You had to grow up fast to write about the boys of summer at V.J. Keefe

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Here we are at Wolff Stadium, and the boys of summer are on the field for warmups.

We have sunshine, patchy cloud cover and 77 degrees. The Texas League home opener for the Missions is only a few hours away, and I’m blogging from the press box, trying to sort out what it all means.

We’ll talk in due course about what it means for the players, the coaches and the Missions’ new ownership group. For now, I’m going to tell you why opening day with this ball club is always special for me.

Back in the 1978, the team played at St. Mary’s University, at V.J. Keefe Field. I was in my first summer in a new job at the old San Antonio Light newspaper.

Just a little more than 10 months out of college, working in the press box at V.J. Keefe proved to be both exhilarating and exasperating.

Time spent watching the likes of Dave Stewart throw fastballs past opposing hitters was always balanced against the hair-pulling nature the profession.

In journalism school at San Antonio College and the University of Texas, I always faced deadlines and the pressures associated with writing something that was accurate and mildly entertaining, and then submitting it on time to editors at the school paper.

But in my first summer at V.J. Keefe, it was different. It was intense. I do believe, if memory serves, that reporters for The Light and the Express-News at the time would cover the game, total up the box score and then drive downtown to write a quick story at the office.

If the game ran long, the pressure was on. In those days, you’d either motor the car a little faster than the speed limit would allow on bumpy Culebra Avenue, hoping for green lights along the way.

Or, from a phone in the press box, you’d dictate your box score and your story to an editor back at the office

Just thinking about it now sort of makes my head hurt. At the same time, I really only have favorable and fond memories of covering the San Antonio Dodgers and, later, the Missions, at V.J. Keefe.

Getting to know all the people was the best. It really was one of the highlights of my career. In the clubhouse, I met Stewart, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, John Wetteland and Ramon and Pedro Martinez. Also, Eric Karros and Mike Piazza.

In the press box, though, I met some folks who would turn out to be some of my best friends.

Guys like the late Tim Griffin, Harry Page, Clifford Broyles and Jim Hutton. As for a young lady named Elaine Noll, I didn’t know her well, but I always had immense respect for her as one of the first female sports writers in San Antonio.

Eventually, through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, we all were blessed with the advancement of technology.

All of us, at both newspapers, eventually were given laptop computers to use on night assignments. The Teleram. The Radio Shack laptop. Whatever. They all made our lives so much easier on a nightly basis.

Anyway, that’s my first thought today. Better go grab a couple of rosters and get ready for the new season.