Every ball player dreams of having a baseball field in their backyard. For the Stasey family, across the street from their Chalk Mountain home is just as good.
"It's a field of dreams," said B.J. Stasey. "We hit up that idea 20 years ago and started putting it together with the help of my grandsons and son. We built that ball field and started playing and practicing on it."
Playing and practicing turned into a family "World Series." Nearly every year since the inauguration of Stasey Field in 1992, the family reunion returns to Chalk Mountainevery year on the second weekend in June. They gather at the field for trap shooting, washers, a fish fry and of course, softball.
"We play every year," Stasey said, recalling the earlier games. "My brother's clan lived in San Angelo - they were the west, and we were the east. We played a game every year during reunion time and had a traveling trophy. Whoever won, the trophy went there."
The field is complete with an outfield fence and bleachers. Staseys' grandsons, Chris, Chase and Chad, constructed the back stop, and there is an old fashioned scoreboard where numbers are hung from two nails on a wooden board to mark the score.
The National Anthem is sung before the game by family member Candy Benge. Lynn Stasey runs the annual "Stick Horse Race" for the children, and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is chanted in the fifth inning stretch. Two full scale tents can even be raised to shelter spectators from sun or rain. It has everything a professional ball club stadium would have, including a press box and its own announcer.
"I remember driving up to the field and being in awe of the field and thinking how cool it was to cut a ball diamond out of a cow pasture for this event," said Stasey Field announcer Jeff Smith. "I mean, they had it all - backstop, outfield fence, flag poles in center field, fireworks for home runs and best thing of all - a press box to announce from. I've called at least 25 home runs and set off the cannon shot after each one."
Smith became friends with B.J.'s grandson, Chris, in 1998 through work and a company softball team he managed. Smith, the current announcer of Texas Christian University's baseball team at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth, said he made his debut at the Stasey family reunion in 2002.
"Pat's Concho Slammers versus B.J.'s Bombers," Smith said. "While the entire clan contributes something for the event, Chris is really the driving force that pulls it all together. It was his idea to build the field. It was his idea to launch fireworks before and after the game. It was his idea to bring in an outsider to announce the game. I've kind of been grafted into the family through this little gig, and it's been a worthwhile experience."
Stasey, 87, is a walking encyclopedia of baseball knowledge and history. Although he never made it to the major leagues, Stasey's love for the game has never diminished. He played throughout the century with various semipro teams in Texas before settling into Glen Rose where he played with an old school baseball legend.
"I played semi-pro and we had a lot of organized teams in the late 1940s up to 1958," Stasey recalled. "One year, I played for Glen Rose in the Brazos Valley League with Debs Garms who retired from professional ball. He led the National League one year in hitting at .355 with the Pittsburgh Pirates."
Garms, who passed away in 1984, led the National League in batting in 1940. He kept playing long after retirement but brought a major league mentality to small town baseball. Stasey batted cleanup after Garms when they played together for Glen Rose. After scooping and tossing corn to work out his upper body, Stasey stepped to the plate after a Garms double.
"I knew he was gonna throw me a fast ball," Stasey said about the pitcher. "I hit that ball and they never did find it. I turned the bases and came to home plate and Garms was standing there and he said to me, 'Ruth would've been proud of that one'."
Despite his age, Stasey continues swinging and plays catcher, too. He bats in his senior softball games and at the reunion with a younger Stasey family member rounding the bases as his courtesy runner. While the game is for fun, both sides seem to be secretly competitive.
"The game was a way to get everyone together," said son Gary Stasey. "The focal point of the reunion is the ball game - to get out there and have a good time and enjoy the game. If you build it and have a game, they will come."
And just like in the major leagues, the competitive nature of the game has led to a couple of injuries over the last 20 years at Stasey Field.
"We did have an accident or two," Gary chuckled. "My youngest son hit a line drive at his cousin and hit him square in the face and broke his nose. But he went to the hospital and signed the ball and gave it to him."
Just as their favorite team, the Texas Rangers, retires the numbers of legends, Stasey Field also honors theirs Pat Stasey, B.J.'s older brother and the head of Pat's Slammers, passed away in 2005 at the age of 88. They retired No. 7 in honor of Pat and hung a commemorative jersey on the right field fence.
Stasey gives a lot of credit to Pat for his own love of the game.
"My brother started playing ahead of me and I thought I could do anything he could," said Stasey. "That was my inspiration. He was a fastball pitcher, so I wanted to be one, too. If Pat were here right now, he'd be pleased. We developed a code where we could contact one another after death. He got in touch with me and said, "They still have baseball up here. They have diamonds and everything just like we read about in the Bible."
They family still met for the reunion in June 2005 to play the game despite Pat's death. With him in both teams' hearts and minds, they took the field and played the game in his honor.
Stasey said that particular game drew the family closer together.
"Nobody won in 2005," he said. "It was tied 17-17 at the end of regulation, and my brother's birthday was in 1917."
"It actually happened and it wasn't planned," Gary added. "It was something prolific and everything was 17's so we just stopped for Pat. The next year, they beat us 19-17, which is funny because that was the year he was born."
A few years later, the family decided to add another jersey to right field. They retired No. 1 for Stasey and hung it next to Pat's No. 7.
"My grandson decided to one on me and gave me No. 1 and made a speech at the reunion about what I had done," Stasey said with a grin. "They said I was number one. Some people who drove by thought maybe I died, too."
The reunion is still alive and well. The Bombers are now managed by Chris and the Slammers by Jeremy Scott. The Bombers won this year's reunion and lead the overall series 11-6-1.
"I'd rather play here than anywhere else," Stasey said. "If I had to choose between the Ball Park in Arlington and here, I'd probably choose here."
Beau Tiongson, the Reporter's summer intern, is a sports radio talk show host for KTCU-FM 88.7 The Choice in Fort Worth.