When I was growing up in the 80s, one of the most common events in my neighborhood was a game of backyard baseball. On summer days, we couldn't get outside fast enough. Sometimes the games would be nothing more than a two-on-two match-up with ghost runners while other times every kid in the neighborhood would be out there pretending to be Pete Rose or Ozzie Smith. A game of hotbox (pickle, to some) was not uncommon; nor was a game where a giant piece of painted plywood served as a strike zone. No matter how we played, there was no doubt about it -- the kids in my neighborhood loved baseball.
There were two or three yards that were used most often for these games -- one of which was two doors down from my house. In this yard, the playing field actually faced the house which had a small fenced in section just outside its back door. Over the fence, of course, was a home run. Now before you start thinking we were a bunch of hooligans smacking baseballs at the homes of our friends' parents, we did have some rule variations depending on what yard we played in. For this yard, hitting towards the house, we used a Nerf baseball.
Nerf baseballs were soft but still a little harder than typical Nerf products. These baseballs had a distinct center -- either cork or like a super ball -- I can't remember for sure. Either way, we definitely saw the Nerf Baseball core a handful of times when a well-used ball was hit one time too many.
On a recent trip home, however, a sad sight caught my eye.
Gradually over the past several years I have been coming to grips with the fact that my childhood neighborhood is not what it once was. More and more with each passing day I'm beginning to understand what people mean when they say "you can never go back." But this sight seemed to seal the deal in my mind.
There it was. The tree that had once provided respite to many young baseball players and countless cheeries to my mother's desserts -- split in half and overgrown in a yard full of weeds.
But look at this picture and imagine -- the lawn is cut, the tree is thriving, the sun is shining, and a few kids are sitting in the shade waiting for their turn at bat.
You can never go back? I guess that's not entirely true.