June 16, 2011 —
SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Into every life a little rain must fall, but this spring brought torrents instead. That was far from all the adversity and travails that beset the hamlet of Livingston Manor. Always at risk for floods, beleaguered by hard economic times and an intractable school budgetary miasma, the untimely death of town icon John Mills at age 35 sent shockwaves through the community that has often been called upon to mourn the loss of its citizens, many of them far too young. Mills, a high school baseball player in his day, was one of my former students. His nephew Mike, Manor’s star junior pitcher, was just one of the many greatly shaken by his passing.
Life brings its shares of sorrow, but it tempers our existence with countervailing moments of unspeakable joy.
This past weekend, despite more rain, it was all about the glow of an unprecedented pair of Livingston Manor state championships as the baseball team won its first-ever state title just one day after the softball team repeated as state champions. Winning a state championship is a rare event. Until last year’s softball crown, Manor had never been privy to such. So to have two teams win in the same year is bound to unleash a parade that will turn Main Street into the Catskills version of the Canyon of Heroes and rightfully so. Joy, too, falls to Roscoe whose players have now combined with Manor’s.
John Mills, baseball bat in one hand, fireman’s ax in the other, is no doubt beaming from his box seat in heaven, glowing with pride at his nephew’s grit, as well as that evinced by the rest of the team. Mike Mills started the semifinal and pitched four scoreless innings before being relieved by senior star Brandon Smith, whose struggles with command allowed Lyndonville to get out to a 4-0 lead. Smith settled in, the Manor bats came alive and when the dust cleared it was Manor heading to the finals by dint of a 7-4 win. Mills pitched the complete final game, bringing his scoreless inning total to 11. Manor beat Loudonville Christian 13-0 in the game played over two days because of a thunderstorm postponement with Manor leading 7-0 after three innings. Kenny Fisk had a three-run homer as part of the hit parade.