After I had spent the equivalent of the GNP of a small country at the snack bar, I was getting ready to leave when my son told me that the opposing team had not shown up. We stood around for a little bit and then someone suggested a scrimmage. My husband offered to "coach" the team with a couple of other fathers, all of whom were probably looking for an excuse not to go home and mow their lawns.
All of the kids who were still there for picture day ran around gathering up their friends and then met at the field. Many didn't have their own bats and gloves with them. Both teams had to share the same catcher's gear.
The boys assembled a mismatched team of kids who ranged in age from 7 to 12 years old. Four of my boys were on the field for a single game, something that never happens under ordinary circumstances.
The adults pretty much stepped out of the way and let the kids work out the details for themselves. The kids decided that the little kids would bat first and play the infield. The AAA players, 11 and 12 year olds, would bat left handed. The older kids ran out and coached first and third bases. I was proud of all of them for their character, their kindness, their generous spirits.
Something magical happened on that field.
The boys laughed. The joy that is often hidden now at their advanced age of 12, has never been more apparent. They were having fun and it was contagious for the rest of us who were there watching. This is the reason we spend our gorgeous weekends sitting on metal benches at a dusty field. You could see the love of the game on their faces, the love that leads them to practice several days a week and spend countless hours at the field. The love that made them pick up that bat in the first place. Most of all they looked like boys, not miniature professional athletes.
The dads stood around the fence watching, reminiscing about how it reminded them of when they were kids playing pick-up games at their local parks. Before it became so serious. Back in the days when they rode their banana seat bicycles standing up, a friend sitting behind them on the seat, a wooden bat slung over their shoulders with gloves threaded around it. Bike helmets? Batting helmets? $200 aluminum baseball bats? Parents who had to shuttle their kids from activity to activity?
These things had not yet been thought of.
I'm not sure if they remember their childhoods as more idyllic than they actually were; maybe the serious games and disappointments have faded away from memory. Not unlike most of our memories of parenting infants.
But I couldn't help but hope that my sons remembered this game. Above the wins. Above the championships. Above the missed plays for which they berate themselves. Above all others. When they are grown men reminiscing, I hope they remember the joy of this game as the norm and not the exception.