The grass is almost fully grown in now, where the base paths used to be. Our yard was the field of dreams when our kids were small. They wore the base paths raw, so the diamond shape of the infield was the first thing people noticed when they visited. Pitch and Run, the kids called it. A tennis ball, a soft core bat, and their mitts were all they needed. The bases themselves were well-defined spots, carved out of the lawn where the base paths ended on each corner. The fences defined the foul balls and the home runs.
The legends that grew from our backyard diamond live in all our memories to this day. There was the all-time world’s record number of consecutive home runs over our east fence. And the all-time world’s record number of home run balls that were hit all the way over Grape Street onto the across-the-street neighbor’s lawn. There was the ephemeral tennis ball that was hit so high and so far that it was never found – until we opened the fireplace flue the next winter. There was Mr. W, the man who angrily got out of his car after a home run ball struck it while he was driving on Grape Street; turns out Mr. W was an old friend of the kids’ grandfather, so he quickly forgave them. And there was the tennis ball that was hit so hard it put a spider web crack in the unbreakable upstairs window. There was the mean neighbor on the south, the one who never said a word to us except when the screaming in our yard would reach a crescendo, who came out in the middle of a game one day, terrifying the kids, and then silently tossed 3 tennis balls back into the yard, only to leave as quietly as he had come.
This was an entirely egalitarian ball field. Our daughter and her friends joined the game whenever Ken and Barbie needed a rest. When the girls played, our boys hit left-handed – not so much to give the girls an edge (the boys never would give anyone an edge in baseball or any other competition), but because that gave them bragging rights to the all-time world’s record number of consecutive left-handed homeruns over the east fence. Our daughter learned well. With her brothers watching, she hit the game-winning single to clinch the intramural co-ed softball championship in college.
When they’re home from college and grad school now, we still “have a catch” in the backyard. We reminisce about Pitch and Run and all the world’s records that will never be broken.
At least until they someday bring their own kids to grandma and grandpa’s backyard to wear out the grass again.