John F. Russell: Looking past the latest and greatest | SteamboatToday.com

John F. Russell: Looking past the latest and greatest

— I can still remember flipping through the pages of golf digest as a teenager and wanting to run out to the local sporting goods store to buy the latest putter or some new fancy driver or the golf ball that supposedly flew the furthest.

But like most teenagers, my funds were limited, and when I asked my dad if I could borrow a few bucks, he always came back with the story of Lee Travino, who used to beat guys on the course with nothing more than a 26-ounce Dr. Pepper bottle wrapped in adhesive tape. The story always ended with something like, "It's a poor man that blames the faults in his game on his equipment,” or “The equipment doesn't make you a great golfer."

Either way, the answer was no, and the closest I would get to the latest and greatest in golfing equipment was destined to be in the pages of Golf Digest.

Truth is, I never could figure out how a guy played the game of golf with a 26-ounce beverage container, and I hated it when my dad tried to make some moral point about my character instead of just saying he wasn't going to spend money on a new putter, golf club or ball.

I'm a little older now, and my views may have changed a bit. Today, instead of hoping for the top-of-the-line driver from Callaway, Ping or Nike, I dream of owning a Nikkor 400 mm camera lens. I have to wonder what advice my dad would give me if I asked him for $10,000 and change to buy that one new.

As much as I hate to admit it, there was some truth in my dad's words back in the day. I can see now that the equipment doesn't determine if you are good or bad at a sport. It may provide some players with an advantage, but it isn't the equipment that makes the game fun — it's the effort.

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It's been more than a years since the adult softball coed "D" leagues decided to make it a rule that guys needed to use a wooden bat. At first, the news was a shock to my quickly aging body. Random thoughts like, “can I hit the ball out of the infield with a wood bat?” flooded my brain.

I mean, metal bats, especially the modern, double-walled bats, have added years to my game and given my swing a little more pop where there had been no pop before, and the power I gained from those $200-plus bats had outfielders taking a step back. They were still a long way from the fence, but at least they were a little deeper than they are now.

But as we come to the end of the second full season of wooden bats in the adult D league, I can honestly say they have made the game more fun. Players are still hitting the ball, but the wooden bats give infielders and outfielders a chance to make a play on the ball.

I've always loved the feel of hitting the ball with a wooden bat. I love the sound the bat makes as it splits the air, I love the feeling I get in my hands as I grip the bat, and I love the energy that lifts my arms as I drive the ball to the outfield.

Sure, it may take a little longer for the ball to arrive at its destination, and my dreams of hitting one over the left field fence have died faster than the Colorado Rockies chances of winning a pennant in 2015. But, for the first time in a long time, the game is fun again.

My guess is that a wooden bat doesn't fit on my list of the latest and greatest sports toys according to justbats.com. But I have to agree with my dad on this one — sure it’s great to improve your game with the best equipment, but at the end of the day, the equipment isn’t the reason most of us are playing the game.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966