Eight years ago, my little guy with his baseball mitt from Toys R Us started his little league career. The T-ball diamond, adjacent to the big, fancy field, is a super cute, mini version of the big kid's diamond and stands in the shade of a big, perfect-for-climbing tree.
All the little kids watch the big diamond in awe. If you are a kid and you love baseball, this is the place you dream of playing. It is your big leagues. It is your majors. There's a light up scoreboard and enthusiastic parent announcers in the skybox. The snack shack sells dogs, peanuts in the shell and nachos with the mandatory neon orange cheese.
As a family, we've moved up through the little league ranks. Our son has made his way through multiple positions, and both fantastic and heart wrenching plays. He's hit a homer and one one memorable occasion lost his permanent front tooth. We've experienced the good, bad, ugly and exceedingly excellent of coaches. We've been the winning team and the team that lost every single game.
If you hang around little league until you're 12, you are serious about baseball and you play or practice all of the time. It holds a family hostage from March until June. I am sad to see the last game John will play on this magical field--even though I've sat on the metal seats so much this year that my back is in spasm.
The ping of the bat, the sound of a hard, fastball hitting the mitt, parental chuckles and angst. The smell of hot dogs, the tranquil green of the field flanked by blue sunny skies, and the dust that kicks up in the infield-- these all will always be in our memories of John's childhood.
Today, 8 years later, John will have to grab his gear and walk away from the field for his last time as a player. George and I will be right by his side, squinting into the evening sun as we leave a chunk of childhood behind. It will be a sad, growing-up-way-too-fast, good-bye.