Lost Ballfield Memories…

Is there anything sadder in today’s Covid-warped world than the sight of an empty Little League baseball field?

I know we face a myriad of problems, but problems have always been with us. From the beginning of these United States, turmoil, hardships, and troubles have been a familiar constancy—along with death and taxes.

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby

Ever since Abner Doubleday invented the game—although, like many legends of the past, this may be in doubt—baseball brought joy to the hearts of many a young boy.  The game is a business in the major leagues, America’s favorite pastime corrupted by greed. But when I was growing up, it brought much joy and happiness to me and my friends in Cumberland, Rhode Island.

These were different times in the 1960s. We often cloud the reality of the past with the analgesic of nostalgia. Still, I think memories of baseball played on a Little League field are as close as one can come to remember the “good ole’ days” as they really were.

These are the faces of life-long memories

Girls weren’t on teams back then. There were no leagues for girls. Truth be told, it was more selfish protection of less-skilled male athletes from being outplayed by girls than anything else, but they were different times. One cannot change the way of the past. We were just little boys with no need or ability to understand such complex matters. We just wanted to be boys playing baseball.

Little League games gave ten-year-old boys the glorious moments of dreaming they would one day play at Fenway or Yankee Stadium (for the really, really outstanding players.) These lost moments on today’s empty fields can never be recovered. I know much has been lost to the pandemic—graduation celebrations, wedding receptions, travel plans, summer days before heading off to college—a whole host of missed opportunities. But these are adult things, or on the cusp, where a lesson in the vicissitudes of life can reap benefits down the line.

Ten-year-old boys don’t need such lessons at that moment in life, they’ll have time for that later. But they can never regain the moments of standing at-bat, the thwack of a ball on a wooden (never aluminum) bat, and the pure joy of making it in to score a run.

Standing in the late afternoon sun, on a warm and humid August day, even playing right field to minimize the chances of actually having to catch a fly ball,  is as close as one can come to pure joy in this life. Such is the cost of these challenges we face.

A field of dreams lost to time, and memories left unmade.

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