Archive for August, 2014

Church League Veterans: Gene & Tommy

Recently Powhatan Mennonite and Red Lane Baptist played against each other in a spirited, tic-for-tac, modified fast-pitch softball game.  There was some chatter on the sidelines about something very special and unique about the game, the pitchers; Gene Hertzler, pitcher for the Mennonites, and Tommy Mann, pitcher for the Baptists.


At one point during the evening, Tommy meandered to our side of the field and was chatting with some of us.  He said, “That is the old man out there (referring to Gene) and I am Methuselah!”  I don’t think of Gene or Tommy as old, but in terms of softball pitchers they are well-seasoned veterans!  Even at the age of  65 and 72, respectfully,  the love of softball and pitching still flows through their veins.

Tommy doesn’t pitch much any more. Instead he has taken up professional umpiring in his “twilight years” for the JV, travel ball and high school baseball teams.  But when the young guys get in a pinch and need a pitcher, they know who to call. Even though his speed has slowed, he can still pitch a winning game!


Gene on the other hand still plays every game and is often recruited for other tournaments such as the Robby Green tournament in the fall.  A number of years ago he thought his body was telling him it was time to give up the game and retire but after two and half years his team coaxed him back onto the pitcher’s mound. I still remember that first night back.  Even though he had not picked up a softball or attended a game during his break he had a dynamite night and gave the opposing team (Lambs) a run for their money. He was back in the game.


The church league started in the late 50’s. Tommy recalls going to the games as a youngster with his Dad and Mom. It was a big deal back then as there were not a lot of other entertainment options.  They played on Lonesome Oak field behind the Village Building (old school house) in the Village.   There were no lights on the field and sometimes in the fall when the days were shorter they would have to all pack up and go to the field behind the War Memorial building where there were lights to finish the game.  At that time there were 7-8 churches in the league; Red Lane, Mt. Moriah, Methodist, Old Powhatan, Graceland, May Memorial, and several from Amelia.  Graceland was the “un-beatable” team. Their pastor, Coen Agee, could pitch windmill or anything he wanted  and you could not hit his balls. Red Lane would occasionally work some of the younger boys in for a game. He could hardly wait until he was old enough to play on the team. He clearly remembers his first game on the Red Lane Baptist team when he was about sixteen.  They were playing Graceland and he was playing second base.  He caught the ball but the rest is just a horrible memory.  When you are on the side lines watching, the game doesn’t move as fast as when you are playing!  Needless to say, he sat on the bench a good bit at first.   A few years later he started pitching and became a valuable member of the team.

Sometime in the mid to late 70’s, the school had to put in a new septic field and the church league field was dug up to put in the laterals. For about 5 years after that they played in a pasture field called Fuller Field, just off of Route 60 west of Plain View.  There were no bleachers, no lights, no manicured field and no concession stand. It was pure country with a slightly sloping  field and a sand pile for the children to play on but  everyone had a good time.   It was during this time that the Mennonite team started playing.

As the league grew it became time to find a better and safer place to play.  The Lions Club, county and churches stepped up to the plate and each provided 1/3 of the cost  to fix Ace’s Field on Skaggs road. Now the league had lights, a scoreboard, outfield fence, bleachers, dugouts, paid umpires,  a properly manicured field and a real concession stand.

Some of the earliest pictures of Gene show him with a ball and bat in his hand.  In his adolescents, he spent hours and hours each summer throwing the ball up against the concrete block barn. When he was thirteen he started playing on the church league in Newport News. Five years later he moved to Powhatan and it wasn’t until about 10 years later that his church finally started a team.  Ocassionally Gene will play first base but his love is pitching.

Gene-3 years old


12 years old

Gene play ball-1960

Tommy says they didn’t take many pictures when he was young!  He searched but could not find any pictures of his younger playing days.

Both men remember their “battle wounds” and can point to the knee, shin or spot where the ball left a big black bruise and the imprint of stitching from the ball.  One time Gene had stitches in his upper lip when it was split open from a ball.   Tommy’s worst incidence happened when a hard line ball was hit straight to the pitcher’s mound and nailed his fourth finger on his right hand.  The finger jammed and is forever crooked as a result of the impact.  Gene also remembers that incident well, he was the batter!

When Tommy started playing, the Goodwyn brothers (Pal, Art, Royce,  NB), Percy Webb, Richard White, Fred Gregory, Ted Adams, Tippy Hamilton, the Reams brothers (James & Dickie) among other old-time Powhatanians were playing. Now some of  the grandsons and great-nephews of these fellows are helping to carry on the sport.  He is glad to see the younger generation keeping the league going strong.  There are a lot of really good players and it is also a time of fun and fellowship.  Both men have weathered some turbulent times in the league with pitching rules and are very glad they have gone back to wooden bats.  It puts the teams on a more competitive and even playing field.

How long will Gene and Tommy continuing playing?  Who knows!  Sitting on the sidelines it is neat to watch them play with the young bucks and still make an honorable contribution. Tommy’s wife, Kay, said, “Because of their love of the game, these two old men just don’t know when to stop!”

Ebola-Too close home….Update

I want to personally thank everyone who prayed for my niece and her family who were in the midst of the Ebola crisis in Liberia.  I can report that they are safely home in the states and doing well. They have completed the 21-day quarantine and are now able to freely travel and mingle with people.  I know we all  are anxious to hear their story and the stories of others who were caught in the crisis.  We prayed for them while we anxiously awaited news that all was well.  To know their stories satisfies our curiosity but it also puts a human touch to the crisis that made international news.  We are anxious to hear their faith journey but we will have to wait until they are ready. In time some will write and talk.

In the meantime, continue to pray for the team and health care workers as they try to figure out “what next”.  God led them to Liberia and now they have to discern what and where God wants them now  as their lives and careers are temporarily on an unplanned “hold”.  This has not caught God by surprise.

The Ebola situation in West Africa is troubling and the news coming from Liberia is dire.  Let us petition our Heavenly Father on behalf of the thousands of suffering people who have no hope and no chance of rescue.  Continue to pray for Samaritan’s Purse as they are dealing with multiple world crisis.  Their ministry is far-reaching and they need the wisdom that only God can give.

I am reminded of the precious promise of God in Isaiah 41:10…

Fear not; for I am with you.

Be not dismayed for I am thy God.

I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you.

I will uphold you with my right hand of righteousness.

Wait for the Doctor with Ebola to tell his own story.

September 5, 2014 The doctor tells his story….  “Saving Dr. Brantley” on NBC.  This is a six part interview with Matt Lauer.


When I was a little girl we used to go fishing in the creek or the pond  that was on our farm.  We never caught much substantial but it was part of our summer fun that I have good memories of. We used bamboo poles and never knew we were missing the joys of casting with a rod and reel.  This summer I have had a desire to go fishing again. I mentioned it to Paul, a customer who scavenges the James River after floods for boats, lost poles and other fishing gear. Not long ago he came into the store and handed me my very own fishing rod!  Summer, my employee who is an avid fisher, helped me get set up with hooks, sinkers, floats and the other little fishing gadgets that I needed.

Tonight, with fishing rod in hand, Gene took me to the pond on our rental farm to go fishing.  The Canadian geese were taking their evening swim and the cows came by to check us out  and took a dip in the water.




When Gene found out I was planning to put the worm on my hook with gloves on, he decided he needed to do it for me!


Almost the instant I threw the hook into the water the bobber went out of sight but that sneaky fish got away!


I fed worm after worm to the eager fish before I finally snagged one.  Alivia and Noah came by and they enjoyed the fun and Alivia actually caught the first one!





And it is possible to put those nasty wiggling worms on the hook with gloves on!  It is much better than touching those slimy things.







Guess what we are having for supper tomorrow evening!


 It was a perfect ending to a wonderful Sunday afternoon.

Rescuing the Fallen

I have been thinking about the negative reaction of some to bringing home the sick doctor and nurse from Liberia.  Maybe people are reacting out of fear of the unknown, or lack of knowledge.

Picture with me a family on vacation at the beach. The children are playing in the water and suddenly there are screams.  A child is swept out to sea in a riptide. Instantly and without consideration for his own safety the father leaps into action and does everything within his ability to save the child, even risking his own life.

Buckroe Beach

Picture with me soldiers on a  battlefield. They are in a fierce, bloody battle and one of their own is hit by mortar and falls to the ground. A  soldier’s honor will not desert their fallen buddy-dead or alive- even at the risk of their own life.


Picture with me young men on a grueling trek to fulfill a lifelong dream by making it to the top of Mt. Everest.  Along the way one slips and falls off a cliff.  A rescue team is assembled to come to the aid of the fallen hiker. They use every available resource to make a safe rescue.

Mount Everest Image Gallery

Picture with me a horrific accident on interstate between a tractor-trailer and numerous cars.  Suddenly one of the cars burst into flames. Bystanders spring into action when a frantic mother screams “my baby is in the back seat”.   They are driven by the desperate plight of one needing rescue.

There is something in our God-given nature that causes us to react and help in emergency situations with compassion for the fallen.  There is usually no wavering on the sidelines and no evaluation of a person’s worthiness, status or wealth.  Usually the rescuer does not even count the cost or risk to their own life.

Now think with me of the “fallen” doctor and nurse.  They have become victims of a vicious virus called Ebola.  They are Americans who have left the comforts of our country to minister to the “least of these” because they have felt the call of God to do so.  You can read their stories online.

Dr. Kent Brantly cares for an Ebola patient in the isolation ward before he tested positive for the virus.


They have chosen to leave extended family and friends, the lure of financially stable incomes and state-of-the-art medical facilities to help bring healing and hope in a country that has so little.  They have chosen to help those with little or no resources to help themselves.  They are driven by God’s call to love and show compassion by living among and helping those in an impoverished country.  Now they, the ones providing care and aid, are in desperate need of help and rescue in a life and death situation. How can we as fellow Americans stand smugly on our shores and show no compassion?  How can we not go to the rescue and especially when we have the resources to do so?  Would we not go even if there was a slight risk or would we leave them stranded?

Do we not hear our top medical professionals saying they can safely do this?  Do we not understand that we are privileged to have the best medical facilities in the world and we are equipped to handle this?  Do we not know that there are some who are really willing to put their own lives at risk to save another?  Have we not seen our country rush to the aid in many world disasters over and over and over, even to the risk of losing some of our own in the process?  Have we not seen and understand that safety IS a top concern and the utmost care IS being taken to protect all involved and not involved?

Heavenly Father grant us compassion and forgive us for our selfish fear and complacency.  Keep our hearts sensitive to the plight of others.  Grant us your wisdom.  Thank you for the ability our country has to be able to respond and help in times of disaster around the globe.  We pray for all those who have “fallen” to the plague of Ebola.  Thank you for those who are willing to put their lives on the “front-line” to rescue others in times of disaster whether it is an accident, disease or war. Amen

Maybe, just maybe, in bringing these two home it will help bring about huge advances in the medical field to find a cure and as a result thousands of others can be “rescued” from the death grip of Ebola.

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