There have been a lot of great baseball players come through the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball program over the years. So many, I wouldn’t even know where to begin when listing them all, but they and all of the North Star fans, past and present know exactly who they are.
Many of the former North Stars I myself grew up looking up to, many I had only heard about in the generations well before me, and many were friends of mine during my teenage years.
And lately, as I’ve gotten older, as I’ve covered legion baseball over the last decade, and as I’ve been a high school coach over that same time are kids I’ve watched grow up right before my eyes.
And on a sweltering hot Thursday afternoon, Havre fans got to say goodbye to four more North Stars, all of whom have been dedicated to the program and who have been assets to Havre Youth Baseball over the years.
Havre’s season isn’t over yet and the foursome of Justin Jensen, Brandon Smith, Mark Vukasin and Gareth Bernard all have some unfinished business to take care of before they never again wear a hallowed North Star uniform. Yet, Thursday’s games were significant as the four were playing at Legion Field, a truly special place in itself, for the final time.
All four players have meant plenty to the North Stars, and all four have impressed me over the years. And the main reason why is their love of the game of baseball, which to me is still the purest game in America.
At a time when youths are choosing to not play baseball in droves, not just in Havre, but all across America, Jensen, Smith, Bernard and Vukasin not only still play the game, but play it with the passion and respect, the pure joy and love the game of baseball truly deserves.
As a youth I absolutely loved the game of baseball, and enjoyed playing it at every level. However, as a 15-year-old, I decided to walk away from the game and focus on one single sport. It was the sport I loved the most and was most passionate about, and excelling at tennis left me with no regrets about not deciding to be a North Star.
However, each and every summer, as I watch and cover Havre’s only high-school aged baseball team, I look back to my own past and think of how much fun and how much joy I would have had had I decided to make a different decision.
There are many days where I sit at Legion Field and find myself imagining what I would have looked like in a North Star uniform and what it would have been like playing three more summer’s under the sun.
I imagine it and that’s why I respect so much what Jensen, Smith, Bernard and Vukasin have done over the last few years and what they have meant to the game of baseball.
Baseball is truly the child’s game, and it’s meant to be played with unabandoned joy and happiness. From what I’ve seen over the last few summers, the four North Stars who were honored on Thursday afternoon certainly did that and then some.
So to Justin, Brandon, Mark and Gareth, while your career’s are not quite over yet, thanks for reminding me day in and day out why I love the game of baseball. Thanks for your passion and dedication to what is still America’s Pastime in my eyes.
And most of all, thanks for showing all of those who will follow you, how to love and play the game the right way.
You four truly represent the term “Boys of Summer”.