Evenings at the Ballpark
July 2nd, 2016
One of the things that I love about summer is spending the evening at the ballpark. I’ve never been a huge sports enthusiast, but I’ve always enjoyed baseball. I grew up outside Chicago and have fond memories of cheering on the Cubs. I also played softball for quite a few years myself, spending many happy evenings between the ages of seven and fourteen out on the field. I loved the camaraderie, the smell of dust, and the sound of a well-hit ball. I even look back with a certain affection on the injuries I sustained, which included hospitalizations due to concussion, asthma attack, and a fractured ankle. My mother, on the other hand, was thrilled when I ultimately switched to tennis.
Now my two ‘big kids’ are both playing ball. My son is in T-Ball and my daughter moved up into softball this summer. With two kids playing, we spend a lot of time at the ball fields. The utter bedlam of the T-Ball field makes me laugh, and I love watching my daughter start to wrap her mind (and body) around the fundamentals of the game.
But as much action is happening on the field, it’s the action off the field that I actually love best. There’s a whole community that grows up on the sidelines. It seems like on most nights, for every kid on the field, there are at least two in the bleachers and the junior spectators form and reform like amoeba into flowing social packs. One minute my son is playing super hero action figures with another boy and the next they’re playing tag with friends they found on the next field. My younger daughter bonded early in the season with another little girl about her age and now spends most of every game holding hands with her new best friend while building castles in the dirt.
The other night, I brought chalk along to entertain the hordes and – wow – it worked…just not quite like I’d imagined. A crew of about half a dozen youngsters joined with my kids in carefully powdering the chalk, then mixing it with water from pilfered players’ water bottles. They then adorned themselves with the resulting paste, announcing that they were warriors and that the paint gave them special powers. My son’s face was bright green while my daughter slathered her legs in blue. Mercifully, the other parents were as amused by this endeavor as I was.
After the game, there’s a surge to the concession stand for celebratory lemonade or sno-cones. Everybody –players and spectators alike – is dusty and sweaty and exhausted. We pack up our mountain of gear and stagger to the van. That process takes longer than you might think because the kids have to bid farewell to all their friends, and children are not known for their speedy goodbyes. Hugs must be exchanged, secret handshakes performed, and toys returned to their proper owners. It’ll be past bedtime by the time we make it home and we’ll do it all again later in the week. I can’t wait.