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Batter up (in Ripon) . . .
Also, dumping dogs to die in countryside
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It’s that time of year again. Fresh cut grass, the pop of the leather, and kids geared up for America’s pastime – baseball season has arrived.
I met with friends Pat Mayer, Richard Machado Jr. and Dave Winters to watch their boys battle Central Catholic in an early season varsity match-up. They mentioned that I could attend one of their predetermined “Board Meetings”...Which would take place at Las Casuelas restaurant. I was halfway to the Manteca version of the local eatery, when it dawned on me “Hey Stupid, their boys go to Ripon High – I’m pretty sure they plan on eating in wooden shoe country.” 
It wouldn’t be a day in Ripon without running into local raconteur Hannah at Las Casuelas. She wanted to let us know it was French philosopher Rene Descartes that made the quote “God made the earth, but the Dutch made Holland”...I bit my tongue and swallowed my desire to respond “...well they don’t know s**t about linguica.” We ate our lunch and she complimented me on my use of the word “swimmingly” during everyday conversation. She thought something about it sounded regal, and that it was a word her family flung around in the day. I tried my damndest to focus on Sportscenter, fearing she’d soon compare Peyton Manning’s pending retirement with Van Gogh cutting off his own ear...but I digress.
We headed to the field to watch the new scoreboard ceremony. Many Ripon luminaries – such as The Brocchinis, DeGraffs, and one Wanda Eavenson were receiving their well deserved booster accolades. The crowd in and unto itself was a strange mix of Ripon Indian loyalists, and Ripon residents that have sent their kids off to the green Catholic pastures of the school 8 miles to the south. The whole Public School vs. Private School debate made for some palpable tension in the stands. I listened to Mayer, Machado, and Winters run off a laundry list of kids in Central uniforms, that could have been wearing the Indian red and white. But their displeasure fell on deaf ears, as all I could think about was how nice Jack, Michael, and Riley (Their 3 boys), would look in a green and white Buffalo jersey. Apparently Pat and Richard forgot that they are both Manteca boys, and Michael Winter’s mother Nina was a Buffalo cheerleader. I tried to explain that deep down the Riponites will never accept them – but they just wouldn’t listen to me. 
Central was throwing fireballer Sam Mundt. The Central senior has already committed to the University of Utah. He stands about 6-foot-6, and the catcher’s glove made that glorious pop with each pitch he delivered. It’s the kind of sound that made every male within earshot smile and think of glory days gone by.
The sunflower seeds and sun on people’s faces was enough to overlook the outcome. Ripon squandered a bases-loaded first inning, and the power hitting Central line up slowly exerted their will. The lead stretched to 13-1 in the 7th. But unlike most sports, baseball has a wonderful way of letting even the dreariest of loss, have singular moments that shine bright.
Jack Mayer was at bat in the last of the 7th. You could see the frustration of being the day’s starting pitcher carried in his posture. By then Sam Mundt had been relieved by his younger brother – an even bigger and harder throwing version. (Nice recruit...ahem, pardon me...I meant nice kid). Their older brother is playing football at Oregon. Let’s just say the Mundt boys ate their veggies as kids.
  ...and when Mayer swung and missed at strike 3, he could’ve easily folded up the proverbial tent and sulked back to the dugout. But the ball got past the catcher and Mayer hustled up the line towards first – and Smack! - the ball caromed off the back of his helmet as he reached base. It headed towards right field where nobody was, as the right fielder had hustled towards first to back the throw.
Cue the Benny Hill Theme music!
He rounded 2nd and took 3rd with ease – but held up at the request of his base coach. (Though he had the look of a kid wanting to blow right through that stop sign)...and an errant throw to the infield, and a hop, skip, and a slide later – he was safe at home. It was just a single run. But that run did exactly what the start of baseball season is supposed to do – instill hope and desire. Not to mention the fact that just before Mayer’s at bat, his old man yelled out “Last run wins!”
You can’t fight that kind of game logic. Ripon Victory!
No Dumping Zone...The almond trees are blossoming, the bees are buzzing – and garbage and dogs are being dumped in the countryside. Nothing says Ansel Adams or Thomas Kinkade springscape like a 26-inch broken Zenith lying next to an old dresser by the side of the road. It seems every year around this time someone’s spring cleaning discards become a part of rural Manteca. Do people not know about the dump or the fact that the city will come to your house once a year for large disposals?
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t always let the dumping bother me. I was about 10 when one such pile in front of our dairy yielded a rusty switchblade and a nudie magazine – otherwise known as the 8th greatest day of my life! They stayed hidden in the hay barn for years. However years of scooping mattresses and old stereo speakers into the loader for a back-of-the-dairy trash bonfire eventually destroyed that one shining moment.
The trash dumpers aren’t even the worst of the lot. The last two years my house has been overrun with dumped dogs. I’d say I’ve tended to no less than eight dogs at my house alone over this time. It’s as if I live in the Bermuda Triangle of strays as if a wormhole connects my front yard to some deadbeat pet owner’s awful soul. Why do city folk think dumping a dog in the country is the best bet? Is it the speeding traffic, sure to make your terrified pet road kill? The other large overly protective country dogs ready to pounce on your living room Corgi? The coyotes? The night cold? Whatever it is, rest assured, you are an awful human.
I understand that a pet can become more than some can handle, and there is an amount guilt and shame involved in having to get rid of one. The country dump, unfortunately, is as near a death sentence as you can impose. There are places that willingly take these animals and attempt to find them homes. Heck, the front of a pet store, a school and a park are all better options than Perrin Road. So please don’t be one of these people, or one morning you may find a cow tied to a pile of old tractor tires, lying in the front yard of your city home.

Quote of the Week: “This is the time of year my kids start to smell like hamsters” — Nikki Bodeson, school teacher
    “It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do.”