I love talking baseball with baseball guys. Not that I know baseball, but I love talking with guys who do.
I wandered through DeVries Activity Center at Big Bend Community College looking for the baseball office. I walked past the AstroTurf with a dirt mound on a ramp, batting cages bathed in fluorescent lighting, to the office tucked away on the second floor.
Longtime skipper Pete Doumit sat relaxing at the desk in an office that had that lived in look. His son Ryan, like most 30-somethings, sat poking on his cellphone, giving me one of those one-handed waves that acknowledged existence, but little else.
The doubleheader with Walla Walla had been moved to the next day, so there wasn’t much to do. It was that golden opportunity to sit and talk baseball with the Doumits.
I don’t have a lot of baseball stories. There was that one afternoon I spent with Yankees great Don Larsen talking about the only perfect game in World Series history. I also spent 30 minutes on the phone talking to Yogi Berra about what it was like to catch that game, but that’s about it.
I really wanted to hear about that 1999 Major League Draft where three kids from Moses Lake went in the first two rounds, including the guy sitting there poking on his phone. I can’t say I covered former Lakeland standout Josh Phelps. Josh was a local kid from nearby Rathdrum, Idaho, that came through the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and later played a few seasons with the New York Yankees. Every four or five months I’d call him up and do a story or column. Ryan looked up.
“You ever cross paths with Josh?” I asked.
“Yeah, I played with Josh, great guy,” the younger Doumit said.
We talked about Ryan’s time with the Pirates, then the Twins and his 10-year career in the Major League. Every kid that reaches the big leagues used to be a superstar at his high school, but somehow Ryan seemed grounded, OK with the next phase of his life.
Maybe it had something to do with the guy sitting behind the desk. Pete’s been coaching in the Columbia Basin for over four decades. It was that cool day in May that he told me he had decided to hang it up. “You a golfer?” I asked.
“Naw, but I would like to get in a little more fishing,” Pete said. “Spend more time with the grandkids.”
He didn’t mention more time with his wife Faith. There might have been a longtime coach, a kid who went to the big leagues and another who played college ball in the Doumit household, but I’m guessing Faith was the one running the show. Pete smiled, like well maybe, spend more time with the wife.
I finally asked Pete about that 1999 Moses Lake team that was ranked first in the state and fourth in the nation that year. Unless there was a lot of teenage drama, how could that not be the crown jewel of a 45-year coaching career?
Pete’s a guy who likes to spread the love, he talked about a lot of players, but he finally did break down and say, “B.J. Garbe is the best player I’ve ever coached.”
Ryan agreed. “The scouts would come to see B.J. and Jason (Cooper), so I benefited from those guys, getting my exposure,” he said.
Talking baseball with the Doumits was almost as cool as talking with Yogi Berra. Yogi has the Yogi-isms, like “It was deja vu all over again.” But Pete gave me a Doumit-ism I was quick to write down.
“The Basin grows good crops. It’s not just corn or wheat or potatoes, we grow good people here too,” he said. “That’s been the basis of my career, you’re only as successful as the people you have around you and that’s why we were successful.”
To borrow a Neil Young line, “ … in the field of opportunity, it’s plowing time again … ”
I can’t wait to see the next bumper crop of Moses Lake ball players.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer with the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org