Saturday, March 27, 2010

Baseball Dreams

My random Friday post comes on Saturday this week. I know, my bad. At least I didn't skip it like last week. Anyway,I wrote this about a year ago. Technically it is a speech I gave for a public speaking class, so while you are reading it picture me standing uncomfortably at the front of classroom of people if you want the true effect.

I grew up on a baseball field. A dusty diamond of endless dreams. In the confines of those two white lines, on bases ninety feet apart, I was lost in my own little world. Anything was possible on the baseball field; where time stands still and hopes and dreams are limitless.

Every summer day was exactly the same. Baseball. Soaked in sunshine or drenched in rain, it didn’t matter. There was a game to play.

The players were made up of eight neighborhood kids: me, my two brothers, and five of our friends - the core group that played everyday. And don’t get me wrong, it was every day. Eight players though, was just the minimum. Each day would see a constant merry-go-round of kids that would come in out of our game. Strangers, friends of friends, anyone could play. That cast of characters changed, but the eight never did.

The field itself wasn’t much to look at. The weeds nearly overtook the infield dirt, and the outfield grass was borderline grass at best. It was really nothing more than a diamond shaped dirt patch sprouting a sky high chain link backstop. The field was snuggled into a quaint little park in our middle class neighborhood, but was the type of the place the city was too busy to properly upkeep.

Although to us, it was Yankee stadium, and it was all ours. Our sanctuary of endless possibility.

The games would last for hours. Time never mattered. When you are a kid you have all the time in the world. The score? Who cares? The inning? Doesn’t matter. Ball four? No way, I’m not taking a walk. Time to come home for dinner? Alright, alright I’m coming.

It really was The Sandlot – well, minus the beast. We were a throwback to the days of old, when kids went outside and played. While other kids were inside with Mario and Luigi, we were outside laughing, running, cussing, spitting – playing. We were having fun and dreaming big. Nothing else in the world mattered.

People say nothing is perfect, and yet, everything back then was. We had no cares.

And yes, there was conflict, but it always got resolved. That was part of the process; learning to deal with one another. Only once did that conflict escalate.

My friend Joel was on the mound and I was at the plate. Joel was kind of the trouble maker of the group. Although, I was a cocky prick in my own right, so we tended to butt heads. During this particular game, for reasons that were not clear then, and are even less clear years later, we were having a spat. Joel took offense to something I said (although it couldn’t have been that bad, after all I was seven). He then planted what, to a seven year old, seemed a blazing fastball in my ribs. I charged at him with blind rage, my eyes burning with hate, ready to destroy. At a dead sprint I wound up and swung a mighty right hook. Everyone else rushed to the mound trying to decide if they should encourage, or stop, the fight. It didn’t take long before the question was answered for them.


Never before had our games seen blood. But I had done it. Ended the fight with one mighty swing. That’s right, all it took was one punch and the fight was over. The loser lay dejectedly on the ground.

That loser was me.

I had slipped on the dirt and cut up my arm. Yep, in my rage I both started, and ended, the fight. I had beaten myself up. The worst part was I had to go home to bandage up my arm so the game was over, at least for me.

But I was back out as soon as my wound (and ego) healed. Come the next day none of us even remembered, or cared, what the fight was about in the first place. Petty squabbles never mattered. There was baseball to be played.

That’s how it is as a kid, you don’t waste time worrying. Nothing really matters but having fun and dreaming big.

As we get older we tend to lose our childlike perspective on the world. I guess it’s inevitable. Now, we spend our days worrying about grades, finding a job, and trying to avoid homelessness in a floundering economy. Life seems to change from a childhood of hopes and dreams, to an adulthood of cynicism and concern.

But, as I think back to myself as a little boy in the confines of those two white lines, on bases ninety feet apart, I remind myself that life can be simple, and worrying gets you nowhere. I remember how important it is to be carefree. How important it is to dream.

What is life, after all, without a dream?

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