The boys of summer are back in town and as another baseball season gets underway, I find myself filled with excitement.
I start to look through the spring training schedule and reminisce about how the sport of baseball has affected my life.
From playing on Little League and high school teams to watching college, minor league, and Major League professional ball, I have always enjoyed the game.
Like most young boys, we played pick-up ball after school and on the weekends in a vacant lot across the street from my childhood home. Whether we scraped the dirt with the heel of our shoes or found some discarded wood or cardboard for makeshift bases, we were all big league players and homerun legends in our own little sandlot.
As we got older, we signed up to play Little League. We felt like pros when we wore our brightly colored shirts with the iron-on team sponsor names blazoned across our chests and the matching high-brimmed ball caps. Yes, we wore those uniforms with pride.
I will never forget my first baseball glove. It was my father’s. It was old, and definitely broke in, but it was a treasure.
To this day, I can still close my eyes, take a deep breath and smell the scent of that old leather. Memories of standing in the field, “chattering” as the pitcher pitched the ball and awaiting the distinctive “clank” of an aluminum bat as it strikes the ball are still fresh and vivid in my mind.
When we got into high school, we thought we all had arrived. We lived in a small town and, for the first time in our lives, we got to wear the full baseball uniform.
I’ll never forget the sound of metal cleats clacking across the concrete locker room floor as we made our way to the field.
Nor will I forget the time we lost our catcher to a tragic, senseless accident following our return from the state championship playoffs. Memories, both good and sad, will forever fill our hearts.
When I got into college, we spent many an afternoon watching the college team play. I remember a few of my buddies and I even tried out for the university team and tried to become walk-on players.
Although we never had the talent to play at that level, those few days spent on the diamond were some of the best days of our college life.
We were fortunate that the city where we went to school had a AAA minor league team. We spent many nights watching the up-and-coming minor league players and the injured all-stars working through recovery and playing their hearts out under the stars.
And then, one year, spring training came to town.
There was something extra special about spring training. For all the players, whether they were seasoned veterans, or fresh young rookies, they all started out on the same plane. Each one had equal opportunity to make the roster for the year.
Spring training has always been something I look forward to. Early morning games, the smell of freshly cut grass, freshly striped lines and the smell of hot dogs and popcorn all captivate the senses.
But some of my favorite memories of spring training include hanging around after the game and meeting the players and getting their autographs. Those were great experiences for young and old alike.
Now that I’m older and work full time, I don’t get to see as many games as I’d like. But over the last couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of designing a few municipal parks that have included Little League baseball fields.
I’d like to think that part of my life has come full circle now, knowing that I’ve had an opportunity to give something back and that there are kids out there playing on fields I’ve helped design.
And who knows, maybe in another 10 years, we’ll hear an interview with a player who said he got his start way back when in his own version of The Sandlot.
Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on twitter at @CDGLA or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.