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Posts Tagged ‘Opening Day’

Play Ball!

Nothing says “welcome to spring!” quite like Opening Day for Little League, especially on Daylight Savings weekend.  Today we were blessed with playing the very first game at 0830 sharp. While we clutched our toasty tumblers of coffee in the crisp, early morning air, we also got first dibs on parking, seating, concessions, and even the sun. By the third inning, sweatshirts were being peeled off and slung on the backs of chairs, and coffee gave way to cool Co-cola.

Like any other American rite, opening day is full of things that make a community home. Old and new friends, old and new memories, old and new experiences. The actual game of baseball is core, of course, but it’s about way more than that. The sights, sounds and smells of opening day are woven into our minds and hearts, and then into the greater tapestry of community.

Our eight year old bit his lip with fond anticipation as we approached his field. There in front of us was something different from what he’d practiced on the past month. Seeing it anew, the field was a rich green surrounded by red clay dirt, outlined perfectly with bright white chalk, punctuated by brand, spanking new bases. It was almost a shame to see it mussed up by the first few players, but even after the game, it bravely clung to its dignity:

Home Plate

Most ball parks have sponsors’ banners lining the fence with names of businesses most people recognize. What makes this home is our backdrop of banners which advertise businesses unique to what we call home: maritime services, offshore deep-sea fishing charters, local resorts, and the always-practical hurricane shutter business. And this year a new one, an in-memory-of banner in honor of two beloved members of our community who perished at sea last year while out fishing one day.

It’s hard to beat the smell of freshly cut grass, but I think this one had it beat: The aroma of the giant grill cooking fresh hamburgers and hot dogs, which wafted all over the park and was carried aloft by the salty breeze off the nearby beaches:

Da Big Grill

The auditory hodgepodge was a mix of sizzling meat, the crack of the bat, and the occasional errant seagull crying when he realized he’d been duped, that the airborne baseball is not bread. You also hear lots of applause and encouragement. In the South, you won’t hear direct instructions being given to the little men in uniform, like, “Run hard, guys, RUN!” No, this morning’s sideline shrieks were more along the lines of, “UNHOOK THE U-HAUL, Y’ALL!” The names on the backs of the jerseys were not your standard names, either – here it is common for the names to start with a La-something or a Du-something, or end in -eaux. Or all of the above. The French roots live on.

Other savory sights included seeing the first slushies served of the season, with children running amok with berry-blue lips which extended ear to ear; swatting the first horse fly of the season; hearing many of the teams pray together before they hit the field; and little monkeys in precious smocking, hanging off the lower limbs of the giant, old oak tree which shades a strategically placed picnic table, suitable for reaching that lowest branch. How many monkeys can you count? One, two, three, four…no, there were at least eight children playing in the tree.

No one cracked their coconut open falling out of the tree, and no one filed any lawsuits against the park citing it as a liability. Yes, this is the park you can spank your unruly toddler in public while the other parents look on with approval. Heck, this is the park where other parents parent each others’ children. Raising our future is a community effort, especially on opening day when things can be a little hectic. I was overseeing the concession line at one point, ensuring nobody cut:

Concession Line

And nobody did.

I think about the only thing missing was some good ol’ American apple pie. A la mode. This should be a staple at every ball park, right along with peanuts and sunflower seeds. Now there’s a potential business! Speaking of which, I am looking forward to the rest of the season and perfecting my sunflower-seed-husk-spitting skills. (But only when the other moms aren’t watching).

What tells YOU that you’ve sprung forward into spring?

Thanks, God, for baseball and boys and bbq and bats and balls. Thanks for cultural pastimes and community fellowship. And thanks for helping our boys unhook their U-Hauls and pull ahead to win at the last nail-biting second. Yeeee-haaaw! Er, I mean, amen.

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