Saturday, January 31, 2009

Play Ball!

I make no bones about it. I am a baseball fanatic. To me, baseball is a religion. Everything you need to know in life to succeed may be taught in Kindergarten but out on the field is where the real training begins.

We would play for hours on a sand lot down the street from our house. It was our meeting place, our chat room, centered around four bases made of anything we could find from rocks to old tires. It was baseball in its purest form. Our mitts were old and worn, our bats were Louisville sluggers and our love for the game kept us out until it was too dark to see.

I played catcher by trade. To me, the catcher was the best seat in the house. You could see the entire field from this position. Every player in field and out field depends on the catcher to keep tabs on the game. The catcher needs to know both sides of the game, the players on the field and the ones in the dugout who plan on putting the ball into play.

Today, I watch the game with a bit of nostalgia for the sand lot days. We had our major league heroes - Sandy Koufax, Johnny Bench (my particular favorite), Duke Snyder, Don Drysdale, Yogi Berra. But the drama of the sand lot games was more than imitating your favs. It was the smells and sounds of the game up close and personal. It was the way you felt at the end of a good game, win or lose, you were tired but invigorated at the same time.

Where I live in Eugene, OR, we have the fantastic privilege of a minor league team and stadium, Civic Stadium. The short season games bring the fans into the action with seating under ten bucks, the vendors yelling for peanuts and popcorn and the old time signs along the outfield wall. The players are the raw material with hopes and dreams of making it to the bigs and every little kid in the house is looking for their autograph. It's is what Little Leaguers dream of and what baseball used to be about before it became a multimillion dollar industry.

Unfortunately, money talks louder than nostalgia. Our small ball park is in jeopardy. Our situation is not unique. Budget cuts have a way of working their way into the fabric of what is good about a community. Ball parks around the country from Little League and minor league ballparks are finding it impossible to keep up maintenance on these hollowed grounds. We need to step up and preserve what is truly an American icon - Baseball!

Oddly enough, if you watch the Super Bowl you will see an opportunity to put on a mitt and play ball to make a difference. Kellogg's is taking a step to keep ball parks, like Civic Stadium, from disappearing from our children's landscape. They have initiated a call to action for a national field renovation program called "Plant A Seed"

The campaign will renovate over 50 fields across the US to provide better fields and make them into more central community meeting places - chat rooms for families. Check out this Super Bowl ad and nominate your community field for this extraordinary project. 

That's what a wise catcher would do.

No comments: