VANDALIA, Ohio (WDTN) — Roughly 50 years ago, baseball brought them together.
A group of friends who forged friendships playing ball at an old lot in Vandalia recently gathered to relive their glory days.
Mike Cosculluela is responsible for organizing the reunion.
“This is a game with a bunch of old-timers–myself included–trying to kind of relive our youth and do something that we’ve always loved, which is play baseball,” says Mike Cosculluela.
“One of his lame brain ideas, I guess. And here we are back at it,” laughs Doug Gerhart, one of the original team members.
About five decades later, it is just like old times.
“Tim and I were warming up and said man, this is just like going back when we were kids,” reminisces Shawn Sugden, one of the original team members.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the group spent their time playing baseball.
“The original sandlot was across the street from my house,” says Bill Daniels, another one of the original team members. “We’ve been friends since grade school. Spent a lot of great summers out there.”
“We all lived in the same neighborhood over by Cassel Hills swimming pool, and it started around ’77. And we’d have spring training in the pool parking lot. And then we’d build a field next to the swimming pool. And we played every day. And it was all of us–Mike, Mark, Doug, Billy. We all grew up together playing baseball every day. That’s what we did,” describes Tim Nightwine, who drove from South Carolina for the reunion game. “When we were warming up, me and Shawn were passing, and I made the comment– the first ball I threw to him — I was like, golly I feel like we just went back to 1977.”
For Mike, his brother Mark, and their friends, there’s no greater bond than baseball.
“Every other year, we were on the same team, and I was always much better than him, which was tough for him (Mike),” laughs Mark Cosculluela.
Years later, they are back at it again.
“I’m playing center field because I’m the fastest,” smiles Mark.
This time, the guys are on a new field.
“The ball field is just an acre-and-a-half of unused property that is owned by a client of mine, Ted Bowden, who was gracious enough to let me use it for a ball field,” describes Mike. “We could’ve easily went to any ball field locally and used one of their fields. But you know, when we were kids growing up, they didn’t have ball fields. Not like they do now. We made our own. That’s kind of what a sandlot is. There was a tree in the first base line. There was a clump of trees where you couldn’t hit the ball to, and that’s kind of the beauty of a sandlot.”
Bill Johnson helped Mike get the new field ready.
“He said I need a field built. Can you help me do it? And I said okay, not a problem,” says Johnson. “He said go ahead and build it. So we built it.”
“This is our field of dreams,” smiles Nightwine.
“We are playing the Tool Testing Lab, a company owned by the owner of the property, Ted Bowden, the team we’re going to beat today,” brags Mike. “I’m not one to keep track of anything, but I am two-for-two.”
Their new jerseys and team name ‘The Sandlot’ play homage to their old lot.
“I sent Mike the meme on Facebook ‘play ball.’ ‘You’re killing me smalls.’ We have all kinds of sayings we have for each other,” smiles Nightwine.
The guys admit that over the years some things have changed.
“We’re a lot bigger, and a lot less athletic, and a whole lot slower. We’ve had a few fall downs and tumbles,” laughs Sugden.
But their camaraderie is still the same.
“Clearly I’m better. Mike knows that. There’s no doubt about that,” laughs Mark.
When they’re all together, for them, it’s home.
“I’m so lucky. I’m going to get a little emotional. I always do. But to spend time with my guys and the kids I grew up with—I feel so blessed that I’m still able to share those times and memories. It’s a great feeling,” tears up Mike.