MANSFIELD -- Tom Ford is a baseball fanatic.
His father and grandfather ingrained the love of America's pastime in him while going to Cleveland Indians games in the 1960s.
"My first real recollection of baseball is the World Series between the (New York) Mets and the Baltimore Orioles (in 1969)," Ford said. "I remember all baseball from that time and I remember bits and pieces from before that."
Now, Ford spends each summer reliving the sport's history as a member of the recreation of the Mansfield Independants Base Ball Club.
"Baseball's history goes back to the 1800's," he said.
The Independents play base ball, adhering to rules as they were in 1864.
Perhaps most interestingly, the first professional base ball game was played between the Cincinnati Red Stockings (now known as the Reds) and the Independents.
"We got to play the Red Stockings in a recreation of the 1869 season this year to celebrate their 150th season," Ford said.
The Red Stockings had a rain out that season which created the opportunity for the two teams to meet as the first game of the season. The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York refers to this as the first game between two professional teams, Ford said.
Ford added some argue there was a professional game before that date.
"It's interesting to think about how that was going on in Mansfield," he said. "Mansfield and this area has a pretty rich baseball history."
In 2008, the Mansfield Independents were recreated. The City of Mansfield celebrated its bicentennial and had an idea to recreate the base ball club.
Ford said he and members of the 179th Airlift Wing constructed a roster which played in front of a large number of fans at Arlin Field.
"We had a band there, we got press coverage. We only played two games that season," he said.
Now the club plays about 15 Sundays a summer, two games a week. The roster has about 19 players but Ford said they are always looking for interested athletes.
"The goal of the Independents is to represent the game well. It's not about winning and losing. It's about representing the sport," he said. "I love all these guys. I didn't have any brothers growing up, but these guys are like my brothers."