Saturday, June 13, 2015

Baseball boys

A post from The Daddy Man:

Kimmy was putting together a kids' issue of her section in the paper, and she asked me to write something about how kids can enjoy an outing to our local minor league baseball team.

She said the story made her tear up, but it's not sad at all. She said the tears were because it's sweet. So I'll share it here, and you can see what you think.


Catching memories one toss at a time

Over the long years, I’ve played catch thousands of times.

These days my knees and right shoulder creak a little, but comfort washes over me each 
time I slip my left hand into the battered Spalding baseball glove I bought with S&H Green Stamps in junior high.

The old leather molds to the shape of my hand. The irony of the “Dave Kingman” signature stamped into a fielder’s tool makes me smile.

Poof! I’m a kid again. Just like that.

I remember what it was like to be little, what baseball meant, the touchstone moments the game — and the practices — etched into me.

It’s why one game of catch means more than any other.

I took my boy to the Greensboro Grasshoppers game on the first Sunday afternoon of June, and we joined about 100 other dads, moms and kids out there on the green, green grass of the outfield, throwing balls back and forth, back and forth.

The Hoppers open the field for this before every Sunday home game, weather permitting.

My son is 6 years old. Chances are, he won’t remember the details of our first time on the field at NewBridge Bank Park — 20 glorious minutes I’ll never forget.

The boy was excited, so eager he asked the parking lot attendant if we were on time and where we should go. The excitement grew as he struck up a conversation with another kid his size, a child waiting in line with his folks to sign the waiver forms.

Once we got down the stairs and set foot on the field, the boy raced off toward the outfield, the crushed brick warning-track dirt crunching under his feet until he reached the grass.

We found a spot near the right-field bullpen and started to play. The boy somehow caught about every third throw in his impossibly small, faux leather T-ball glove. And he gleefully chased the rest that got by him.

All but two of his return throws settled softly into the pocket of my broken-in Spalding. I couldn’t have been prouder.

It was over much too soon.

But there was plenty to do during the ballgame. A Hoppers game is more than just baseball, with areas designed for kids who don’t have the attention span for (or interest in) our national pastime.

• The YMCA Family Section — No. 114, along the first-base line — is alcohol-free and family friendly.

• The Rotary Play Park in the right-field corner is a destination for children, with two climbing playsets and soft-covered ground. The whole area is covered by protective netting to keep stray foul balls out. Pro tip: Staff tries hard to keep kids off the bronze statue of a boy and girl playing leapfrog.

• Good Neighbor Hill near the bullpen in right field is kid country. It’s also prime foul ball territory, so anyone on that patch of grass needs to stay alert.

• Go for a walk. There’s a path circling the entire field, and you can watch the game from most of it. For a treat during the walk, look through the small gaps where the outfield wall panels come together for a unique, field-level view.

• On Friday and Saturday nights, the team’s black Labrador retriever mascots greet people at the gate near the Majestic Yard souvenir store when the game ends. The dogs are friendly.

Every Sunday at the ballpark ends with kids allowed back on the field to run the bases.
It’s a small thing, but my boy loved it.

Makes me wish I were a kid again.

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