Field of Dreams in My Backyard
Below is another article in a series I’ve written as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation. To hear my song, "I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation," click on the box above. To view the music video, click here.
If there’s one regular season game we’d all like to attend this year, it’s tonight’s game, Red Sox vs.Yankees, Schilling vs. Clemens. And I was offered a ticket, too. Turning it down was utterly painful, but with four small kids who need dinner, baths, and a bedtime story simultaneously, the teamwork of two parents is pretty important on a Sunday night. Don’t get me wrong, my wife can handle it all alone, but other married parents in Red Sox Nation will understand that, come September, it’s wise to save your chips for… the playoffs.
And anyway, no matter how great the game is tonight, it would be tough to match the fun I had today playing wiffle ball with my 8 year-old son (above, wearing a Laurence Maroney jersey) and my 9 year-old nephew… on the baseball field in my backyard. That’s right. A few years ago, at my son’s request, we transformed the sloped grassy space behind our house into a baseball field. Fenway West. 68 feet to the Fisk Pole in left field, 56 feet to the Pesky Pole in right, 96 feet to dead center (and laminated distance markers, made at Kinko’s, on the plastic fences, which are from the garden center at Home Depot). Bases exactly 45 feet apart, foul lines spray-painted white, and a pitcher’s mound 40 feet from home.
You like the idiosyncracies of Fenway? We’ve got those too. A sandbox full of toys in left, a swingset in right, and a gigantic oak tree next to the pitcher’s mound in the center of the field (ground rules: any ball that hits the tree in fair territory is fair and in play). There’s another big tree that looms in front of the left field fence (83 feet to straight-away left) that has the same effect on line drive blasts to left as the real Green Monster does… except sometimes the ball doesn’t come back down.
The neighborhood kids who play ball in our backyard go to school every day and do their homework every night. But much of their most important education takes place right here after school and on the weekends. At Fenway West, they learn to organize themselves, to make compromises when disagreements arise, to play hard, and to never give up. They learn what it feels like to have a Sports Center Moment by hitting a clutch homer or pitching a third strike on a full count. They learn how to dream, they learn how to play.
Many of my neighbors have beautiful, green lawns. No one walks on them except when they’re being mowed. Our lawn can’t be called a lawn. It would be more accurate to call it a scraggly brownish earth surface. Grass doesn’t thrive when it’s trampled relentlessly by kids (and sometimes their dads) playing wiffle ball for hundreds of hours. The dirt patches at all the bases and the pitcher’s mound are now permanent, and the grass along the paths between the bases will probably never grow again. So be it.
My wife worries that the barren baseball field in our backyard decreases the value of our house. I know better. If we ever decide to sell this place, the right buyer will see the house as a pleasant appendage to a field of dreams. Which is what our backyard has been for me, my kids, and their friends these last few years.
A week ago, my son had a homework assignment that asked him to describe his favorite thing about where he lives. His answer: "The baseball field." That’s my favorite thing about where we live, too. Fenway West.