06/24/2004 11:00 AM
24 June 2004
THIS WEEK IN THE CAPE LEAGUE
Legendary Commodore Volunteer Honored
FALMOUTH - The baseball game played in honor of Arnie Allen lasted two hours and 46 minutes. The memory of Allen’s life will last much longer.
Allen died of esophageal cancer in October 2003, just two months after completing his 46th season as a volunteer for the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Jimmy Aylward reads a letter he wrote this school year about how Arnie Allen was a hero of his while Arnie's brother Keith and sisters Laura and Debra look on.
Gardner / CCBL for SportsPix 2004
Allen joined the Commodore family as a seven year old bat boy and eventually was named equipment manager before dying last October at the age of 53. For the better part of four decades the sight of Allen’s No. 30 jersey was as expected as the aroma of a grilled hot dog or the crack of a wooden bat in the collegiate summer league.
“I firmly believe that his love of the game, love of the Commodores and love of the players was really one of the driving forces in the way he carried on last summer,” said sixth-year Falmouth manager Jeff Trundy. “I think a lot of the guys that were here last summer really took note of that, and they marveled at his courage and his willingness to be here every night whether he was feeling good, bad or whatever, he was here.
“He was always here for us, regardless of what his situation was. He loved the Falmouth Commodores, and the Falmouth Commodores loved Arnie Allen,” stated Trundy.
That love was demonstrated before the Commodores’ home opener last Friday. With fans, community members and a host of Cape League officials on hand, the club officially dedicated the 2004 season to the memory of Arnie Allen.
“He took a pride in being a part of the organization, and I think now the organization certainly is showing just how significant he was to everybody that was part of this group,” Trundy said.
The organization took several steps to commemorate Allen’s influence not only on the team, but on the community as well. June 18 was declared “Arnie Allen Day” in Falmouth, just minutes before a sign above the Guv Fuller Field scoreboard proclaimed that the Commodores’ home park would be forever known as the Arnie Allen Diamond at Guv Fuller Field.
“Everyone always knew who Arnie was here and knew he cared about the game and was going to be cheering everyone on,” said Chuck Sturtevant, Falmouth general manager.
The organization also unveiled a framed black Commodore jersey with Allen’s No. 30 scripted on the back.
“Arnie felt that if you were honored to wear the uniform, no matter what level, you play the game right and you play the game hard,” Sturtevant said. “That was Arnie.”
Current and future Commodore players continually will be reminded of this attitude, as Allen’s jersey will hang in the Falmouth locker room, allowing his presence to touch the lives of even those players that never had the chance to meet him.
Commodore Chris Lewis did get that chance to meet Allen. The second baseman from Stanford played for Falmouth in Allen’s final year in 2003. Lewis is back this season, but this time something is different. This time the team is without everyone’s favorite volunteer.
“Arnie was everybody’s friend. As long as you were a Commodore, Arnie would go out of his way to do pretty much anything for you,” Lewis said. “He had an interesting perspective, because he’s gone through a lot in his life and a lot of adversity. Just when you think you’re going bad, you could always turn to Arnie because he’d have an interesting perspective for you and turn you around real quick.”
The pre-game ceremonies hit a peak Friday night when a kid clad in jeans, polo shirt and a Red Sox cap tucked above his eyes stepped up to the microphone at home plate. Last fall, as an eighth grader at St. Thomas school, that kid, Jimmy Aylward, was assigned to write a paper about his hero. Jimmy’s classmates wrote about personal friends, some even about professional athletes. But Jimmy chose a different route. Jimmy chose Arnie Allen.
The boy worked long and hard on his assignment, trying to put his feelings about this great man into words on paper, so that his teacher, his classmates could get a glimpse into the persona of a real hero.
After polishing off the finishing touches, Jimmy turned in his report to Mrs. Liz Gazda on the morning of October 24. That same day, while Jimmy probably was studying long division or U.S. history or the scientific method, Arnie Allen died.
Sturtevant read Jimmy’s heartfelt report at Allen’s funeral. Now, on this cool night, on this field where Allen had seen so many ball games, Jimmy Aylward, that kid clad in jeans, polo shirt and a Red Sox cap tucked above his eyes, took the microphone and shared his paper with the Commodore faithful.
“Not a player, not a coach, but an inspiration,” Jimmy writes. “If you want to talk about courage, read about Arnie Allen’s life… Through all of his pain, all of his difficulties, he was still able to enjoy the thing he loved most … baseball.”
As much as Allen loved baseball, it appears the game returned the favor. In 1995, the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association honored Allen with its Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2002, the Cape Cod Baseball League named Allen the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Arnie’s just a good friend. He’s going to be missed a lot by this community and baseball in general,” Lewis said. “He was a baseball guy and he loved it more than anything; you could tell by the way he carried himself around the field.”
Allen did whatever he could to be around the game, even if that meant getting some exercise along the way. If he had to work, Allen would hop on his bicycle and pedal his way to Cotuit or Bourne, wherever the Commodores were playing that night. Many times he’d catch up with a Commodore player driving to the game, who’d stop and give Arnie a ride the rest of the way.
“It was known that if Arnie missed the caravan, he’d be thumbing or trying to get a ride some way, just to get to a game,” Sturtevant said.
While Allen’s focus may have rested on the Commodores’ race for a Western Division title, his influence was felt on a much broader scale.
“You can’t imagine the kinds of things he’s been through, battling cancer and being able to come back after he was basically told he didn’t have much time to live,” Lewis said. “For him to be able to walk around out here and pick up bats and do what he loves to do, it just makes you appreciate things even more.”
It’s lessons like these that stretch beyond the hit-and-run or a 6-4-3 double play.
“Arnie was always a source of inspiration. He was always a source of encouragement for the guys. He was never down, he was always positive,” Trundy said. “I think the thing that was so wonderful about Arnie was that he was a teacher without having to try to be a teacher. I think he was a teacher by example. He showed great courage, great fortitude and a real love for the game of baseball.”
With a diamond bearing his name and his jersey on display, Allen made his presence felt once more Friday night.
With a thick New England breeze blowing in from centerfield, designated hitter Paul Christian crushed a ball to left field in the second inning. What appeared to be a sure home run was caught up in a gust of wind and turned into a standup double off the wall.
“The one thing he hated was home runs, he hated home runs,” Sturtevant said. “Before the game, I said to Coach Trundy, ‘Look at that flag, it’s blowing in. That’s how Arnie loved it, he loved it blowing in.’”
With the American flag waving towards home plate, Sturtevant continued, “Arnie’s here tonight.”
Tonight and every night. - T.J. Lasita; CCBL Intern; [email protected]
John Garner, Jr.
CCBL Director of Public Relations & Broadcasting
(508) 790-0394 [email protected]