Our workload has increased a bit here at PRB lately, so to clear my head, I grabbed my lunch and headed uptown to Reagan Park for a short lunchtime stroll through the greening landscape that is spring here in Ohio.
A park is home to many memories.
As I walked, I found myself standing behind the backstop of Reagan #3—a small baseball diamond geared towards kids just transitioning from T-ball to coach-pitch and kid-pitch teams. Instantly, I was drawn back to a humid August night, August 5 to be exact, and saw a little boy, sweat streaming down his face, dirt lining his fingernails, bat slung over his shoulder awaiting my next pitch and then my next.
Swing after swing, his grin and concentration narrowed, echoing his determination to hit one over the fence before he turned 12—the following day. As the light waned, I emptied my second bucket of balls—taking our tally to 50 pitches and 50 unsuccessful, but full-effort, swings.
As I wrapped my arm around my son, we turned to pick up the balls and start over. The father in me was searching for a soft landing—some way to draw the night to a close in a positive manner, regardless of the outcome—but came up empty. We finished picking up the balls, and without a word, he jogged back to home plate and I trudged to the mound.
Then, it happened. First pitch of the third bucket my son’s bat met the ball with the distinctive “crack” you only get when you strike it perfect and the ball rocketed to straight-away center, clearing the scoreboard by the narrowest of margins and landing in the pricker-bush choked creek beyond.
My son jumped for joy, fist in the air and then, at my prompting, circled the bases to memorialize the moment. When he crossed home plate, I again draped my arm over his shoulders and we headed to the creek to find the ball—which, like everything else this night, was no small feat.
After several minutes of splashing and searching in the near dark, my son found the ball and we headed home to inscribe it with a magic marker—signed by me as a “witness” to the event.
The ball still rests in a prominent location on his bookshelf—a testament to his first home run.
With a smile, I turned up the path to continue my walk. In a reflective mood, I was pleased to find landmarks throughout the park that harkened to a memorable event—the pavilion where I cooked hot dogs for my son’s teams and where we celebrated his eighth birthday, the concession stand my daughters worked during a tournament to raise funds for a trip to Cooperstown, the sledding hill our art director and I used to test out the mountain board we bought at the inaugural LIVE Show in 2005, the open space where I coached one of my daughters in flag football and watched another play soccer, and so on.
As I returned to the car to head back to the office, I realized that like Brad Pitt (well, philosophically ☺) much of my life had a park running through it, which is pretty cool.
I hope you enjoy this month’s effort by our team. We’re covering a lot of new and interesting things—some a bit out of the ordinary, like ORV parks and dinosaurs, and some that most parks can’t live without, like playgrounds.
Till next month…
Rodney J. Auth