Everyone knows that baseball is more than just a sport. It’s America’s national pastime, from little ones learning the basics in Little League, to teens playing for school pride, to adults who just want to celebrate the love of the game.
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, a group of players dubbed the Alpine A’s partake in old-timers’ baseball at historic Kokernot Field. They gather to play their favorite sport, and the only prerequisite is that they be 28 years old and up.
“The whole theory is, you don’t bring in some young ace that just blows everybody out of the water, because it doesn’t make it fun,” said Dr. James Luecke, an Alpine and Fort Davis family physician who serves as the Alpine A’s general manager and informal coach. “It’s been around for at least 50 years, maybe more. When I first came here 30 years ago, I remember hearing stories from guys in the nursing home about the team, and they were playing on it.”
Luecke has been a part of the team for about 25 years, and he thoroughly enjoys it.
“It’s kind of like the boys of summer. When springtime starts coming around, and you smell the flowers and the fresh air, you start thinking about baseball.”
The Alpine A’s currently play teams from Marfa, Fort Stockton, Pecos, and even New Mexico. Luecke remembers the old days when the Alpine team was called the Internationals, and they would all cross the border into Ojinaga, Mexico. Luecke thoroughly enjoyed his time there, despite the opposing team’s crowds who would often heckle the Alpine team. But it was all part of the fun.
“In those days, there was no violence,” recalled Luecke. “After a game, they would cook for us. They would have a big disk, and tripe meat, and cook some tortillas. That was a tradition with players in the past.”
On May 16, the Alpine A’s had the first home opening game at Kokernot Field against the Pecos Ballers, a double header that saw the A’s blasting by the competition and winning 14-4 in the first game, and 13-6 in the second. Jim Hawk, the oldest player on the team at 63, reached base six consecutive times.
Scott Morris, currently in his eighth season, said, “The green grass - it’s better than my bed! You lay on there, and it’s just awesome. You can’t play in a better field than this one, here in Alpine. It’s a beautiful ballpark.”
Luecke pointed out the nostalgic feel of Kokernot Field, saying, ”The biggest joy is just the fellowship, and to be able to play at Kokernot. When you get out on that field, and even going through the club house, you feel the presence of players in the past. They have had a lot of greats - Gaylord Perry, Norm Cash. Satchel Paige actually played an exhibition game out there.”
No matter how old they are, the old-timers love playing a game just like when they were kids - because they love it and because they still can.
“Baseball was part of our youth, and it keeps us feeling and acting young,” Hawk said. “For a few hours, we can feel like we’re 18 again.”