Elkton baseball club plays the game the old-fashioned way
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,
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.
The Eclipse Base Ball Club plays its home games in front of what used to be the Terrapin Station Winery.
Festival goers could buy a slew of food items, such as the peach jam or baked goods pictured here.
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.