Our stories of yesterday can inspire this new lost generation to get healthy and stay healthy. I walked uphill both ways to and from school, and I’m ready to tell my story of how my pals and I did things when we were young and class was dismissed for summer. We actually did … (wait for it) … exercise back then!
It seems it was just the other decade that I would wake up late with early plans to get the day off to a good start. I’d eat breakfast and then head off for several games with my bat and glove. If baseball was king, then my friends and I were members of the royal family during those summers of fun.
Half a dozen phone calls got the plans moving for the first game at about 10 a.m. It began as a daily event with a group of us neighborhood teenage kids, but soon word spread. And we were getting ballplayers from all over our Northwest Indiana. No one had their license yet, so arrival to our daily games was via Schwinn and Huffy.
Ground zero for the activities was an open field next to a church. There were several ready-made and ordinary baseball diamonds at the nearby school, but we chose to create our unique field of dreams adjacent to this house of worship. It seemed to work with that Dr. Seuss quote of, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
I don’t think anyone can really remember exactly when or why we started playing at this precise spot. It just happened one day, and I believe that’s part of what made it so magical.
The playing field involved the usual grass and dirt and bases. It also involved bushes, sidewalks, an evergreen tree and a towering rooftop of biblical proportions. The good Dr. Seuss would have wanted it no other way.
A home run in center field was any ball that landed on the high slanted roof of the church. It was nothing short of awesome to watch a well-hit arcing fly ball plunk off the roof for a game-winning shot in the bottom of the ninth inning. You could sometimes hear the church’s organ playing Queen’s "We Are the Champions" after those dramatic walk-off homers.
Some members of the church congregation caught wind of our alleged acts of blasphemy from landing baseballs on the Lord’s house. We would occasionally experience a ranking church official showing up and giving us the ecclesiastical ejection for our misguided choice of this place of recreation.
We would then scatter around the neighborhood until the coast was clear, and we’d resume play after the brief delay. It must have ultimately been God’s will, though, to let us play ball there. We spent several summer seasons rounding the bases on that Promised Land.
We didn’t use a traditional baseball, which likely explains why we never broke any stained glass windows. We used tennis balls instead.
We also eighty-sixed the wooden baseball bats and chose plastic bats reinforced with duct tape. There was no commissioner of our league to tell us the weight and size of an admissible homemade bat. If you made it and brought it, then it worked.
We’d play three games on some of those dog days of summer. Then we’d ride our bikes to our buddy’s house to go swimming and finally call it a day. Baseball, biking and swimming ruled our days for those few years until girls and beer showed up and taught us strange new tongues.
Please let your sons and daughters or nephews and nieces know there is a world of exercise out there just beyond the reach of the Internet and social media.
If you find you ever need an extra player, you can put me in, coach. I’m ready to play … today. Look at me; I can be centerfield.
This article of balls and strikes is brought to you by that guy with no errors. That golden glove guy is Ron Blake, and he can be found turning double plays in Phoenix, Ariz., these days.