Play Ball!

I miss baseball.

I am not talking about the MLB. Thou I am excited to have pro ball back. Go Cubbies!

I am talking about neighborhood ball.

On Sunday I stopped in Rushville Nebraska which is about 30 minutes from home. They have a nice baseball complex in town with an incredible little stadium. I have driven passed it many times. But I was picking up a pizza and I had some time to kill. So, I stopped at the park to look around.

I coached youth sports in Chicago for many years. I coached Football, Basketball and Baseball. It started when a former coach of mine found out that I was not playing in high school. He decided I would help him with the team he was still coaching. This led to other offers and eventually I started coaching on my own. Sometime later I was invited to help lead the leagues. My teams were known as team happy.

I always enjoyed it when kids would work hard at learning a new skill and watch it all come together. That ah hah moment.

Of all the sports I coached my favorite was baseball. It combined skill and strategy. From setting the lineup, deciding when to change pitchers, when to steal a base, bunt, shift the defenders and “talking” to the umpire. Knowing that an in-game decision could change the outcome in an instant.

When I married Jackie, the kids came with the package. I had walked away from coaching when I moved to St Louis. I had no intention of coaching again. I wanted to work with the kids at home and let someone else be the coach. I wanted to stand at the far end of the field and just watch them play.

That changed when the boys signed up to play Basketball at the Y. The coach needed help and I was asked to at least sit on the bench to advise him. This led to some of the best times with the kids. I ended up coaching again. I even ended up leading a league. I had some memorable ties with the boys at the fields. Helping to keep the place playable.

At one point all 3 of us, Nick, Sam, and I, became umpires.

Standing in the dugout in Rushville, I remembered some of the games I coached. I pictured some of the plays that my teams pulled off. I remembered the friendships that began on a team. Friendships that I still connect with today. Sports offer a lot for kids. But only if they have good coaches, supportive parents, and a safe place to play.

Warmer weather always reminds me of baseball. The sounds, smells, and sights of a baseball game. The crack of the bat, pop of the glove, roar of the crowd and the chatter of the players. The aroma of the concession stands. The green grass contrasting with the dirt of the infield. The sun shining in the blue sky. The players taking the field. The sound of PLAY BALL.

I will always miss baseball.

I will always remember the joy of playing catch with my kids. The laughter, smiles and joy.

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