Homeless Diamond polishes off a winning season

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More than sixty years ago, Jack Kerouac watched a baseball game at a ballfield at 23rd Avenue and Welton Street in downtown Denver, a field known today as Sonny Lawson Park. He appreciated the crowd watching the game along with him that night, and commemorated "all humanity, the lot" in On the Road.

Kerouac is still watching over that ballfield in the form of a graffiti stencil on the side of Denver Parks and Recreation sign -- and you have to think he would have approved of the game on the field yesterday.

It was the last game of the season for Homeless Diamond, the league that real estate broker Joe Carabello, a native of Denver who used to go to this ballpark when his father played here decades ago, started three years ago after he noticed homeless men lying around the unused -- and locked -- field. A senior league player, Carabello came up with the idea of a Tuesday morning game with the homeless -- men and women -- fielding two teams, and advertised his idea by handing out baseballs with the game's time and location around the missions and shelters in the neighborhood.

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Jack Kerouac's image watches over Sonny Lawson Field.
While the city has spent the past three years trying to decide what to do with Triangle Park, an unhappy haven for the homeless that was named for Larimer Street pioneer Eddie Maestas before his relatives asked that the sign be removed, Carabello has come up with a real hit doing just what Maestas did -- taking matters into his own hands.

The Homeless Diamond has collected plenty of regulars, both players and volunteers; it's also attracted media attention from around the country.

And since this year's season got off to a slow start when city renovations to Sonny Lawson fell behind, the Homeless Diamond went into extra innings for the first time ever, with the last game yesterday morning. Given the timing, the players named their teams the Red Sox and the Dodgers -- but the competition was a great deal more good-natured than that of the playoffs. Carabello proclaimed that each team would go through its entire batting lineup each inning, no matter the number of outs, and no one was quite sure which team won.

There's no question the Homeless Diamond is a winner. The program will be back next year, Carabello promises. "The 2013 season was the best yet," he says. "It served more people and to greater depth. Our 'adaptive rules' are paying off. Homeless Diamond is here to stay!"

But after the warmth of both the camaraderie and the October sun, the players have left the field, seeking shelter for the cold months ahead. "Have a good winter," one urged another. "Stay warm."

All humanity, the lot.

From the Calhoun: Wake Up Call archive: "The Homeless Diamond hits a homer in Sonny Lawson Park."


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