By Jacek Adamski
Filmmaker, sports broadcaster and former baseball scout, Raymond Rolak will present an enrichment program about the changing landscape in baseball/softball. It will be hosted by the Friends of the Plymouth District Library, Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.
His presentation is titled, The National Pastime at Home and Abroad. Rolak just returned from the recent 2016 College Baseball Museum & Hall of Fame induction in Lubbock, Texas. He was there to support the induction of Tom Paciorek. Paciorek, a native Detroiter, was the first University of Houston player to be named all-America in 1967 and 1968. He led Houston to the championship game of the 1967 College World Series. Also in attendance were former Los Angeles Dodgers, Rick Monday, Bobby Valentine and Paciorek’s brother, Bobby Paciorek. Paciorek had a 16 year Major League career and a very successful second calling doing commentating on the television broadcasts of Chicago White Sox.
In the early months of 1992, Rolak emceed a luncheon where Hank Aaron presented Cecil Fielder of the Detroit Tigers, the 1991 American League RBI leader award. Fielder had 133 RBI’s in 1991 and the award was then called the Hank Aaron Award (now changed). During the luncheon and while waiting for the award presentation, Aaron said, “If you don’t know the history of the game you do not know your game.” Rolak will showcase baseball history, including America’s unique fascination with the sabermetrics. Rolak says that the landscape of baseball is changing rapidly, especially the international game. His discussion will also include the unique and often amusing experiences he had while teaching baseball in Poland. Rolak said, “Poland is a wonderful destination and the value is great but they are having too much success. Krakow and Warsaw are now crowded in the summer.
Remember they are attracting tourists from the global stage not just America and Canada. They now play baseball/softball at 36 locations in Poland.” Rolak will also platform how international baseball is growing and discuss the return of baseball & softball to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “The Slavic countries such as Belorussia, the Ukraine, Czech Republic and Poland are fast tracking their programs to get ready for 2020,” said Rolak. He will also explain the future plans for the Polish National Youth Baseball Foundation based in Connecticut. They have a new president, Alexander Koproski, and have expanded their 2016-17 mission statements.
Part of the presentation will include the history of the world tour that A.G. Spalding sponsored in the 1890’s to spread the popularity and education of baseball on a global scale. The rich baseball history of Detroit was shared with an eager Texas audience. They told the tale of Plymouth resident Dick Runchey. Runchey was recently added to the board of directors of the College Baseball Foundation which operates the College Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame in Lubbock. He was an amateur umpire for many years and had an interesting career anecdote. When the Major League Baseball umpires went on strike in October of 1984, Runchey got a chance to work on the big league stage. Due to the strike by major league umpires, the series was played using local and collegiate umpires. Runchey called the foul line of game three of the 1984 American League playoff series between Detroit and Kansas City. Former AL umpire and league supervisor Bill Deegan worked home plate for all three games.
The episode was bittersweet, as Runchey was branded a “scab”. A footnote to that game was that the 1-0 win pitched by Milt Wilcox was in front of 52,168 at Tiger Stadium. A standing room only stage for the rookie umpire was quite intimidating. Runchey rose to the occasion and made no mistakes. He went on to long career as an NCAA umpire and as an instructor for international tournaments. The Tigers went on to victory in the 1984 World Series over the San Diego Padres. You are invited to wear your favorite baseball jersey and experience, learn and capture some of the sport’s storied international history.
In conjunction, the Goodrich Canton-7 theaters (Ford Rd. at Morten Taylor) is showing the classic coming of age baseball film, THE SANDLOT on July 25 – July 29, at 10:00 a.m. for only $1. Plymouth District Library- 223 S. Main Street Plymouth, MI 42170.