Remember being a kid in elementary school on Career Day? Kids would dress up as firemen, policemen, astronauts, and doctors. Career Day for me meant I could wear my baseball uniform to school.
It did not matter where we were, somehow we would find a way to play baseball. We were obsessed? No, we were kids!
We simply wanted to play. Give us a cup, and before long it was wadded up in the shape of a ball, and a cup ball game was about to break out. Tin foil works well too, but hurts more than a paper cup. Behind the concession stand at the American Legion field or anywhere else where we could make a “field”. At home, with a Wiffleball and plastic bat, the door to the crawl-space was turned into a strike-zone and a ball hit past the clothes line in the air was a homerun. If it was dark the flood light came on for night games and thousands of games took place. No grass could grow on the pitchers mound or the batters box. Not because it wouldn’t grow, but because we played. Wicked curveballs, screwballs, dropballs, and risers were thrown. If you could hit these pitches, you could hit any pitches.
When no one was available to play with you, the game still had to be played. The door to the crawl-space and a tennis ball would work. Nine innings and the same crawl-space door was pounded by thousands of pitches. All nine innings and I never lost!
No one to hit the ball to you? No problem! All that was needed was an outside wall and a tennis ball. Diving catches to save the game in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on third. Again, I never lost.
No one available to pitch? So! A cutoff broomstick, Pa Haynie’s gravel and a fence across the street is all that was necessary. (Making sure no cars are coming when you hit the rock is a good idea. Not that we ever hit a car.)
Baseball could be played almost anywhere!
That was thirty years ago. Fast forward to today. What happened?
Drive by your local ballparks. Most of the fields are empty unless there is an organized practice going on. Nine year old baseball teams are having tryouts, and 10 year old year olds are playing 80 games. I know a few coaches that have cut 8 year olds. Parents are shelling out thousands of dollars so their son can play at the “elite” academy, and fifteen year olds are traveling all over the country to play in “showcase” tournaments because college coaches can see them play. Really?
Kids play baseball because someone introduced it to them and they continue to play because it is fun. When baseball is fun, they grow to love the game. That’s why we played cup ball. That’s why we played Wiffleball! We didn’t need adults to organize our teams. There was no adult to yell at us because we missed a groundball or struck out. Dad wasn’t sitting behind home plate telling us what to do on every pitch. We just played! Why?
We LOVE the game!