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by RD Foster

One passion my brothers and I had growing up was playing baseball. The love of the game was instilled in us at an early age by my dad and his younger brother Charlie who were both semi-pro baseball players. Uncle Charlie would go on to play in the Texas League. Every town of any size had a baseball team and a ball park. They both played for The Farmersville Ramblers and that team was known as the king of Collin County baseball in those days. The team was made up of WWII veterans and two younger guys, who would have their promising careers interrupted by the War in Korea, Uncle Charlie and Juaquin Villaneuva. Charlie Foster served as a tank commander. “Wakki” Villaneuva was an army medic, killed in action September 2, 1951, at the Battle of Bloody Ridge.

After we moved to McKinney, Dad still played baseball. Now he played center field, just like Mickey Mantle, for the VA Hospital team with games on Sundays. At home he would stand in front of a bedroom mirror with a bat and practice his swing. He kept his leather fielders glove well oiled, and stored with a baseball in the pocket and a rubber band wrapped tightly around the glove, which made for a perfect pocket for catching fly balls in center field.

Every day when Dad came home from work we’d go out in the yard and catch long fly balls that he would hit to us. It wasn’t long after we moved to the Mill Block that the yard would be full of kids with their ball gloves, ready for my dad to get home from work to join in the fun.

One of my favorite times of the year was in late spring when all the boys would sign up for Little League baseball. Once the teams were set, the results would come out in the McKinney paper, with all the teams and all their players. “What team are you on?” was the most popular question. It was as exciting as the anticipation of Christmas. At our first practice we would be issued uniforms, a tee-shirt with the team name on front and a number on the back, and a cap with the first letter of our team. My first team was the Eagles. I would continue to play all the way through high school. When Dad retired from playing, he continued coaching and managing little league.

The ages of players went from 8 to 18, different leagues for different age groups. There were five fields where we played: The Jaycee Center, on south Highway 75, just a few blocks west of the Mill Block; Quarterback Field at Finch Park; Mouzon Field on East Louisiana had three diamonds, the VA Hospital Field and later the McKinney High School Field in West McKinney. Games were played on weeknights. There was also a church league that we played in on Saturdays, with games all around the county against different churches.

I look back at those days in little league and see what positive lessons I learned that would be important through the rest of my life. I learned to be the best that I could be, no matter what the effort. And in baseball, as opposed to football, you don’t have to be the biggest, strongest or fastest to be good; it’s all about the fundamentals, which my dad stressed every day out in the backyard. The biggest lesson I learned was sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. When you lose it’s not the end of the world, you just get up, dust yourself off and go at it again.

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