This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website and the Southern Chester County Weeklies‘ website.
POCOPSON — It was just another beautiful summer day in Pocopson Park and the perfect setting for an old fashioned game of baseball Sunday afternoon.
And it was, quite literally, old fashioned.
The Brandywine Base Ball Club, based in West Chester but playing in Pocopson Park, is in its second year of existence — or re-existence for that matter — of playing vintage, 19th century style games of America’s favorite past-time sport.
“It’s like a living history event,” said Rick Stratton, the field captain for the Brandywine club. “We all love baseball and have an appreciation for history.”
The Brandywine BBC is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League, which features teams from across the eastern seaboard, from Virginia up to Rhode Island, and even a little farther inland to Ohio.
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A couple teams in the league have been pushing for expansion for the last few years, which is how Brandywine came about.
“(The Brandywine BBC) was a real team back in the 1860s,” Stratton said.
Some interested people were found and, lo and behold, the rebirth of the West Chester team came about.
But because they were so new, the team desperately needed to fill out their roster, which is where some other nearby teams helped by lending players.
The members did some research into the team and found they used to play on the corner of S. High and Price Streets, directly where the Burger King is now located in West Chester.
“They were a pretty good team,” Stratton said. “They beat Philadelphia a couple times.”
Just a few years ago, the league had less than 10 teams and now, they boast a healthy 25. Two of those teams reside in Chester County and both are new to the league — Brandywine and the Mohican BBC of Kennett Square.
“It’s starting to grow in popularity,” Stratton said.
What makes the league more unique, outside of using mid to late 1800s rules — including playing without gloves — is the diverse range of ages accepted on teams.
Not only that, but women are also welcome to join.
“It’s a family-friendly thing,” Stratton said. “We have players of all ages and abilities and from different backgrounds. I’ve played with 16-year-old kids and 70-year-old men and women. It’s fun in that way that it’s universal.”
The Brandywine BBC has roughly 10 full-time members this year, along with some part-time.
The games are real and scores and records are kept, but there is no mandatory amount of participation from members.
If someone can only play 10 games a year, that’s perfectly fine. Twenty-five? Even better.
“Part-time players generally play about half the games and full-time usually play 3/4 of the games or more, if they can,” Stratton said. “Some teams are better than others, but we are all out here to have fun.”
Haven’t played baseball in several years? Not to worry. The activity is all about having fun, no matter your skill level.
“I hadn’t played in 20 years since I was in little league,” Stratton said. “Once I played my first game (here), I was hooked. I couldn’t believe I didn’t find out about this before.
“It’s so much fun. I’m having more fun now than I was playing as a kid,” Stratton said. “I’ve made a lot of good friends that I wouldn’t normally meet. It’s like a softball league.”
The activity has given the players not only the chance to relive the past while playing a sport, but also the opportunity to compete in places they never before would go.
“We played on Pea Patch Island in Delaware and played a game on the York Revolution’s field,” Stratton said. “We met a major league baseball player in Reading and played with him as well.”
There are some dues to join, but the money goes to securing the Pocopson Park field for home games, and there is also the expense of the uniform.
“We get (the uniforms) from a Civil War outfitter,” Stratton said. “It’s what they would have worn.”
The Brandywine BBC has roughly a month and a half left in their year and because of college and some new additions to families, they are looking for some new members to finish out the season and just fill out the club for years to come.
“We’re looking for players,” Stratton said. “We want to share it with as many people as we can.”