Our baseball club is getting some local press. Young Master Dillon came out last week and seemed a decent fellow, looked a force to be reckoned with on the diamond, and certainly got the gist of our little game. It also seemed like he took a lot of pictures, but only used 2 of them, maybe we can get the rest for posterity on the blog? In any case, enjoy!
love of the game
How punk rockers and anti-jocks found fun and a love of
sports with the Mission Baseball Club.
By DILLON MCNEIL
FEBRUARY 3, 2022
Greg Snyder wasn’t interested in organized sports in the
1990s. A musician living in the Mission District, Snyder and his friends
subscribed to a set of countercultural ideologies as inextricably tied to punk
rock as abrasive guitar and shouted vocals.
“When you’re a disaffected punk rocker-type, the sports
world is alienating,” said Snyder. Organized athletics seemed mainstream and
traditional, a clear target for members of a movement that directly resisted
such representations of dominant societal structures.
“It was not a part of the culture,” Snyder said. “It was
Despite a personal history of athletics, he had fallen away
from sports altogether. In fact, his high school baseball and golf careers had
pushed him further from sports: “Coaches were jerks and the teammates were
unpleasant… it just sucked the life out of it,” he recalled.
Meanwhile, one member of the musical community in the
Mission was countering the counterculture.
“In the 90s, I was one of three or four people that would
just go out and hit a baseball,” said Dani Leone, a former member of the same
musical community as Snyder.
Leone and her band, Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, moved to San
Francisco from the East Coast in 1991, joining an active and colorful arts
scene in the Mission District. A lifelong athlete and lover of sports, Leone
and a few other members of the community began meeting at various parks around
the city to play baseball. Others took notice, and soon, the original group of
three or four began to grow.
“People would show up, and in true pickup fashion, say,
‘Hey, can I play?’” Leone said. Word spread around the community, and when
enough people had joined in, the group began to play full games against one
Thus, a sort of sub-subculture emerged in the Mission, a
group of, as Leone lovingly described, “poets and punkers and riff-raff” that
also happened to share an interest in sports. One of the members of the growing
community was Greg Snyder.
“We were all just a bunch of musicians living in the Mission
who had fallen away from sports,” Snyder said. “Then [we] realized, we all
still love this.” He found that he was able to reconnect with a part of himself
he had lost, in doing so gaining a new perspective on athletics in general.
After all, his return to baseball didn’t spawn from a desire to compete or win;
he did so because it was fun.
“It takes a while to realize that you don’t have to play it
at that [competitive] level to really experience the joy of it,” Snyder mused.
“I hadn’t yet learned that you could really be engaged on this more casual level.”
Though they always made sure to keep things light, the group
soon to be dubbed the Mission Baseball Club did dip their toes in the world of
competitive organized baseball. Having assembled enough baseball-playing
members of the Mission musical community, the team entered the Roberto Clemente
League, a since-defunct adult baseball organization in the city. The team of
“scraggly musicians” (Leone’s description) stood out, not only for their
punk-rock attitudes and outfits; they were the only co-ed team in the league,
with three women on the roster. “That was not done with the adult leagues,”
says Snyder. “It blew people’s minds.”
After two or three years in the Clemente League, however,
the Mission Baseball Club had seen enough. “It was fun enough,” Snyder says.
“But we found that it doesn’t take too many people who take matters too
seriously to take the fun out of it.”
The league cranked the competitiveness a few notches too
high for the musicians from the Mission, who didn’t care so much about winning
or losing as long as they had a good time playing. Having tested the waters of
competitive ball, the group returned to their roots. Since their departure from
the Clemente League in the mid-90’s, the Mission Baseball Club has been hosting
their own pickup baseball game every Sunday at various public ballparks around
For almost 30 years, the games have drawn players from
around the Bay Area, from all walks of life. Though a core group has stayed
involved since the beginning or close to it, there has been a lot of turnover
in the club – some former regulars have moved away from the Bay, and others
away from the game. Still, the Mission Baseball Club has lived on, its ranks
often supplemented by a smattering of strangers who happened to walk by the
ballfield at the right time and joined in.
Last Sunday, I was one of those strangers, having ridden my
bike to Golden Gate Park to witness this week’s game for myself. Lo and behold,
as I coasted up to the Big Rec fields off Pelosi Drive, I found the Mission
Baseball Club. I’d been told the game would start at 1pm, and when I arrived at
that time, about ten players were still playing catch down the right field
line, chatting, and laughing as they warmed up.
With what I already knew about the group’s organization—or
lack thereof—I deduced that a soft start time wasn’t unusual, and I took a seat
in the rusted bleachers while the players got loose. Soon, I was directed to
Greg, playing catch furthest down the right field line.
“Did you bring your glove?” He asked. I hadn’t, though I’d
thought about it. That’s okay, Greg said, assuring me that if I wanted to play,
I could borrow someone else’s.
Looking back, I still have no idea how the teams were
divided. As the game neared first pitch, the 18-or-so players seemed to
separate themselves randomly into two teams, one group grabbing their gloves
and trotting out to the field while the others put on helmets and swung bats
around to loosen up. I learned that the teams are different every Sunday,
mostly due to the variance in who shows up to the games and the club’s efforts
to keep the sides even. Some people are there every Sunday, others coming out
every once in a while. There’s no sign-up sheet for the Sunday games, only an
email list that Snyder keeps updated with the time and location of each game.
“It’s boggled my mind how we’ve managed to have both enough,
but not too many,” Snyder said.
As the game ensued, I took some photos and talked to many of
the players, getting a feel for the eclectic group that had assembled at the
park on that sunny afternoon. Tony, one of the founding members of the Mission
Baseball Club, wore a custom-made uniform, a sleeveless gray button-up jersey
with “Mission” stitched across the chest. Just like Greg, he’d played baseball
in high school before moving to the Mission in the 1990’s and joining the music
He remembered when some of his friends had first invited him
to play. Tony had declined, assuming his friends wanted to play softball. When
he learned they’d be playing hard ball, he changed his tune. He’s been playing
with the Mission Baseball Club ever since.
When someone had to leave around the 6th inning, I
volunteered to fill in, jogging out to right field and playing some catch with
my new teammates. Tony had lent me his glove, a bit worn but still in fine
shape, and as I examined it, I wondered how many years the faded brown Wilson
had scooped ground balls and snatched pop flies on Sundays just like this one.
With what Greg had told me about the club’s roots in a countercultural
punk-rock ethos, I chuckled a bit when I read the stitched letters labeling the
glove model: the Wilson “Conform.”
I was curious as to how it would feel to play again; the
last organized baseball I’d played, in the spring of my junior year of college,
had been, from a competitive standpoint, about as far from the Mission Baseball
Club as you could get. That season had marked a tipping point in my baseball
career, when I realized the game had become something much different from what
I’d fallen in love with as a child. What I’d assumed would be a lifelong
passion for baseball had faded away; in its place I felt tension, stress, and
physical exhaustion. I’ve avoided the game ever since.
As I stood out in right field on Sunday afternoon, however,
the joy that I’d lost began to seep back. It was the smell of the grass, the
crack of the wood bat, the sun beaming down on the field. It was the smiles,
the laughs, and the warmth of a community that had welcomed me with open arms.
It was viewing baseball through a new lens, successes and failures melting away
in the shadow of the spirit of the game. Nobody showed up that Sunday with a
need to win or do well individually. They showed up to play baseball with their
Greg strapped on the catcher’s gear and caught all nine
innings of the game on Sunday, a long time to stay in the squat for even the
most competitive ballplayers. I figured he’d trade off with someone at some
point—the other team split catching duties half-and-half—but between each
inning, as the other team’s catcher took off his chest protector, shin guards,
and mask, Greg was next to him putting it all right back on, cracking jokes
about the sweat soaking through the chest protector as the game reached the
late innings. I marveled at his endurance, figuring he’d be exhausted by the
end of the game.
I’m sure he was tired, but when the final out was recorded,
Greg took off the mask to reveal a beaming smile, and I don’t think it was
because his team had won—and they had, 7-3. He smiled because he’d spent
another Sunday afternoon doing what he loved, playing ball with his friends. As
I said goodbye to Greg and the others, I was encouraged to come back. I don’t
know how I couldn’t.