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It’s intriguing to think of how people impact us.
Sometimes the simplest of things can remain with us for a lifetime. I can’t answer why some things stick and others fall off. I have a near-photogenic memory of many events – both good and bad. Holly would argue otherwise when I annually forget to take out the garbage.
For me, I tie many memories to sports. Baseball in particular. I remember an assistant coach in my early days in Little League playing for Shelter Insurance. I remember all of my coaches. But in particular I remember Marty Gilliam.
His son, Kevin, was a helluva pitcher and helped carry us to a pretty good season when I was 10 and he was 12. Marty was always the life of a practice and he was used, best I recall, most often to throw batting practice. I always liked batting off Marty because he didn’t treat us like Little Leaguers – he hummed the ball to the plate at a pretty good clip.
As a 10-year-old it seemed like it must have been a 90 mph heater. Obviously it wasn’t but I always liked the challenge of trying to hit against that. Getting a few hits over a round of BP against Marty was an accomplishment worth taking back to the outfield when you were done hitting just to brag about it. Anybody could smash the BP speed, down-the-middle pitches many coaches served up on a silver platter. Not just anyone could be successful against Marty. It took a special player (at least that’s what we believed).
Marty died Thursday night in an accident while riding his motorcycle on Highway 55 near Ragsdale Rd.
I’ve seen Marty around from time to time since Little League. Obviously we said hello in our occasional crossings but it wasn’t like I was spending nights out partying with him. After Kevin, who was a couple years older than me, moved on past Little League Marty went along, too. Yet despite that, when I heard of Marty’s death, my heart sank and all of those memories of being in Little League flooded back instantaneously.
Marty’s twin brother, Mark, was my coach in coach pitch and again in minor league. I don’t know how he did it, but he always made me feel like I was the best player on the field, even though I was far from it. I remember in coach pitch he turned around and told the other team: “look out, I’ve got a hitter who will smoke this ball.”
I remember thinking to myself, “yeah, yeah I will!” That was probably the best hit I got all year just one pitch later. I hit a triple. If you are aware of my speed then you know that ball went a long way.
It’s strange what the mind retains and what it chooses to discard. I think, though, that the mind keeps in contact with the things that made you feel good. It’s true, what “they” say, you don’t necessarily remember what people do but how they make you feel.
I’m thankful for the memories with Marty – even though they were years ago and sporadic.
May God be with his family. He was more influential than they knew he was.
Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He has won TPA awards for his writing and photography. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29