RUTHVEN, Iowa (KCAU) — Red Sox Hall of Famer Bill Lee has always had baseball in his blood.
Although he retired from the bigs 40 years ago, the 75-year-old has gone everywhere and anywhere to stay on the mound which lead to him joining the Savannah Bananas traveling team this year as a pitcher.
During his trip to California, Lee made sure to stop in Ruthven to see a familiar face GTRA while continuing to scratch his baseball itch, Banana-style.
“In the 70s and 80s we would go watch the Royals play and I used to this guy hitting pop flys to himself, catching them with his own glove, and that was his conditioning after the game, and that was Bill Lee,” said Bob Protexter.
“Bob Prodexter, he was my translator in the Soviet Union when I was over there and I love the kid. He got me to keep playing with the Russian National Team,” said Bill Lee.
“He’s been inviting me to Vermont for about 25 years and I’ve been initing him to Iowa for 25 years and he came to Okoboji two years ago and I kept saying, hey, I got a great baseball team, these kids love baseball, why don’t you come hang with us. He called me last week and says, ‘I’ll be on Highway 20 to California and I’m gonna stop’, and here he is,” said Protexter.
“He’s definitely a cool guy. We’ve had some good conversations. He’s funny. I’ve never laughed so hard on a baseball diamond, that’s for sure. I’ve learned a lot more in 30 minutes than I have in a couple of hours of play. He’s just really experienced and it’s cool to have him here,” said Dalton Young.
“To be Back, to be Einstein, to be anything of perfection you have to do the time and they’ve realized that this is a game that comes to you late. It’s the guys that are late bloomers to stay with it, that’ll have the opportunity to play,” said Lee.
“I figured once he hit like, 40, he’d kinda cap off but he’s proven everyone wrong doing it at 75 and he’s really good at it too,” said Brody Simington. “He’s done it for some many years. He knows what he’s talking about. I just wish I had another year to use that and develop my pitching.”
“I tell them, basically to enjoy the game, be smooth,” Lee said. “It was written on my glove. It said, ‘be smooth, throw strikes, keep ball down, don’t alibi’. My father wrote that down and it seems to apply to life. Baseball is a game of failure, you have to accept failure and that’s why it’s the greatest game on earth.”
“We’re having a blast out here. We’re getting after it running around. It’s definitely different than regular baseball but we’re enjoying it,” said Young.
“For him to tell us stories about playing in Cuba and Latin America and all over the world and talking about the Big Leagues to our kids, it’s an amazing amount of interest for kids but for him to have fun on the field with them, it’s amazing,” said Protexter.
“I’m lucky to be here. I love a ball diamond. It’s the place where you wanna be with your family,” said Lee.
Protexter said that they won’t forget who he is after his visit.