Pitch and Run: Making Lifelong Backyard Memories
For sports fans, October means more than beautiful fall colors and earnest trick-or-treaters. October is World Series time, and for our family, the end of each baseball season brings a special nostalgia.
When our kids were young, our yard was the field of dreams. Although now the grass is almost fully grown in where the base paths used to be, the kids once wore them so raw the diamond shape of the infield was the first thing people noticed when they visited. "Pitch and Run," the kids used to call it, their backyard version of the great American pastime. The bases themselves were well-defined bald spots in the lawn where the base paths ended on each corner. The fences defined the foul balls and the home runs. A tennis ball, a soft-core bat, and mitts were all we needed.
The legends that grew from our backyard diamond live in all our memories to this day. There was the all-time world record number of consecutive home runs over our east fence. And the all-time world record number of home run balls that were hit all the way over Grape Street onto the neighbor's lawn across the street. There was the ethereal 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 he was an old friend of my father's, so he quickly forgave them.) And there was the tennis ball that was hit so hard it put a spiderweb crack in the shatterproof glass of the upstairs window. Then there was the mean neighbor to the south, the one who never said a word to us except when the screaming in our yard would crescendo, who came out in the middle of a game one day, terrifying the kids, and silently tossed three 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 Barbie and Ken needed a rest. When the girls played, our boys hit left-handed – not so much to give the girls an edge (the boys would never give anyone an edge in baseball or any other competition), but because that gave them bragging rights to the all-time world record number of consecutive left-handed home runs over the east fence. Our daughter learned well. With her brothers watching many years later, she hit the game-winning single that clinched the intramural coed softball championship in college.
When the kids are 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 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.
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Image: A white used baseball on fresh green grass via Shutterstock.