When sports really affect your life…

I always hear people say that sports is their life. That they live for football, soccer, basketball, what ever sport it may be. And while I am a huge fan of most sports in general, I can say that without sports, my life may never have been. You see, my grandfather played semi-professional baseball. And I always knew this my whole life. But it was not until recently that I realized how much it affected who I am today.

John Karpinski was born in 1928. The man that would become my grandfather lived a normal, everyday life. I remember my dad telling me that he used to work in the coal mines up north and that itself amazed me because I will never understand how that line of work is. But my grandfather also had a life outside of the normal job. He was a baseball player. Sure, he never played in the majors. But he played more years in the minors than most people will get to say they played at all.

As best as I can find, he began playing in 1944 at the age of 16 for the Hornell Maples in Hornell, NY. That same year he was traded to the Batavia Clippers, also in New York. Both teams were a part of the PONY (Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York) League. Today, the Clippers continue to play as the Batavia Muckdogs, an affiliate of the Miami Marlins, as a Class-D franchise.

In 1948 and 1949, he played for the Bluefield Blue-Grays. The Blue-Grays were located in Bluefield, Virginia and were an affiliate of the Boston Braves. In 1949, the Blue-Grays won the Appalachian League championship. The Blue-Grays franchise also still exists today as the Bluefield Blue Jays. Cal Ripken Jr. also played for Bluefield in 1978.

The next year, my grandfather traveled out to Wisconsin to play for the Eau Claire Bears of the Northern League. The Bears were also an affiliate of the Braves.  I found it pretty crazy that only 2 years after my grandfather played for the Bears, a young man named Hank Aaron played for the very same team. It was just amazing to see that my grandfather and, what most people consider, the “true” home run leader played on the same team only 2 years apart. But that is just a little side note. Actually, the very next year, in 1951, my grandfather was already shaping my life.

After a season in Wisconsin, John was traded to the Houma Indians, right here in my hometown in Louisiana. The Houma Indians were a part of the Evangeline Baseball League, a Class-D league. He played 2 seasons in Houma. This is where I began. While playing for Houma, my grandfather met a woman named Betty Sampay. This woman would become my grandmother. Now, it may seem like a simple story, but it continues.

After  2 seasons in Houma, my grandfather went on to play for the Baton Rouge Red Sticks from 1953-1955. After his stint in Baton Rouge, he and my grandmother moved back up north. After getting back to his home, my grandfather continued to play for a couple more years. In 1956, his first year back, he played for the Lloydminster Meridians in Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada. The Meridians were a part of the Saskatchewan Baseball League. Who knew they played baseball in Canada?

But anyways, after his playing days were over, my grandparents decided to move their family back down to Louisiana. I’m pretty sure that my grandmother had something to do with that as she was unable to see her family. And in that family was a boy named Daryl Karpinski, my father.

Had my grandfather never been traded to Houma, he would have never met my grandmother. And had she not wanted to come back home, my dad would have grew up in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. My dad would never have met my mom. And I would not be me.

It’s pretty crazy how the world works. All those things happened for a reason. Maybe it was a good thing he never was a pro. He may have never made it down here. I am sure glad he did. Without that, I am not who I am. I do not have the same family. I do not meet my fiancé. Nor have my son. And I wouldn’t have the same friends and peers. All the things and people I love would not be.

Well, all I can say is thank God for baseball!

1956 Lloydminster Meridians. My grandfather is on the back row, first from the left.

1956 Lloydminster Meridians. My grandfather is on the back row, first from the left.


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