Harold Reynolds, a former big league ballplayer who I grew up watching, was one of the commentators of the World Series. He also called the American League Championship Series and during a replay timeout in Game Six, he mentioned a backyard wiffle ball game. I smiled. It took me back to my childhood and all of the afternoons gathered with the neighborhood boys at Starnes Stadium - my backyard. We played every day and had the time of our lives. Video games were in their infancy and there was no Internet, let alone personal computers and smart phones. We pretended to be Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy, Pete Rose, Nolan Ryan, or whoever we emulated. This was our fantasy league. And we played the actual game, not some simulated thing in front of a TV screen. We took it seriously, too. There were loud voices, cheers, arguments and the occasional fight.
Ah, memories. I love being taken back to those carefree days when the only worry was being behind as the sun set. Moms would soon call us in for dinner. Oh well, we'll get you back tomorrow. Then all of a sudden it was over. High school graduation, off to college. Soon work and bills became much more important than play. But it never leaves you, grown men loving a kids game. Before moving in 2009, I stood one last time at home plate, the dirt spot now covered with grass, and took one last swing, one last homer leaving Starnes Stadium, a line drive to left field, landing beside the stump of the once-mighty willow oak that had robbed so many home runs. I admit I was a little emotional.
A degree in broadcasting, a writer by trade, I hope to one day write a book about baseball. I plan to interview former major leaguers. I wager the conversation will turn to childhood and backyards, when it was all about the game. That moment the other night brought so many memories flooding back. Diving catches, strikeouts on knuckle curveballs, walking off the field the hero after hitting a grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game Seven of our wiffle ball world series. Shining times!
More kids today should get outside and play - for hours. It's a lot of fun.