The members of the Diamond State Base Ball team enjoy stepping back in time when they play the game, using the lingo and customs common in the late 1800s.
That includes the baggy, throwback uniforms, no gloves (including the catcher), underhand pitches, no fences and nicknames for each player. Among them are John "El Jefe" Medkeff, Garrett "Steady" Perdick and Jeff "Swampy" Kabacinski.
Diamond State Base Ball is one of the founding members of the Mid Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League, a loose confederation of ball clubs from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Williamsburg, Va.
The local boys of summer will host the First State 19th Century Base Ball Festival next weekend. The festival features 14 vintage base ball clubs from Connecticut to Virginia playing the game using 1864 period uniforms, equipment and rules.
Medkeff, founder and president, and Perdick, assistant captain, sat down with the Community News for a Q&A. Medkeff, 47, of Glasgow, plays shortstop, catcher, outfield and pitcher. Perdick, 30, of North Wilmington, plays third base and left field.
Q What are some of the differences between base ball and modern baseball?
Medkeff Base ball was generally played in open, flat grass fields on the edge of towns and cities. Once field owners realized how popular the game was becoming, they began fencing in their yards and charging admission. Defensive players, including catchers, do not wear gloves or equipment to field the ball. The catcher takes his place roughly 5-10 feet behind the striker to field pitches and be in a better position to catch foul tips. The pitchers deliver the ball in an underhand fashion.
Q Can you hit home runs in base ball?
Medkeff In my year plus in the game, I've never witnessed a home run, though I've seen several balls hit that would have cleared the fences of major league parks.
Perdick With no fences there isn't an automatic homerun, but you certainly can leg one out.
Q How tough is the competition?
Medkeff Competition is fairly even and tough. There are a few more established [MAVBBL] clubs that dominate, though several new clubs are becoming more competitively sound.
Perdick Some of the teams have mastered some "tricks of the game." There are some really excellent “ballists” that would excel in just about any amateur league around. We are definitely taking our lumps and trying to earn a spot at the table. We will eventually gel.
Q What can people learn by attending the festival at Fort DuPont?
Medkeff Those watching mid-19th century vintage base ball will witness how the game of base ball was originally designed to be played. Though there are obvious and glaring differences in some of the rules, it's fairly remarkable how little the basic game has changed in the last 150 years.
Page 2 of 2 - Perdick You get a chance to see what base ball was like when it started in the United States. This is a glimpse into history. We wear uniforms that are customary of the time, use equipment that is customary of the time (as much as possible). It is a step back in time for a few hours.