The on-deck circle.

The neighborhood I grew up in has changed a lot. All of the houses are still there and most of them still look very similar to the way they looked thirty years ago. But a majority of the families who lived in those houses are no longer there. Some have moved. Others have died. While my dad continues to do an excellent job maintaining his property and keeping it looking nice, it saddens me that the same cannot be said for some others now living in the neighborhood.

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.

Playing baseball in this particular yard, there was one other feature that I'll always remember -- a cherry tree that served as a shaded spot for the on-deck hitters. While one batter swung his hardest to send a ball over the privacy fence, his teammates would wait near the tree. While we were happy with the tree's cool shade, my mom was even happier when our neighbors let her harvest the cherries each year.

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.


leftylimbo said...

Ugh. You can bet I had the same similar sinking feeling in my stomach as soon as I saw that. But it's a tree, right? Just because it's split in half doesn't mean it's dead…does it?

Out here in L.A. it's the same way, although imagine everything in cement and steel. They've gone and torn down many of the old mom-n-pops and natural environments in my old neighborhood, to make way for mega-malls and condos, which have a fraction of the personality than their predecessors.

Do you have any pics from the good ol' days? Would be nice to see 'em. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

TL said...

Unfortunately, considering the way several of the yards in the neighborhood have been let go, my guess is that this tree is done.

Might have to dig up a few pictures from the good ol' days...