Today, it’s quiet in Cooperstown, N.Y. In late July, the town will be packed, full of tourists wearing Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves jerseys, Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks caps. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame last week. They’ll celebrate with an induction ceremony on July 26. Cooperstown will be rocking. Good luck finding a hotel room anywhere between Binghamton and Albany.

Today, a cold January day, I guarantee you Cooperstown is quiet. That’s the Cooperstown I know, and came to love. Thinking of this Hall of Fame class has me thinking of when a trip to Cooperstown was part of my routine.

My first job out of college was as a sports information director at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. Oneonta is 20 miles from Cooperstown, a quick easy drive. Think of how quickly you can get from Waterville to Augusta. While the Oneonta to Cooperstown trail is primarily on state highways on not interstate, it’s the same kind of fast commute.

When you can get in your car and be at the Baseball Hall of Fame in a half hour, you make the trip as often as you can.

My first visit to the Hall was in late summer, 1995, a few weeks after Philadelphia Phillies slugger Mike Schmidt was inducted, and not long after I moved to Oneonta. It was busy, but the heavy midsummer crowds were gone, and I was able to meander through the Hall’s exhibits without accidentally photobombing anybody. I paid close attention to the plaques honoring the Red Sox, particularly Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, the most prominent Sox in the Hall at the time.

In the winter, I found Cooperstown to be a nice place to just hang out. You didn’t even have to visit the Hall. Just go, have breakfast, and walk around a bit. Stare at Otsego Lake. Cooperstown was a good place to just relax and kill time.

In the spring, for one weekend, it became a good place to work.

Hartwick no longer has a baseball team. The college dropped baseball and softball a few years ago. When I was worked there, the baseball program was strong, and hosted a tournament at Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field each season.

Abner Doubleday likely had as much to do with the invention of baseball as he had with the invention of the space shuttle, but the myth is strong, and the ballpark that bears his name is beautiful. The old covered grandstand, with the dugouts underneath, is a perfect spot to watch a game.

The tournament was on the first weekend in May, and on Saturday, we sat around Doubleday Field for a little while in the morning and waited for the rain to stop. When the day was rained out, I walked over the Hall. If I couldn’t watch baseball, at least I could spend the day surrounded by it.

Sunday was a sunny day, and we played a triple header. I don’t recall if Doubleday Field did not have a public address system, or we just were not allowed to use it, but we had to bring a portable system from school. My colleagues and I sat in the first row of the grandstand, above the home dugout, and watched baseball all day. It’s still one of the best days I’ve had on the job.

Hartwick beat the University of Southern Maine, 4-2, in the championship game. Like now, the Huskies were one of the top Division III teams in the country, so it was a big deal.

The Hall, and Cooperstown, sells a romanticized version of baseball. We know that. If you hear mention of gambling or PED’s in Cooperstown, it’s because Pete Rose is up the street signing autographs, or fans are debating the merits of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. You go to the Hall, you expect the rosy version of the past. You want the unvarnished truth, you listen to cynical talk radio.

When you watch the Hall of Fame inductions in July, marvel at the crowd. How do they fit so many people into such a small town? I’ll watch, and think fondly of the days I would go and have Cooperstown to myself.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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