Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

March 24, 2014

Shades of the past

By Dick Platt
Corsicana Daily Sun

— We had a most pleasant visit this week from a dear old pal, Dave Lamb, from the early 1970s and his lady friend, Margie. Back then, I was stationed at a radar station high atop Mt. Laguna, California, but we lived in government leased quarters in La Mesa (a suburb or San Diego), some 50 miles away.

After some very emotional tryouts, and some private tutoring/practices with dad, our son, Curt, got picked up to play minor league Little League baseball there in La Mesa. This was quite an accomplishment for Curt who was just nine, as we had just returned from a tour in Bangkok, Thailand, where the only sport he had played was soccer. A year later he was selected to play in the majors for a team called The La Mesa Optimists, managed by a young fellow named Dave Lamb. This was a proud day for the Platt family and we became avid supporters of all things Little League.

Another good friend of ours, Wayne Brierley, had been serving as Dave’s coach, but he had to resign so Dave asked me to take on that position. I was thrilled with the prospect but there were some real logistical problems in that I worked an 8-mile car ride and a 45-mile bus ride away. We managed to work it out even though I often conducted a practice in my Air Force uniform.

Dave and I made a good team — even if we were a study in opposites. He was a young California hippy-dippy with shoulder-length hair and I was an older guy with a severe brush cut hairdo. One of my favorite expressions to our players was, “If you hustle and play your best, you can have your hair long like Dave. However, if we catch you dogging it and not putting out your best, I’m gonna take you to my barber!” By the way, my son (bless his pointy little head) and his mates affectionately dubbed me “Grouch” and it has stuck with me ever since.

I was a jock for the entire time I was in the Air Force (did I mention it was 27 years, 3 months, and 16 days?), but those two years as coach of these young men were about the happiest sports memories I have. And we were successful too--we won the La Mesa league, Dave and I were selected as the All-Star Manager and Coach, and, best of all, our son was selected as the La Mesa All-Star Catcher. Life was good.

The next year, Curt moved on to Pop Warner Baseball but I stayed on with Dave and the La Mesa Optimists. We were having another great season, but half way through, I got orders sending me to the Senior NCO Academy in Montgomery, Alabama, en route to a permanent transfer back to Lowry AFB, Colorado.

I cannot tell you how emotional it was for the Platts when the La Mesa Optimists lined up on the third-base line after my last game to say their goodbyes. It took a few minutes for me to figure out why they didn’t charge out of the dugout after winning the game in a mad dash for the refreshment stand (on Dave and me). Then the league officials brought out microphones, TGW, and Curt and it hit me. By the time all the mementos were presented and the hugs and handshakes were over, I was a wreck!

Enough of that mushy stuff — let me tell you about Dave Lamb today. His business card reads, “Dave Lamb ‘The Kashi Guy’...Chief Kashi Ambassador.” That’s right! He is the funny little bow-legged, bearded guy you may have seen on t.v. running and cycling through the roughest of countryside and touting the healthful qualities of Kashi Foods.

Dave is now in his mid-60s, has retired from Kashi where he worked 18 years, but still ushers at the San Diego Padre baseball games. He travels all over the country representing Kashi in every kind of race imaginable — 5-Ks, 10-Ks, half-marathons, and marathons. He did not start running until his mid-30s but now has participated in over 900 races. He is in training for his first iron-man competition which will be particularly tough for him as he can’t swim. Dave, you have got to be kidding me! You not only need to be a strong swimmer, you need to be able to swim with hundreds of other competitors thrashing over and around you. Good luck with that.

Dave is now a vegetarian, he avoids sugars and white starches, and has not touched a drop of alcohol for many, many years. Needless to say, he is in great shape and he is an inspiration to this old happy-hour denizen to shape up. We had quite a laugh talking about hanging out one night after a game at a team parent’s house pigging out on bologna tortillas and beer.

We also reminisced about all the things that go along with Little League coaching...the drafting process...the endless practices...the player car pool services...the occasional discipline actions...the heartbreaking plays...and the overbearing parents. One giant undertaking was treating the whole team to a Padres game on “bat night.” Think about having 6-7 kids crammed into your car on the way home and each one has at least one bat. That is just asking for trouble!

Of course, out son and his family were here and we had a great visit and dinner, even though cooking for a confirmed vegetarian was a challenge. I made my world-famous meatballs for the carnivores and TGW made three-cheese stuffed shells for “The Kashi Guy.” We really also enjoyed visiting with his friend, Margie, who he met while running a race in Michigan. Dave is still in San Diego and she is still in Michigan but, who knows, neutral territory may be in the future for them both.

See ya..

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Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com