Elk­ton base­ball club plays the game the old-fash­ioned way

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - 175TH YEAR,4TH IS­SUE By JOE ANTOSHAK

jan­toshak@ ches­pub. com

— On some Sun­days, there’s a cer­tain old game played in a cer­tain cleared- out patch of land. You can’t see it from the main road, so to get to it you have to turn onto a grass path and trust you’ll wind up where you want to go.

This is where the Eclipse Base Ball Club of Elk­ton plays — in a lightly man­i­cured field out­side of what used to be the Ter­rapin Sta­tion Win­ery. They’re a base­ball team,

ELK­TON

but they don’t play the same base­ball you’re used to.

They play with the orig­i­nal rules from 1864.

That means that field­ers play with only their bare hands; that they catch a ball with a softer sur­face; that if a fielder catches a ball on the first hop it’s still an out; and that bat­ters get four strikes in­stead of three, among oth­ers.

If you be­gin to for­get the sound of cars driv­ing just be­yond the trees, you might also for­get the cen­tury.

But the game does more than just op­er­ate as a por­tal into the past. It also of­fers an­other op­por­tu­nity for those who have held life­long pas­sions for the sport, and who ap­pre­ci­ate its history, to play again.

For Mark Bar­czewski, a 35- year- old teacher at Per­ryville Ele­men­tary School, this ver­sion of the game is a way for him to keep en­gag­ing with the sport. It’s com­pet­i­tive — Eclipse plays in a 22- team league that stretches

through the mid- At­lantic re­gion and holds its sea­son from April to Oc­to­ber — but not cutthroat. Many of the play­ers have fam­i­lies and jobs that pull them from oc­ca­sional week­end games, and that’s not a prob­lem.

Bar­czewski, whose nick­name is “Slim” ( in keep­ing with old base­ball tra­di­tion, all the Eclipse play­ers have nick­names), has been with the team since 2012. He played base­ball all through his youth, in­clud­ing with Ris­ing Sun High School, where he grad­u­ated from.

Most of the time, he’s a big fan of how closely the league pays at­ten­tion to his­tor­i­cal de­tails. There are, how­ever, some draw­backs to it.

“[ Nine­teenth- cen­tur y play­ers] wore wool shirts and wool hats, so we wear wool shirts and hats, and it’s hot as hell,” Bar­czewski said dur­ing the first game of a dou­ble­header on Sun­day, when the heat in­dex peaked sev­eral de­grees above 100.

He went on to ex­plain that the orig­i­nal game of base­ball de­vel­oped largely dur­ing the Civil War, be­cause sol­diers played it dur­ing their leisure time in camp. Af­ter the war ended, many took it home with them, and it be­came a way for farm­ers to ex­er­cise and build ca­ma­raderie with their neigh­bors.

Some of the old rules bla­tantly sup­port this ex­er­cise ob­jec­tive, such as un­der­hand pitch­ing and four strikes for the bat­ter in­stead of three.

“Pitch­ers weren’t meant to go out there and dom­i­nate a game,” Bar­czewski said. “They re­ally wanted you to hit the ball and run.”

De­spite these dif­fer­ences, much of the game re­mains the same. Bar­czewski’s par­ents come out to watch his games when­ever they can, just as they did when he was a boy.

“I’m more re­laxed at these,” his mom, Joyce Bar­czewski said.

“Mark was a pitcher, so she was a ner­vous wreck when­ever he was on the mound,” added Stan­ley Bar­czewski, his dad. Dur­ing the game Sun­day against the Brandy­wine Base Ball Club of West Ch­ester, Mark played right field. The team also won by a com­fort­able 20- 7 mar­gin.

This present- day in­car­na­tion of the Eclipse Base­ball Club, which was ini­tially founded in 1866, started up in 2006 with many of the same fit­ness and teamwork goals as the orig­i­nal. Player ages range from 15 to 62, and they wel­come any and all in­ter­ested.

The Elk­ton club has found con­sid­er­able suc- cess in the Mid- At­lantic Vin­tage Base Ball League. In their 10- sea­son history, they’ve won the league cham­pi­onship three times and the Maryland state cham­pi­onship seven times, ac­cord­ing to their web­site. Per the league’s on­line stand­ings for 2016, Eclipse is sit­ting in third place with a cou­ple months left in the sea­son.

Next Sun­day they play the Lewes Base­ball Club in Lewes, Del.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOE ANTOSHAK

The Eclipse Base Ball Club plays its home games in front of what used to be the Ter­rapin Sta­tion Win­ery.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOE ANTOSHAK

Fes­ti­val go­ers could buy a slew of food items, such as the peach jam or baked goods pic­tured here.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOE ANTOSHAK

Mark “Slim” Bar­czewski stays in-char­ac­ter by not smil­ing for a pic­ture Sun­day. “They didn’t smile back then,” he said.

Mark Bar­czewski swings at a pitch dur­ing a game against the Brandy­wine Base Ball Club of West Ch­ester on Sun­day.

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