenanigans and hi-jinx ensues, including a classic scene where Ray uses his finger to poke his jacket pocket to stand in as a gun in an attempt to persuade Mann to leave the fine comforts of his sanctuary.

"GO THE DISTANCE"
“GO THE DISTANCE”

After “kidnapping” Terence Mann, played by the impeccable James Earl Jones, Ray Kinsella takes him to a ball game. The setup for this is classic, classic stuff. Costner and Jones shine in their roles, and their back-and-forth banter is both charming and wildly entertaining. Once situated at Fenway Park, Ray hears his next message from the Voice: “GO THE DISTANCE.” But what in the hell does that mean, go where and how far?

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Thankfully, the Voice offered a little more insight this time as a special message is displayed over the giant screen that only Ray Kinsella can see. Apparently, the Voice was talking about an old ball player by the name of Archibald Graham, or Moonlight Graham as he was known in his day. Moonlight Graham was a real life ball player who played only one game in the Majors, but had 0 at-bats. It is certainly a unique and fascinating story of almost achieving one’s dreams but not quite. After jotting down the information on his scorecard, Ray asks Mann if he heard or saw anything. Mann says no, and Ray apologizes. “I’m sorry, I guess you didn’t have to be here.” Confused and relieved yet disappointed, the two leave the game early.

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As they sit in Ray’s Volkswagen van, Terence Man asks Ray Kinsella, “What’s it you’re not telling me?” Ray replies, “I’ve already taken up too much of your time.” Mann stares quizzically at Ray for a moment before exiting the vehicle. Closing the door behind him and draping his jacket and arms over the side, Mann spits out some reflective prose. “I wish I had your passion, Ray. Misdirected though it might be, it is still a passion. I used to feel that way about things but…” His voice trails off as he ponders his current life state and how he got to be the way he got to be. Then it hits him.

“You got another message, didn’t you?”

“You’ll think I’m crazy.”

“I already think you’re crazy. What did it say?”

Mulling over whether to tell him the truth or not, Ray decides to tell a white lie. “It said the man’s done enough. Leave him alone.”

And thus, the two fellows shake hands and Ray pulls his Volkswagen van away from the curb and into that cold Boston night…

"MOONLIGHT GRAHAM!" Instant goosebumps
“MOONLIGHT GRAHAM!” Instant goosebumps

Ray is stunned when he finds Terence Mann blocking his path. Even more stunned to hear Mann utter the name “MOONLIGHT GRAHAM.” Looking at Mann bewildered, Ray shouts “YOU SAW IT!!!” This turns Field of Dreams into a road trip movie. They’re heading to Minnesota to find Moonlight Graham. Good stuff.

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Mann heads to Iowa alongside Ray Kinsella, and there he encounters the field of dreams for himself. He is instantly transformed from a social recluse to a grinning 10 year old boy as he watches his heroes of yesteryear play an evening game of baseball.

Mann can't believe his eyes
Mann can’t believe his eyes

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Who could ever forget the classic climax where James Earl Jones launches into a soliloquy like only he can. Pontificating on the importance of baseball and how it’s been a marker for American history throughout the ages, you can’t help but feel drawn to his passion and convictions. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, in that very moment you suddenly are. And that’s the true mark of a magical movie.

"PEOPLE WILL COME, RAY. OHHH, PEOPLE WILL COME."
“PEOPLE WILL COME, RAY. OHHH, PEOPLE WILL COME.”

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The ending, where Ray is reunited with his father (who’s long passed), never fails to tug at the strings of my heart. “Hey dad… want to have a catch?” has got to be cinema’s most emotional 7 words ever spoken. Truly the stuff that reduces grown men to crocodile tears.

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“Is this Heaven?”

“No, it’s Iowa.”

But then Ray glances back to his house, spotting his wife and daughter hanging out on the porch having a grand old time. He ponders the question again. Maybe this IS Heaven after all…

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Ray and his dad have a game of catch late into the night as the camera pans overhead and we see thousands of cars in bumper-to-bumper traffic coming to the ballpark.

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PAYING TRIBUTE

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In college I minored in Theatre Arts and for my Final, I had to perform a monologue. Naturally, I selected James Earl Jones’ baseball speech from Field of Dreams. Had a blast reenacting it and putting my own spin on it. Fun times.

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COMING IN 2020!

Not a hoax or prank... it's truly happening!
Not a hoax or prank… it’s happening!

Announced earlier today (August 8, 2019), Major League Baseball announced that the Yankees and White Sox will play an actual regular season game at the famous Field of Dreams ballpark in Iowa. This monumental event will take place on August 13, 2020. I wish I could go but tickets will be limited and through the roof. I’ll definitely have a front row seat in my living room, though, and will be plenty satisfied with that!

"Aaron Judge... COMES TO IOWA." Not the same effect as Shoeless Joe but I'll take it
“Aaron Judge… COMES TO IOWA.”
Not the same effect as Shoeless Joe but I’ll take it

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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Looking back on my times spent with the sport of baseball, I cherish all the great memories it has given me along with all the great lessons it’s taught me. Summer is quickly coming to an end as Major League Baseball hurtles its way to the Fall Classic. The game may not be as popular today as it was when I was a kid growing up, but I hope the kids playing baseball today take away from the game as much as I did 25 years ago.

Even got a poster of the film :P
Even got a poster of the film :P
Long live baseball and dreams
Long live baseball and long live dreams

Buon Compleanno

Today is June 15, 2019. To me that means two things. 1. It’s about summer time (kiss my ass, school!) and 2. It’s my little cousin’s birthday. Well, he’s not so little anymore — he stands 6 feet tall and just turned 31. David, in a nutshell, has always sort of been the little brother I never had. Thus, this article is a tribute to my cousin, the little bro I never had. Cheers to you, David. And happy birthday, bro.

IN THE BEGINNING…

David and I grew up together. In the late ’80s, my uncle lived with me and the family. He married, his wife moved in and they had a baby in ’88. I remember June 15, 1988 pretty well, considering I was only four (and three quarters) at the time. It was a damp and blustery morning as I stood outside the garage door, watching my mom sweep the dry brown leaves off the driveway. And then my uncle’s car gently roared into the just swept driveway. My aunt clambered out and it was then that David and I first met. We bonded immediately, as though we were best friends in a past lifetime.

ADVENTURES IN TEETH BRUSHING

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I’m so glad my uncle loved recording us as we grew up together in the late ’80s to early ’90s. It was thanks to my uncle’s penchant for documenting everything that I fondly recall all the wacky adventures David and I shared. One of my favorite memories was David’s love for sneaking out of his crib (with my aid of course) to brush his teeth for the hundredth time that same night. At two years old, he would reach out of the crib and beg for me to transport him to his very own version of Disney World. And with that patented jovial grin of his, how could I resist? He was such a delightful and cute little rascal.

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No one loved brushing teeth more than David, and I loved to watch him do it. Never before had I seen such showmanship! After he brushed, 5 minutes later in his crib he’d tug on my shirt to take him back. So under the cover of darkness, I’d smuggle him off to the bathroom for another show. There’s a home video floating out there somewhere where you can see me shoving David — with all of my seven-year-old strength — up on to the sink. He bumped his head against the mirror really hard as he fought to stand up on his wobbly legs. Instead of crying, he amusingly stared back at his two-year-old reflection and, with a gleeful laughter, jubilantly pounded the mirror with his palm. He was a bundle of joy.

FEARLESS

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One of my favorite pastimes was playing backyard baseball against my brother. This moment was not captured on film by my uncle but damn do I remember it as though it happened yesterday. It was the summer of 1991. I was about 8, my brother was 10 and David was 3. Kevin was on the mound and he stared me down as I stood firmly in the batter’s box (AKA a patch of grass at one end of my backyard). Kevin went into his windup, lifted his leg and flung the tennis ball down broadway as hard as he could. I took a mighty cut and fouled the ball off into the thorn bushes. David was in the background fiddling around on his brand new Power Wheels. Like most brothers growing up, Kevin and I fought a shit ton as youngsters, physically and verbally. Instead of grabbing a stick and poking the tennis ball out of the thorn bush he screamed at me for hitting it there. Of course, as little brothers often do, I had to respond in kind. And my response was not kind! We were busy shoving and jostling. And in the middle of this commotion I felt a tap. Kevin and I turned around. We could not believe our eyes.

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David, with a grin oddly plastered across his angelic little face, held out the tennis ball to us. As if it were an offering. We gasped in horror when we saw the sickening multitude of thorns that had pricked his tiny arm. But judging by his ear-to-ear grin, you’d never think the pain that had to be surging through his little arm bugged him at all. I remember kissing him on the forehead and patting him on the back. What a great kid. My brother and I immediately dropped our quarrel and we spent the rest of that afternoon playing with David in complete and blissful harmony. David does it again!

I'll never forget the sight of his pricked arm. Insanity!
I’ll never forget the sight of his pricked arm. Insanity!

Then in the spring of ’92 my aunt became pregnant, and my uncle decided the time was perfect to move out and buy a place of their own. My childhood dream of growing up in a big household — blame it on Full House I suppose — was suddenly dashed. And life, well, life would never be the same.

ROLLER COASTER OF EMOTIONS

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My cousin Vince, about 10 years my senior, was one of my idols growing up. I always looked up to Vince, and in many ways felt I should pass that down to David. I hoped to provide him with wonderful memories and experiences as he grew up — just like how Vince did for me all those years ago. So when David was around 10 in 1998, I suddenly had this knack for taking him on his first roller coaster ride. He told me he had never been on one due to his fear of heights and whatnot. But I assured him it was worth it… that it was sort of a childhood rite of passage. In the summer of ’98 it became my obsession to have him ride one. And finally, one scorching hot summer day, he finally said YES.

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I couldn’t believe my ears, as though David was speaking to me in tongues. David was confronting his fear! He was about to embark on his first ever roller coaster adventure. Looking back on it, it may sound kind of silly but at the time it truly felt like a landmark moment in his life. I had this weird fantasy where riding a roller coaster would expand David’s world and help him to fully realize his potential. For as exuberant and daring a toddler he was, as a child he grew to be rather reserved. Deep down I always believed he still had that expressive and jubilant side in him, and I was determined to bring it out at any cost.

Finally, the moment of reckoning descended upon us. Proudly marching up to that towering steel structure that loomed before us, David was rearing to shock the system and give the man the proverbial old middle finger. But just as quickly, from out of nowhere, his grandmother (God rest her soul) swooped in, grabbed him by the wrist and yelled “ARE YOU CRAZY?! NO YOU’RE NOT GETTING ON THAT!”

Although it happened only a foot away from me, I remember feeling like it took place a chasm apart. I was completely helpless to stop it, and I saw the gleam of courage in David’s eyes instantly give way to fear. Physically, he seemed to shrink before me. And despite my urging him to still carry on, he sadly shook his head at me and could only say, “Sorry Steve, I can’t do it…”

I was crushed. So close, yet so far. It’s one of those memories and vivid scenes that stay with you for a lifetime. But as terrible as I felt, I could only imagine how defeated David must have felt. And for that, my heart absolutely sank.

DAVID’S HALLOWEEN ADVENTURE

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Relinquishing the dream of the cold steel wonder that is the roller coaster, I looked to another form of cheap American thrill… the haunted house. Yet another childhood rite of passage, one of my fondest childhood memories was Halloween night of 1995. That was the night my cousins took me to my first real haunted house and I never looked back. The sights, the sounds, the smells, ahhh. I wanted David to have that experience for himself.

Michael Myers almost attacked me that night!
Michael Myers almost got me that night!

Similar to the roller coaster, David rejected my various invites. 1998 was a no go. But in 1999 he accepted. But first he wanted to trick or treat around the block. Fair enough, I thought to myself. So I took him and his sister trick or treating. David and his sister ran from house to house like thieves in the night. In a way they were! Free candy! Wearing masks! Why, in my day they didn’t hand out candy; oh heck no, rather, it was rationed paper clips! [Oh stop it -Ed.]

If only David saw those steps in the darkness...
If only David saw those steps in the darkness…

Near the end of that fateful evening, on one of the final houses on our tour, David didn’t make out the steps in the darkness and fell. I heard the sickening sound of bare knees scraping concrete. And that is a match concrete will always win. I took David and his sister home, and sadly he never left the house again that night. I was so disappointed. It was just like the roller coaster from the year prior. So close, yet so far. But there’s always next year, right?

But time was quickly running out. I was 12 when I went to the haunted house in ’95. There’s something to be said about going to a haunted house when you’re THAT young. When you’re easily impressed by halfway decent setups that replicated the horrors of a house. When you think about it, 12 is really the last year of childhood, is it not? Well, in 2000, David was 12. This was the year. The last year. It was now or never. Do or die.

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October 31, 2000. David and I finally went to that haunted house. I was glad David was able to experience it just in the nick of time before hitting his teenage years. And I know it’s über dorky but for many years following Halloween 2000 I proudly carried the ticket around in my wallet wherever I went. It was a symbol, to me, for breaking through.

Oh snap, remember Gyro's?
Oh snap, remember Gyro’s?
Good times
Good times

A SHOCKING BOMBSHELL

Say whaaaaa...
Say whaaaaa…

Summer 2004. My cousins on Vince’s side from time to time held family get togethers on Saturdays, and this was one of those jam-packed occasions. Their huge two story house was the perfect place for family reunions and gatherings. As previously stated, I admired Vince growing up. And I’ve always strove to be a great cousin and example for David, like how Vince was to me. So I guess you could say it was pretty fitting anytime that Vince, David and I found ourselves under the same roof. It actually didn’t happen as often as one might think since David’s family wasn’t super close with Vince’s family, and David was a homebody who deeply valued his peace and privacy. But in a stroke of luck, David decided to come out to the party on this fateful day, and that was where he dropped a bombshell on little ol’ me.

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Everyone was hanging out downstairs or playing pool in the backyard. David and I were chilling upstairs in the den. We were playing foosball and just kind of hanging out when he looked at me and said something I would never forget.

“… I got a D in math this past semester.”

All my life I’ve looked at David as the little brother I never had. And his bold gesture, despite the negative context, made me feel SO proud. He rarely opened up like that to anybody. At that moment I knew, without a shadow of a doubt and for the first time ever, that he saw me as the older brother HE never had. My family has never been the strongest in terms of keeping an open line of communication as I think many of us don’t feel comfortable sharing details. So for David to share that with me on that day… it blew me away. I, of course, reassured him that it was OK and that life is about learning from our mistakes. We had a really good and deep conversation before joining the rest of the fam downstairs. It was one of those bonding conversations you never forget.

A SLICE OF COLLEGE LIFE

NightHouse

It was the spring of 2005. There was a big event going on at my University one night. Everyone was welcomed to join the fray in the Student Union. It was a rally night to discuss various topics in the Asian community such as issues related to drugs, sex, sexual identity, you know, that kind of gig. I asked David to join me. Surprisingly, he was game. So 30 minutes before the event began at 7 PM, I drove to his place to pick him up.

DavidTribute9

The event was packed with roughly 60 to 75 college students from every imaginable walk of life. I glanced over at David as we found our seats. I was ecstatic that he decided to come along and step out of his comfort zone. I wanted to expose him to a slice of college life. He was probably the only high school kid there that night.

Following a brief introduction by the MC and a speech by the presenter, the floor was opened up to the people for thoughts and questions. The MC asked if anyone would like to respond to the speech. Glancing around the room, and then looking over at David who sat there with an odd grin on his face, I decided to stand up. As I stood up from my seat I could see David looking up at me in a state of semi shock. I’d never really told him about my public speaking background before. No doubt the #1 reason I decided to speak that evening was to show David you can do anything when you believe in yourself.

Staring out at a sea of humanity...
Staring out at a sea of humanity…

The walk from my seat to the front of the lecture hall felt long as hell. I think a few students coughed as I made my way up there. I shook the MC’s hand and then turned to face the audience. Man was it packed. Tugging on my blue Michael Jordan skullcap, I began my spiel.

“You know, in our Asian culture it’s not easy being homosexual. *pause* Not that I am… and not that there’s anything wrong with being homosexual.”

The room filled with laughter. I saw David cracking up. I think in some way he understood I was doing this for him. His expression was one that read, “That’s my cousin up there.” [Or maybe “I don’t know him, I swear, I don’t!” -Ed.]

On a side note, I had a point to my speech. The usage of comic relief in the intro was to lighten up the mood for a second. I certainly wouldn’t do it in a room full of college professors. It’s all about reading your audience!

However, the thrill of the night came later on. We broke into small groups to talk about our experiences and thoughts on these various issues in the Asian community. We sat in a circle and went around. When it got to be David’s turn, he shared his two cents. This high school kid was talking with a group of college students like he belonged. I was so proud of the guy. I remember just beaming at him like a proud older brother.

When the meeting concluded, David and I talked and joked all the way back to the parking garage. It was a cold and starry night. Just absolutely serene. I was thrilled that I was able to provide David with a small taste of what was to come in his future, being that he was now almost 17. Any sort of preparation, no matter how small, is big. Plus he got to see his crazy ol’ cousin in action as a bonus :D

Driving David home on the freeway that night, music blaring, I think I did Vince proud.

It was a great night for all
It was a great night for all

AMERICA’S NATIONAL PASTIME

FoDBaseball

Later that summer in July of 2005 I took David to his first baseball game. It went to extra innings and ended with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th. We had a blast at the park rooting on the home team. It was another item checked off David’s list. It was simple, it was fun and he couldn’t have watched a better more exciting game. We went home on a high :)

CELEBRATING AMERICA

DavidTribute11

4th of July, 2006. I took David to one of my favorite spots to watch fireworks. It’s on a hill in the eastern side of town. At sunset the view is pretty damn gorgeous. We had a blast just talking, catching up, admiring the fireworks and celebrating America’s 230th birthday.

Check out these crazy weird photos I took that night:

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O_o
:P
:P

THE RISE OF DAVID

Rise of the Silver Surfer. Hey, it's a guilty pleasure OK?
Rise of the Silver Surfer is a guilty pleasure

June 15, 2007 (the date this article was originally written) marked David’s 19th birthday. It was also the opening day for Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. We caught the first film on opening weekend back in 2005. It was me, David and our cousin Mike out to celebrate David’s last year before hitting his 20’s.

Remember Marvel '91 trading card series? Classic!
Remember Marvel ’91 trading card series? Classic!
What a bad ass time to be a kid!
What a bad ass time to be a kid!

When we arrived at the theater it was completely jam packed! I couldn’t help but notice cute girls around David’s age were all over the place. Given the film, no shocker there. David was sitting on the edge of a row, Mike in the mid — oh look, here’s a pic to make your life (and mine!) easier.

But imagine the seats looking MUCH nicer
But imagine the seats looking MUCH nicer

The girl sitting in the row in front of us, about 5 minutes before the trailers, turned around to look back at me.

“Hey, are you saving that seat there for a friend?” she pointed to the empty seat that separated me and the cute girl.

“Nope.”

“Is it cool if you move over? My two friends are coming soon and we’re out of seats in this row here.”

No problem, I told her. OH NO PROBLEM AT ALL! David, Mike and I moved over one seat. So now the cute girl and I were sitting next to each other. I can’t say that it hurt my feelings.

And then… as I sunk into my chair and chatted with Mike and David, the two friends the girl had mentioned walked into the theater and made their way to our row.

These two ladies, as fate would have it, were the type to turn heads. I looked over at David as one of them sat down beside him and I could sense him doing mental cartwheels. Ah indeed, what a stroke of luck for my fine feathered friend.

I felt so happy for David. Dude was GOOD!
Good times

Right before the house lights dimmed for the trailers, I caught a glimpse of a sly little grin crossing David’s face. As the first preview roared over the screen and speakers, I laughed to myself, poking Mike. I gave him the look. He, too, knew what was going on with David. He discreetly glanced over at David in the darkness and then back to me, returning the “I gotcha” gesture.

What David probably dreamed of doing :P
What David probably dreamed of doing :P
dd
:D

After the movie I took David and Mike to a nearby Italian restaurant. David insisted on going to Taco Bell or Wendy’s. I told David that I love those places as much as anyone but those are no places to eat on a birthday. This Italian restaurant was far from hoity-toity upper class, but at least it had some class.

Once seated, I noticed a waitress who looked vaguely familiar. She was serving an old couple the table over. Hmmm, where have I seen her before?

This restaurant, being family oriented, had each table adorned by white drawing paper you could write and color on. A set of crayons were sprawled between the salt ‘n pepper. I took a green crayon and wrote on the sheet “Happy 30th Birthday David!”

Zoom in on mobile and you can see my messy scribble
Zoom in on mobile and you can see my messy scribble

It was an in-joke between the three of us. We often joked that David, although turning 19 at the time, always acted like someone much older than his age. David and Mike laughed when they saw my message on the dining table paper.

When our waitress came over to field our orders, she pointed to the crayon scribbling and asked “Whose birthday is it?” I pointed to David, who made meek eye contact with this attractive Filipino lass probably in her mid 20’s.

“Well, happy birthday, David,” she said warmly. He said a quick thank you. “I’ll be back with your drinks in a minute. If you need anything else, let me know.”

And then the waitress from the other table walked by. I saw her face and it hit me. She looked at me funny, too.

“Tiff?!”

“Oh my God, Steve??”

Tiffany was an old family friend I’d spent more than a few Saturday nights with, back in ’99 and 2000 along with another family friend, Tim. Back then, our parents met at Tim’s house once or twice a month for dancing and drinking. The parents partied downstairs while we did our thing upstairs. Tim and I both openly shared a crush on Tiff. Some nights she was closer to him, other nights closer to me (not physically close but emotionally). It was a friendly rivalry between he and I (we were really good friends). All in all it was good harmless 16 year old fun.

In fact, that hill I took David to on 4th of July, 2006, was the same hill in which Tim, Tiff and I spent our 4th of July back in 2000, just months before I took David to his first ever haunted house. Crazy how things connect…

Anyhow, Mike and David looked on in a mixture of confusion and wonder as Tiff and I quickly played catch-up. What a freaking small world! We hadn’t seen each other since the summer of 2000 when the parents quietly disbanded their Saturday night dance and drink-athons. Our impromptu reunion ended when she had to go back to waiting tables. We hugged and wished each other well. And that was that.

So now Mike, David and I were eating and talking. Just enjoying life. And then our waitress came over, along with another attractive female co-worker, holding a surprise small fudge cake. David’s expression said it all.

“We’re going to sing you happy birthday but in… Italian!” they ceremoniously declared.

  • Buon compleanno a te
    Buon compleanno a te
    Buon compleanno a David
    Buon compleanno a teeeeeeeeeeee

As they sang, I noted the way they starred merrily into David’s eyes as though he were the most handsome young man they had ever laid eyes on. I NEVER saw David look any prouder in the 19 years that I had known him than at that very moment in time. He sat up, chin held up high and he was beaming from ear to ear. I sat there and admired the moment. It’s an image that’s been embedded in my soul.

The rest of the day David was like a new man. I ribbed him about his two new girlfriends. He laughed and had this spark in his eyes as he went along with the joke — it made me so happy seeing him be so happy :)

And, to this day, it’s a joke we still occasionally joke about.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

MemoirsCave

In early 2015 I gave David a copy of Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman, written by my buddy, Rob Strangman. I contributed 5 guest stories to Rob’s epic book of video game memories from yesteryear, and I felt the time was right to finally share with David about the existence of RVGFanatic, and the article I had written about him way back in 2007. He was touched.

DavidNote

To my cousin, David, AKA the little bro I never had, thanks for being my cousin brother. May you always reach for the stars and be who you’re meant to be. Love ya, bro.

PS- Your ass still owes me a roller coaster ride ;)

Super Bases Loaded 2 (SNES)

Pub: Jaleco | Dev: Tose | February 1994 | 12 MEGS
Pub: Jaleco | Dev: TOSE | February 1994 | 12 MEGS

Here at RVGFanatic I relish the opportunity to talk about my favorite SNES games. In particular, I love shining the spotlight on those obscure games that flew under the radar. There are many Super Nintendo games that one could classify as such, but here’s one that is criminally overlooked. It’s so far below the radar that it honestly blows my mind. On the other hand, being a sports game it kind of automatically slips through the cracks. 16-bit sports games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I’ve always loved a well made one, and Super Bases Loaded 2 certainly is that. I’m going on the record to calling this the second best baseball game on the SNES, only trailing the epochal Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball. Obviously, if you don’t care for 16-bit baseball titles, this may not sway you in any way. But for everyone else, read on and more importantly, play the game yourself and see if it doesn’t become a favorite of yours as well.

MIDSUMMER CLASSIC

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Last night Major League Baseball put on its 88th annual All-Star Game.

APTOPIX All Star Game Baseball

Robinson Cano hit the go ahead home run to put the American League up 2-1 over the National League in 10 innings.

TonyPerez

Baseball has a funny way of repeating history in the most bizarre of ways.

July 11, 1967: Tony Perez hits an extra innings homer to lift the NL past the AL in the All-Star Game by the score of 2-1 in Anaheim.

July 11, 2017: Robinson Cano hits an extra innings homer to lift the AL past the NL in the All-Star Game by the score of 2-1 in Miami.

Not a single extra innings home run in-between those 50 years. Not only that but before Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in Miami, baseball put together a ceremony to honor the game’s Latin American history. Eight Latin-born Hall of Famers threw out first pitches to eight Latin-born All-Stars.

In one group? Tony Perez. In the other group? Robinson Cano. Yup, only in baseball. It’s no wonder so many diehard fans have the same mentality: “It’s hard NOT to get romantic about baseball.”

2017AllStarMLB

With summer currently in full swing, I decided it was time to start a 162-game season. Normally I play Ken Griffey but this time I decided to pull a different baseball title off my shelf. Over a decade ago I remember playing Super Bases Loaded 2 briefly and thinking that it was pretty enjoyable. I decided to give it a more thorough look and ended up having an absolute blast with it. Let’s see why it’s one of the most underrated sports games on the entire Super Nintendo.

BUT FIRST, A QUICK HISTORY LESSON

BasesLoadedNES

Bases Loaded originated on the 8-bit Nintendo. It went on to have three sequels on the NES. The series was immensely popular, selling more than five million copies worldwide.

Bases Loaded
Bases Loaded
Bases Loaded 2
Bases Loaded 2
Bases Loaded 3
Bases Loaded 3
Bases Loaded 4
Bases Loaded 4

The series naturally moved to the SNES.

Super Bases Loaded
Super Bases Loaded
Super Bases Loaded 2
Super Bases Loaded 2
Super Bases Loaded 3
Super Bases Loaded 3

Neat little fact #1: Many people associate Jaleco with the Bases Loaded series but it’s actually TOSE who developed all of these games. Jaleco picked up the publishing rights.

Neat little fact #2: Super Bases Loaded 2 is the only game in the series not originally intended to be part of the series. TOSE developed Super Professional Baseball 2 (the actual sequel to Super Bases Loaded) in August 1992. They then developed a stand alone baseball game, Super 3D Baseball, in October of 1993. Jaleco decided to publish Super 3D Baseball here in the States as Super Bases Loaded 2. Interesting that they skipped over Super Professional Baseball 2. This explains the drastic shift in style and look for Super Bases Loaded 2.

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Jaleco made the right call to port Super 3D Baseball rather than Super Professional Baseball 2.

PLAY BALL!

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Customize the game as you see fit: it is very player-friendly. The first Super Bases Loaded suffered from not having a battery backed memory. This game fixes that. Although the players aren’t real nor the teams, it’s still fun to play.

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Select from 18 teams. I personally enjoy using the L.A. Cyclops. Four teams are customizable but more on that later.

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Choose from three different stadiums to play in. I wish each team had its own field but the three here all play differently. This one is the biggest and is good for triples galore. Also has the tallest wall of the three.

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Standard park with all your modern amenities.

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Classic ball park with the shortest distance to straight away center field.

 SET YOUR LINEUP

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Set your batting order carefully. Players do vary in terms of ability to hit base hits, home runs, swipe bags, throwing power, etc. Unfortunately, there’s no way to discern this other than trial and error. The stats do help sometimes, but it would have been nice to see a rundown exactly. This is my preferred lineup. The green icons indicate players who feel locked in for that particular game. On the flip side, the orange-yellow icon shows players who aren’t feeling so hot. This doesn’t mean they still can’t perform well, but their odds go down. It’s an interesting system that Extra Innings also had.

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Players charge the field. It’s a nice little touch.

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Speaking of nice touches, I like how batters receive a quick statistical rundown. It’s a classic, clean look that I really dig. You can check your swing and sometimes this leads to cheap infield singles. Nice!

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Jaleco proudly declared on the back of the box that this was the first SNES baseball game to employ the DSP chip. Obviously it’s not really 3D but there’s something charming about the way this game looks. Better yet, you can actually steal bases like a thief in the night.

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Power of the DSP chip allows the camera to track the baseball in a “3D fashion.” It’s quite smooth and although it’s not the fastest baseball game around, it works well. Nothing beats seeing the ball land just fair. Cyclops go up 1-0 early.

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Simon crushes the baseball to right field for a two run jack! It’s pretty cool being able to track the ball for those massive home run swats.

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Defense is a make or break aspect of a baseball game. I’m happy to say the defense in Super Bases Loaded 2 is AWESOME. You almost always feel in control and while the infielders move a bit slowly, diving stops work great and it feels so good to gun out a base runner. Most baseball games render themselves instantly obsolete due to poor defense. This one does not!

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Seeing the ball pop off the bat is so satisfying. Is this another home run shot? Nope. Close but no cigar. No matter, it still brings home a run. L.A. Cyclops go up 4-0 on the Boston Kings. Gotta love the fake names. It’s charming in its own way.

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Stretching a double into a triple is the best.

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Getting beaned, however, not so much. Sometimes the hit batter will even charge the mound and “beat up” the pitcher. No joke. First time I saw that I marked out!

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Hitting line drive doubles just inside the foul line is immensely gratifying.

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Adding insult to injury is the dribbler that sneaks through the infield for another RBI hit. The camera really lets you see the ball getting pounded into the dirt as it travels just past the defenders. Sweet!

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Perhaps nothing is more demoralizing to the opposition than seeing the ball land in-between two defenders (“No Man’s Land”) and roll all the way to the fence as opposing base runners madly dash around the bases. Oh man does it feel good to do this. On the flip side, it’s crushing to be on the receiving end.

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Unlike many baseball games from that era, it’s actually possible to score on sacrifice flies. Players’ speed and arm strength in this game feel almost “just right” for the most part. I love scoring on sac flies! It also doesn’t ruin the batter’s batting average, just like in real life. Good stuff.

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Flashing off some leather! Like I said, the defense in this game is pretty top-notch. You’ll be stealing away base hits from the opponent like a demon. I also like how the outfield switches seamlessly to a more traditional look.

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Another sick home run shot. If I had turned on the slaughter rule, this game would have already been over. But there’s no slaughter rule in the pros and I got to get my stats… ;)

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Leaping catches are sick. But oh, the agony of letting one through the cracks.

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Aggressive base running from the Kings. Down 11-0, they’ve got nothing to lose.

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Nothing beats a diving save over the third base chalk line that leads to gunning out the runner at first. So damn satisfying!

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Robbing would be base hits is so smooth and natural in this game.

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Seriously, this is an awesome baseball game! So underrated.

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WOW… FAIR BY A HAIR! It’s such a helpless feeling for the defender as he chases after the ball.

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Baseball, like football, can often times be a game of inches. Being on the offensive side of this is a great feeling. Not so much on the defensive side.

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Simon once again terrorizes the Boston Kings, smacking a 2 run double in the gap. The L.A. Cyclops have now scored 3 touchdowns and gone up 21-1. Damn. By the way, you gotta love how the game shows you how each batter performed in his previous at-bats. Especially when a guy has a multi-hit game. Fill up that stat sheet!

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Another solid single that barely sneaks past the defenders into right field. It’s so fun tracking your hits since the perspective doesn’t switch until you hit the outfield.

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Suicide squeeze up 22-1? I’m definitely getting beaned next time! But check out how you can lower your bunt if you so choose. You can swing or bunt high, normal or low in this game. It all adds to the variety and options.

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Gonna be a close play at the plate… SAFE! 26-1, 25 run lead. DAMN.

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Computer’s defense is definitely not the smartest. 2 outs and instead of throwing to first base for the sure 3rd out, he throws it to second base. SAFE. The second baseman then flings it to first but he’s a half second late. SAFE. Bases loaded for a crack at a Grand Slam and 30 runs…

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Patton steps up to the plate having had a monster day. A single, two doubles and a home run already in the books, could he go 5 for 7 with a Grand Slam to boot? Uh oh… look at that swing! Look at that ball fly… could it be?!

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HOLY SHIT Patton did it! The ball stays just fair to give Patton a Grand Slam and a monster game for the ages. The L.A. Cyclops are spanking the Boston Kings 30-1!

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Computer, allow me to show you how a real double play is turned! Double plays are the best especially the diving ones. Double plays are a pitcher’s best friend after all. One last out to get…

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Another sick diving save at 3rd base. It never gets old.

Sheer, utter whuppage
Holy crap — 30 hits and 30 runs!

FAIR OR FOUL?

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Hitting a ball fair or foul is one of those “OHH!” moments for sure. Whether you’re pumping your fist or cursing your lot in life, it certainly elicits that “OHH!” feeling.

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Nothing beats seeing a ball land just fair and roll all the way to the wall! Well, if you’re on offense, anyhow.

SAFE OR OUT?

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Speaking of the umps, they always get the final say. That won’t stop your 1st base coach however from signaling safe even when the runner is called out. It’s little stuff like this that helps make a game more endearing to me.

BIG OR SMALL?

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Players will sometimes “shrink and grow” on the infield. It doesn’t really affect gameplay but it’s a notable quirk. Hey, the DSP chip wasn’t perfect.

DESIGN OR NOT?

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Super Bases Loaded 2 allows you to design up to four teams. You can change their player names — this could potentially lead to some juvenile antics but thankfully there’s none of the sort here. [Right -Ed.]. Players are rated in different categories and you can set the number ratings however you wish. You can create the ultimate team of players with 8’s across the board, or the worst team possible with all 1’s. Or you can make them all 4’s, or mix and match. It’s pretty cool.

Speed makes all the difference...
Speed makes all the difference…

SEASON STATS

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As mentioned earlier I recently wrapped up a 162-game season. I finished 154-8 for a whopping 95% winning percentage. Won the Omega League by 70+ games! I averaged about 3.75 runs a game and over 2 stolen bases a game.

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I freely admit I am a sucker for round numbers. I would hate to end a season with a .299 batting average, 29 home runs, 99 RBIs and 39 stolen bases…

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Thankfully Patton was having none of that.

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I had three guys in the top 10 for home runs: Baker (36), Patton (32) and Simon (28). Bonner also had 23 so technically he should have been the 4th guy in the top 10.

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I had four guys in the top 10 for RBIs: Patton (113), Simon (103), Baker (91) and Bonner (77). I was a little peeved that I couldn’t get 9 more RBIs with Baker to give him an even 100.

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I had nine guys in the top 10 for stolen bases! I really love how you can steal bases in this game. Leigh was a beast leading the way with 69 steals.

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That Cooper guy on Philly is pretty good!

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Damn, Ryan 80 wins and Willis 76 saves!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures of my final regular season stats. After Game 162, you’re taken to the World Series and the stats reset for post season play. Therefore I couldn’t take pictures but I did write down the stats. I will show the “normal” stats for each L.A. batter below. The caption will reveal the stats I had with that player during the 162-game season.

.224 BA, 5 HR, 37 RBI, 65 SB
.224 BA, 5 HR, 37 RBI, 65 SB
.249 BA, 18 HR, 66 RBI, 69 SB
.249 BA, 18 HR, 66 RBI, 69 SB
.309 BA, 32 HR, 113 RBI, 47 SB
.309 BA, 32 HR, 113 RBI, 47 SB
.311 BA, 28 HR, 103 RBI, 21 SB
.311 BA, 28 HR, 103 RBI, 21 SB
.259 BA, 36 HR, 91 RBI, 21 SB
.259 BA, 36 HR, 91 RBI, 21 SB
.282 BA, 23 HR, 77 RBI, 22 SB
.282 BA, 23 HR, 77 RBI, 22 SB
.225 BA, 3 HR, 35 RBI, 24 SB
.225 BA, 3 HR, 35 RBI, 24 SB
.210 BA, 4 HR, 33 RBI, 41 SB
.210 BA, 4 HR, 33 RBI, 41 SB
.221 BA, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 26 SB
.221 BA, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 26 SB
I clinched the Omega League after 119 games
I clinched the Omega League after 119 games
Boston took me to 7 games. Props to them
Boston took me to 7 games. Props to them
You damn right!
You damn right!

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

SBL2Crit1

Sadly, there was never much hub-bub about Super Bases Loaded 2. I remember a one page preview in EGM in early 1994 that caught my eye. The graphics for the time were unique and didn’t look like any other 16-bit baseball title. I ended up buying a copy in 2006 after experiencing my SNES resurrection. I remember playing it very briefly and thinking it was pretty fun, but I stored it away. Earlier this summer I finally decided to pick it up and play again. What started as a few games turned into a full 162-game season! Maybe if more people played it there would be some more positive chatter about this highly underrated game.

Sports fans, don't miss this!
Baseball fans, don’t miss this!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

SBL2Crit7

I’m so glad I finally sat down to play this game thoroughly. It’s now become one of my favorite Super Nintendo games, especially as far as sports games go. There’s just something about it that feels so right. The graphics aren’t the greatest but it has that classic retro baseball look to it. If I were to close my eyes and think of a 16-bit baseball game, my mind would probably think of a screenshot from a game like Super Bases Loaded 2. And I love that camera system. It’s the only SNES baseball game I know where hitting the ball doesn’t automatically switch the camera. If you smack it into the infield the camera simply zooms back and you never miss a beat on making a defensive stop. Speaking of which, defense for the most part feels natural and smooth. There are a few mishaps here and there, though. Namely, the infielders can feel like they’re slightly in mud every once in a while. But you get used to the speed pretty soon. Since we’re on the topic of speed, this is a big one for baseball games. You know how sometimes runners run too fast or too slow? Or the defenders’ arms are too strong or too weak? This seems to be that rare 16-bit baseball game that almost gets it right. Players aren’t lightning fast nor are they slow as turtles. Arms aren’t super strong yet the ball never bounces to home plate from the outfield 11 freaking times! Best of all, pace of play. You can finish a 9 inning game in about 15 minutes. That makes games fast-paced and fun.

SBL2Crit4

Some may complain about the lack of teams, real names, real players, lack of stadiums and lack of in-game music. I actually don’t mind the fake players in this case. I find the game’s 14 teams (18 if you count the four custom teams) strangely endearing. I like discovering each team’s best and worst players. Besides, there’s plenty of other baseball games on the SNES if I have a hankering to play as Mo Vaughn or Cecil Fielder. Super Bases Loaded 2 is unique. In fact, the bats have a metal sound to them despite clearly being wooden bats. It all adds to this quirky charming alternate baseball universe atmosphere. It’s not Japan. It’s not college. It’s not even AAA. It’s just… Super Bases Loaded 2. There is no in-game music but this is not necessarily a bad thing. I find it strangely calming to play a game with little music for a change. Besides, there were many evenings earlier this summer where I threw this game on for an hour and knocked out four games while listening to a podcast (without having to turn down the TV volume). It worked quite well! There are nice rally themes that play throughout based on the situation but they’re short (and actually not bad while they last). As for the three stadiums, at least they vary in look and size. Not a deal breaker for me.

SBL2Crit6

The bottom line is this game rocks. Seriously. I’ve played more than my share of baseball games. There are a lot of fair to middling baseball games on the SNES. Then there are some truly awful ones. And then you have good ones. This is definitely one of the good ones. It’s a lot of fun to play, it’s fast to play and it just feels like baseball done right. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than you may initially think. It’s a shame this game is as overlooked and obscure as it is. My hope is this review sways you to give Super Bases Loaded 2 a crack, especially those of you who don’t mind playing a (well made) 16-bit sports game. And hey, being summer time presently, what better time to give it a try than now?

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 9

Award4Overall: 9.0
Gold Award

 

See ya at the ball park!
See ya at the ball park!