Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Days

I've been thinking about baseball over the last few days, and after Eli 7.9's soccer game this Saturday (2 goals, a 2-0 win), an idea fell into place when I remembered something about my childhood.

I grew up in a town of 7,302 people. When I was a boy, I counted the days until I was old enough to play Little League baseball.

We didn't have any other sports leagues. No soccer, no football, no basketball.

So we didn't even have any other sports leagues. And yet, somehow, in this tiny town, we had a real ballpark for the Little League games. It was this pristine little jewel that backed up to City Hall, with the greenest, smoothest grass and a red dirt infield. Fences, bleachers, dugouts, lights for night games, everything--it was a real ballpark, and I loved playing there. And every boy my age played baseball--literally, every single boy.

That's how important baseball was in 1969.

Forty years later, in a city with over 750,000 people, I know two boys who play baseball. They're brothers. I know a huge number of kids, and they have no interest in baseball. They don't watch it. They don't even know the rules.

Eli 7.9 has a glove and a bat. Once a month or so, we'll play catch and I'll pitch batting practice for him. He enjoys it, but not in the sense of having any continuing interest--it's just one of fifty things we can go out and play.

I'm sure that youth baseball still has regional pockets of interest, but it's a sea change in forty years.

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