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Posted on Fri. Mar. 21, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Enjoy old-time baseball Saturday in Huntington

Players attending the Vintage Base Ball Association conference will play a short game

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Vintage baseball

What: Players attending the Vintage Base Ball Association national conference Friday-Sunday plan to take a group photo and play a three-inning pickup game.

When: 1:15 p.m. Saturday

Where: Olde Republic Field at Lake Clare, on North Broadway Street south of U.S. 24 in Huntington

Cost: Free

Note: The game will not be played if the field is unsafe due to ice or flooding.

Learn more

•Huntington Champion Hill Toppers team: www.championhilltoppersbbc.com

•Vintage Base Ball Association: www.vbba.org

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Baseball fans dreaming of opening day can warm up for the season by stepping back in time.

At 1:15 p.m. Saturday, members attending the Vintage Base Ball Association national conference at LaFontaine Golf Course in Huntington plan on playing a three-inning pickup game the way it was played in the 1860s. The game, with players in vintage uniforms, will take place at Olde Republic Field at Lake Clare on the east side of Huntington, home of the Champion Hill Toppers team.

The Hill Toppers are hosts for the conference Friday through Sunday. The team includes players from the area, said Gary Bugge, 63, one of two team members from Fort Wayne.

The Vintage Base Ball Association -- baseball was spelled as two words until the 1880s -- has been in existence for about 20 years, Bugge said. Huntington, which has had a team for 10 years, is one of about six teams in Indiana.

Bugge learned of the team because a member of a Civil War-era singing group he was in had a son-in-law on the Champion Hill Toppers. He saw a game and decided to join.

“I enjoyed it so much,” he said. “It's a gentleman's game. There is no pressure to win.”

Team members play hard, but they try to do it in keeping with the modern game's origin in the mid-1840s as a way for gentlemen to get exercise, Bugge said.

Each team plays its home games based on rules for a year it selects. Huntington's team plays by rules in effect in 1862.

While each team still has nine players, vintage baseball rules are somewhat different than today's game, Bugge said.

For example, players don't wear gloves and catch the ball bare-handed. If the team in the field catches the ball on one bounce, it's considered an out, as if the defender caught a fly ball.

Teams can't use coaches at first and third bases. The umpire, called the judge or arbiter, normally only makes a decision when the players can't settle a call among themselves.

“We try to use the language used at that time,” Bugge added.

Players are known as ballists, pitchers as hurlers, batters as strikers, catchers as the behind and bases as sacks, said Bugge, who usually plays the behind or second sack for Huntington's team.

Players also adopt nicknames like those used in the old days, such as Professor, Moonshot and Freighttrain, said Bugge, who goes by Weege on the field.

The Huntington team plays most of their games against teams from southern Indiana and from Ohio, Bugge said. They have traveled as far as Gettysburg, Pa., and Mackinac Island, Mich.

And as with today's baseball, their regular season begins in April and ends in October. Bugge encourages people to stop by a game for a look.

“It makes for a fun time to come out, especially when it's warm out, and bring a picnic and have lunch and watch baseball,” he said.

kkilbane@news-sentinel.com


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