I watched “The Sandlot” a few days ago and every time I watch that movie I can relate to what those kids did during the summer months and it makes me think back to when I was a kid.
I can’t remember the last time I saw kids playing a pick-up game of baseball. It just doesn’t happen anymore.
When I was growing up we didn’t have much of anything else to do.
There was playing baseball, swimming and playing in the park, that was pretty much the summer.
No video games, no cell phones to spend hours on texting friends and no computers.
When 9 a.m. rolled around and only after your chores were done, the group (all of your friends) would meet at someone’s house, put the baseball glove on the handle bars and make sure you have a couple of baseballs. About once a week we had to cut some fresh cardboard to replace the bases that didn’t last too long.
And like a group of bikers taking off from the local watering hole we would all speed on our bikes to the baseball diamond and would not be heard from again until noon.
Sometimes the city would allow the grass to get pretty long and just a ground ball that rolled into the outfield might take a few minutes to find. Of course in that case we awarded the batter a ground rule double.
When the city did mow, the grass the clippings would be so thick that we had to bring a rake along to remove them from the field the best we could. That might pre-empt the game about 20-minutes, but when it was done the field looked great.
Well it wasn’t Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field, but it was our field of dreams.
So until around noon or so, you could find us at the local baseball field.
We all played on local baseball teams and there were a few rules that we lived by and our parents, (especially our dads) made sure that we didn’t break on certain days.
There was to be no swimming on game days, no sitting in the house in the air conditioning on game day and no playing baseball in the afternoon on game day.
So what did we do instead?
This is when we played home run derby.
Instead of the wooden baseball bats, baseballs and gloves we got out the whiffle ball and whiffle ball bat, broke up into teams and played home run derby.
Our games were nine innings long, each team got six outs per inning and the only way to score was to hit a home run. Everything else was an out. We usually had four or five players on each team, sometimes more and other times less.
We didn’t have to run to use energy.We had people in the outfield who could rob home runs, but other than standing in the hot sun, it was not an energy consuming activity.
Now we played on several different fields, each with their own little quirks.
One field a tree made it difficult to hit homers to right field, another field you had to crush it over a house to left field or the ball would just roll back down the roof into the field of play. On other fields you learned to hit to the opposite field because the fence was a lot shorter. Needless to say if you were a switch hitter you had an advantage.
Other times a strong wind blowing in or out would affect the outcomes of games.
Our supply of whiffle balls usually took a beating so we started to wrap them in black electrical tape to increase their longevity. We also wrapped the bats for the same reason. It also increased the power so we had to back up when we did this or the home runs would get out of control.
This went on for hours. Sure we had our share of arguments and disagreements about foul and fair balls and illegal pitches, but we also worked things out. Usually when we played at someone’s house their mom would bring out lemonade sometime during the afternoon and maybe some cookies.
If we didn’t have a game that day, it was back to the field after lunch and you could fine us there till it was supper time.
That’s enough reminiscing for now.
I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July!