Last night, my oldest son, Zac, played in his last baseball game of this season. His Crofton team for kids eight years old and under played host to the boys (and a few girls too) from Newcastle. No one knows who won. Each inning passes only after every player bats. No one keeps track of the outs. But all the kids have fun.
His little team is one of three Crofton teams, playing in a multi-county league with teams from villages nearby like Fordyce, Bow Valley, Hartington, Wynot and Newcastle. And, both Zac and I are sad that this season has ended. We were so sad, in fact, that after we returned home from the game and fed the bottle calves for the night, we had to play a little catch just for fun.
Zac reminds me of myself when I was his age. I was in love with the game too. But, in those days, organized ball was mostly for kids living in town. The farm kids might play on Sundays in a pasture league, with an infield of mowed bromegrass and disc blades for bases. No family picnic was complete without a quick ball game. Everyone drove around with a bat, ball and glove in their cars. Although I loved baseball, it just didn’t work out for me to play in any organized way.
For one thing, I wasn’t very good. I had a tough time hitting, and couldn’t catch a baseball very well. My Dad and grandparents loved the game too. As kids, we often made it to Sunday evening ballgames in town to watch the Crofton Bluejays play other area teams in our revered ball park.
Our community has a strong baseball tradition. At one time, the town had two men’s teams playing in different leagues. Back in the 1950s, when a very young, but talented future Hall of Famer, Bob Gibson, was traveling around during the summer playing for amateur teams, the Bluejays convinced him to play for Crofton for a few glorious weeks at the end of the season. His magical pitching awed local crowds, and cemented a following around Crofton for Gibson for the rest of his stellar career. The community has since spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and about the same number of volunteer hours building up the ball park into one of the finest around. It is a thrill for the young players when they can move from the softball complex as youngsters and have the opportunity to play on that big field where Gibson played so many years ago.
Although my Dad never played organized ball, I can recall him stepping off the tractor during planting season when he came home from a long day in the field, wash his face at the hydrant, and grab a glove to play catch with me when I was young. Because of his love of playing catch, he helped me improve my skills over time, and improve my self-confidence, so that I could play with the other kids at school and enjoy the game as much as he did.
As Zac’s season ends, those are the reflections that hit me last evening. And, Zac is only eight years old. Our youngest son, Ben, is only two years old, but Zac is already teaching him how to throw the ball. I’m guessing that I might have many more seasons to look forward to down the road, and more than a few games of catch in my future.
So, here is this week’s discussion question. What was your favorite sport growing up on the farm or ranch? Let us know about your thoughts.
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