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Vintage baseball night a hit at Barry University


Special to The Miami Herald

To walk through the gates of Barry University’s Feinbloom Field on Thursday was to be transported to another era.

When it came to music, instead of hip-hop, it was barber shop.

When it came to cars, instead of turbo, it was retro.

And when it came to baseball, well, just about everything was different.

The occasion was “Vintage Night,” a unique exhibition baseball game with proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Thursday’s game raised money for the charity, which helps make wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions. Over the past three years, Barry University has raised more than $30,000 for the Make-A-Wish charity.

The idea for the Vintage Night game came from the imagination of Barry baseball coach Marc Pavao, who hopes to make it an annual event.

“My uncle had one of those old-time, 1930s-type gloves,” Pavao explained. “I was fascinated by that, and when I got my hand in one, I couldn’t believe that players of that era played with them — they were so small and didn’t have padding like today.

“So I went on eBay, and I saw that they had a ton of them for sale. I started looking for good deals. Buying a couple turned into buying a bunch, and I just figured that if we could get nine, we could play a game.”

The idea for Vintage Night grew from there. Replica uniforms of old-time Major League, minor-league and Negro League teams were brought in.

One day, when the players came in for a meeting with Pavao, they saw the uniforms and scrambled to see which ones they would select.

“They were super excited,” Pavao said. “It was a lot of fun to see the smiles on their faces.”

The uniforms – which fit loose and baggy as was the custom back then — were a hodge-podge and thus one team had players with blue jerseys, white jerseys, gray jerseys.

None of it matched – and none of it mattered.

From there, Ted Vernon of South Beach Classics helped sponsor the event and brought in two of his vintage cars to embrace the “throwback” spirit of the night.

Vernon brought in a 1947 black-and-white DeSoto police cruiser and a 1929 wine-colored Model A Ford Coupe.

Others from the community brought vintage cars as well, including Luis Torres’ orange 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, Hector Monterrui’s 1955 yellow Chevrolet pickup truck and Joe Vennaro’s 1931 gray Ford Sedan Hot Rod.

In addition, fans were encouraged to wear clothes from the Roaring ‘20s, and lots of hats and fake handlebar mustaches were spotted in the crowd.

For the record, the Barry vs. Barry exhibition was won by the ‘National All-Stars” 9-6 over the “American League All-Stars.”

But the score hardly mattered. This was for charity, and it was obvious that the players had a blast working with the odd equipment.

“I broke the laces on one of the gloves,” Barry pitcher Calvin Rayburn said with a laugh. “I think we were maybe throwing a little too hard. … But the gloves are still usable.”

The bats were another issue. Pavao bought one vintage bat on eBay and had a bat-maker create two more that were similar to what was used in the 1920s.

Unlike today’s bats that have a thin handle and a thick barrel, these bats were the same shape throughout, which made them much heavier than what players swing now.

Instead of modern bats that are in the range of 33 ounces, these weighed 52 ounces.

To further enhance the old-time feel of the game, a barbershop chorus called “The Miamians” sang in between innings.

Pavao found The Miamians online, and the group agreed to donate their time for the charity.

As it happens, David Hanser, the lead singer of The Miamians, is a self-described “baseball nut” and had a collection of jerseys that he allowed his group to borrow for the night.

“I gave them all warnings about stains,” joked Hanser, who wore a 1935 Babe Ruth Boston Braves jersey.

Hanser said The Miamians perform monthly at local hospitals in an effort to bring joy to the sick children.

“If we weren’t doing the singing,” Hanser said, “we’d be crying.”

Of course, there’s no crying in baseball, and there were no tears on Thursday.

Everyone from the coaches, players and fans seemed to enjoy themselves. (A possible exception was the umpire, who wore vintage gear, which left him relatively unprotected for foul balls behind the plate.)

“It was a great experience,” said Khalil Denson, a freshman infielder from Los Angeles. “We’ve never had a throwback night here. It was a lot of fun.”

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