The best thing I saw last week: Rabbits, gangs and a love letter to baseball

This is a column about the beauty of town ball and all that comes with it. It’s inspired by “The Geiser Gang” catching a wild rabbit at the Region 14C amateur baseball tournament. This is a column written by Jared Rubado, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Detroit Lakes Tribune. This story originally appeared in the Detroit Lakes Tribune and is republished here with permission.

PERHAM – Josh and Justin Dykhoff hit back-to-back home runs in the second inning of the Bluffton’s 15-2 win over Park Rapids on Saturday afternoon in the Region 14C first round. Not many people were paying attention.

As the Dykhoff boys rounded the bases, the crowd’s collective attention was pointed to a young kid near the concession stand. He and his friends chased and caught a wild rabbit near the bushes down the third-base line at Kruger Field in Perham.

The gaggle of children paraded the hare around the park like a trophy. The rabbit, who looked stunned to be in that predicament, hardly moved as the young Bear Grylls prodded it around to the amused patrons in lawn chairs. Before releasing the rabbit, one man offered to fire up the grill at the concession stand. Alas, the rabbit returned to its home in the bush, ending the hilarious hysteria.

The game on the field was out of reach, so I sent some live tweets about the off-field fiasco. A few hours later, I made my way to the grandstand for the third game of the afternoon. That’s when I was approached by “The Geiser Gang.”

I don’t take a photo of the kid with the rabbit because I don’t shoot pictures of children unless they are on a field playing a game or there’s a clear right to consent. However, when I checked my phone between games, I saw a photo of the kids and the rabbit was tweeted at me.

While I was sitting in the grandstand, the kids came up to me and asked, “Are we internet famous?” Being that I have a mere 500 followers, with almost none of them extending past the Highway 10 towns, I, unfortunately, told them no. However, when I asked them, “Do you guys want to be in the paper?” They unanimously agreed. Before I could pull out my notepad to get all of their names, the kid who caught the rabbit said, “You can call us the Geiser Gang.”

The plan was to put the picture in the newspaper as a fun bit. As the night went on, I figured I could write a column about the beauty of amateur baseball and use the photo as proof. Then, in my chat with Bluffton’s Terry Geiser after the game, who’s been with the team for 50 years, it all came together. This column is a love letter to baseball.

I asked Geiser what makes this game and his team so special enough to be a part of for half of a century. He paused, took a long look at the Bluffton faithful, and said, “It’s these people.”

In Bluffton, along with hundreds of other towns in Minnesota, the Braves are so much more than baseball. With over half of the players in the dugout related to each other, every game is a family gathering. From the outside looking in, it’s hard to see the perspective that makes playing for a town like Bluffton so important. But once you see it, it’s not easy to look away.

Geiser looked at all the kids running around the dugout following Bluffton’s 5-4 walk-off win over Perham. He talked about how the guys in the dugout used to be those kids and how those kids will be in the dugout at some point down the road. The kid who caught the rabbit is the son of pitcher Dustin Geiser, and the Geiser Gang was much larger than a group of kids.

It’s hard not to get emotional when thinking about how much family means to you. When you tie in something as romantic as baseball, games like the one on Saturday night make you fall in love with the sport all over again. I used to be cynical about the importance of town ball because I never grew up with the perspective of what it means to so many people. 

When I think of nights like Saturday, I think of my dad. Growing up, he played ball for a little bit, and I was one of those kids running around the field trying to catch rabbits. Where I’m from, it doesn’t mean anything to follow in the footsteps of someone who played town ball. I envy those who see it as a true privilege to dawn one of those jerseys.

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