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Still swingin’ for the fences

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Damon Rains, 88, continues his lifelong love affair with the national pastime as a softball player in his church league

By Brian Blair

Age is just a number.

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Damon Rains has been playing baseball and softball for a long time – a very long time.

 “I’ve played ball ever since I was 10 years old,” Rains said.

That might not seem like a big deal until you realize that Rains is 88 years old.

He was born in Whitley County and moved with his parents to Tennessee when he was 3. When he was 17, Rains joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and moved to California. The group was established by Franklin D. Roosevelt to help build up natural resources while giving young men jobs. Rains said while in California, he played baseball with his corps and they played teams from other camps.

Many of his baseball experiences come from playing while serving in the army. Rains, who served in Italy during World War II,  would play first base, catch or pitch, even once tossing a no-hitter for his team.

Although he can no longer remember the player’s name, Rains said he once pitched against a man who would later take the mound as a Cincinnati Red.

“He was a good pitcher,” Rains said. “Yeah, he was really good.”

While he could play several positions, Rains had a special love of pitching.

“When I was a kid and playing catcher, we had no masks,” Rains said.

He recalls one particular time when a mask would have come in real handy.

“I got hit with a foul ball right on the nose. The inside of my nose was bent right over touching the other side and I couldn’t breathe out that side,” Rains said. He didn’t have his nose fixed until many years later in the 1950s.

After his time in the military, Rains moved back home to work in his father’s sawmill.

“That is the hardest work I have ever done in my life,” Rains said. “I worked there six months and said this isn’t for me.”

Not long after deciding he was not destined to spend the rest of his life working in a sawmill, Rains moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked at Thistledown Race Track as track superintendent for 36 years before moving to Owen County.

Rains said the track had a team he played for during his time with them.

Among his many talents, Rains has also written a book. The book, called “Time Changes Things,” deals with how the world has changed over the course of time. He said he begins the book looking at how things were in the Bible and works his way up to modern time.

Today, Rains can be found many nights either watching or playing softball for Long Ridge Baptist Church. When he is able, he plays first base.

Rains said he has only hit one home run in his life. He compared his style of hitting to a baseball legend. 

“I always got hits,” Rains said. “I was pretty much like Pete Rose. I just get hits.”

Long Ridge Coach Fay Duvall said that it is great that Rains is still able to play.

“If he can get out and do it, go for it. You are as young as you feel,” Duvall said.

When asked what he liked about baseball as a kid and why he still enjoyed playing softball today, the answer was simple.

“I just love to play the game.”