The love of America’s pastime shines through in a longtime Mon-Clair League player’s new book.
“Amateur baseball holds a special place in my heart – the competition, the fun, hustling to the ballfield after a day of work, changing in your car, the lights, the sounds, the smells,” author Craig Ohlau said. “It’s truly an unbridled romance.”
Ohlau played amateur baseball from 2001-2018, mostly with the Waterloo Buds/Millers under legendary manager Vern Moehrs.
In Kings of the County League: One Summer, One Team, One Dynasty, Ohlau shares fond memories of his playing days with Moehrs and his Waterloo teammates.
“This book is dedicated to Vern, Lucy (Moehrs) and all the Buds that live within its pages,” he said.
Ohlau, a native of Chester who is a science teacher and baseball coach in Edwardsville, earned critical acclaim with his first book titled Sons of Chester: A Tale of Small-Town Boys, Baseball and Very Big Dreams. That book, released in January 2019, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction, named 2019 Maxy Awards Runner-Up for “Nonfiction Book of the Year,” is a PenCraft Awards Winner for “Best Biographies of 2019,” and a da Vinci Finalist in the 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Awards.
Ohlau was inducted into the National Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019. He said writing about the sport “fills a void in the winter months.”
His latest book came naturally from 18 years of memories in the Mon-Clair League.
“I got hooked on this project – almost like I got hooked playing with the Buds – from the beginning,” Ohlau said. “I’d stay up writing for hours, going through all the ledgers and articles Vern so graciously turned over. He did not believe me at first when I told him about the project. When he handed the bag containing all the loot, his arm seemed to shorten—like he was reaching for a bill. I’m grateful he trusted me with his life’s work.”
Ohlau said the 307-page book contains photos from throughout the years in addition to 60 years of Buds/Millers team statistics.
“Sixty years. That’s a big haul, isn’t it,” Vern Moehrs said of all the stats, ledgers, articles and photos pored through for Ohlau’s labor of love. “I think it’s great that he did this.”
The legendary manager added that Ohlau was a “fantastic player” for him.
“Craig’s a Hall of Famer,” he said.
Ohlau remembers his first summer of Mon-Clair League baseball.
“It was directly after our junior college lost on the doorstep of the World Series. Dad and I were driving the 30 minutes up Route 3. I did not want to go – I was sick of ball at the time,” Ohlau said. “He insisted that I did – said I already committed, so I was going. He mentioned something to me on the ride I still remember. ‘You may like playing for the Buds so much that you play ‘til you’re 40,’ he said to me. Before I retired in 2018, I would get asked all the time why I continued to play. My answer was always a simple one.”
Ohlau said his new book is about the romantic nature of baseball in its purest form.
“(It’s) a game sweet enough to lure ex-big leaguers, grown men married with kids still living for the occasional square-up, college upstarts dreaming of the pros and the blossoming high school hopefuls looking to hang with the ‘big boys’ every summer to the scorched, dusty sandlots in the middle of America’s heartland,” he said.
“If you take baseball out of my life equation, I have no idea where I’m at – maybe alone on a beach somewhere, or in a mountain cabin, probably a cornfield looking up at the sky wondering how I got here,” Ohlau concluded. “The memories, the friends and the family the game of baseball has provided me are priceless. Vern played a big part in it.”