The Great American Pastime

Before I continue, I think it would help if you could imagine the sounds at a little league baseball game. Imagine a baseball field with aluminum bleachers behind either of the fenced-in dugouts.
The bleachers are not overwhelmingly tall, or overly crowded, but this is where the parents sit and cheer for their kids.
Picture, if you can, other parents and family scattered at the fences of either sideline. They sit in lawn chairs from their home with perhaps, a sweater or sweatshirt draped over the back of the chair, and all of them gather or group in their usual cliques.

Envision an average suburban town with a main road bordering the ballpark. A white billboard sign welcomes at the front entrance. Upon it is the town’s name written in blue scripted lettering, and below are the printed names of town officials and different representatives.
The parking lot is a mixture of blue gravel and dirt, but the entrance to and paths from the lot to the fields are concrete.
The snack bar is centered between all the neighboring ball fields. The front of the small shack is equipped with a metal, roll-down door, which closes to a chest-high, stainless steel counter that holds a metal box of napkins, a gray plastic tray of straws, packets of sugar, salt, and pepper, which are set beside a large ketchup and mustard dispenser near the cash register.

Every so often, the sound of a ball cracks against a wooden baseball bat, and the parents in the stands shout and scream.
Cheers of coaches screaming, “Go, go,” and “Run!” lace the air, and sometimes the cheers follow with an incredible, “AWWWW,” to describe an error or a bad call from a yelling umpire that tells, “You’re out!”

There are home teams and away teams; however, the players on all teams are from the same town. They all know each other and the only thing that separates them is age, the color of their uniforms, and the name of their team’s local sponsor.

Imagine the different sized fields in the ball park, with different age brackets and different games, which begin with little ones playing a slow moving game of T-ball, and improve to young teenage boys that are eager to meet their dreams in the major leagues.
Picture the green grass on the field and the brown, but almost orange dirt that rounds the diamond with a white line directing to first base, second, third, and home.
Picture chain-linked fences as backstops; picture two loudspeakers that post high and face opposite directions at the top of a telephone pole near the snack bar. Picture a main field, which is used for the championship games.

Imagine the cheers shouted by the huddled teams after each game.
Cheers like, “Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate?” followed by the name of the opposing team, and then the young players in the huddle toss their baseball caps in the air as symbol of sportsmanship and respect.

Coaches yell and say things like, “Come on now, look alive out there!”
Younger siblings run around in the empty or unoccupied fields, and fathers with baseball gloves have catches with their sons or daughters to get them ready for the next game.

I have a memory of this. But the memory is small.
I remember the snack bar very well.
I remember hotdogs with mustard and sauerkrautor sometimes just mustard and onions.
I remember hot pretzels with yellow mustard drizzled around the twisted shape and over the large cube-like grains of salt.
I remember cans of White-Rock cola and spilling a girl’s grape soda because she sat it down on the player’s bench.

I almost always spilled food on my jersey. I wore a batter’s glove. I wore a hat with a brim larger than my head and gray pants that sagged on my scrawny legs.
The long bangs of my reddish-brown hair folded over my forehead from beneath my baseball hat, and while standing in the outfield, I screamed, “Hey, batter, batter, batter . . . . Swing, batter!”

I never knew why we screamed this. I suppose it was to psyche the batter, but if and when the batter swung; the ball would either fly or ground, and my little body along with the little bodies of my teammates ran around the field trying to get the ball.

I stole second base once . . .
The umpire called me safe, but then again, the umpire was my neighbor, so that might have been a favor because I could have sworn I was out.

As best as I can recall, the league’s divisions began at T-ball, then little league, which advanced to pony, and then matured into colt.
But I stopped at little league.

I drove passed the baseball fields the other day.
I noticed a father teaching his son how to throw and catch a baseball.
That was nice to see.
The Old Man did the same thing with me when I was young

But that seems like it happened in another lifetime.


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