There was only one night game a year. On the 4th of July, the whole sky would brighten up with fireworks, giving us just enough light for a game. We played our best game because I guess we all felt like big leaguers under the lights of some great stadium.
The Fourth of July always makes me think about baseball. Granted, I probably spend most of my waking hours thinking about our nation’s pastime, but never does my love for the game resonate more than on America’s birthday.
If anything, it makes me feel young again. When we’re kids, we don’t think about growing up and assuming the responsibilities of our parents and elders. Years ago, it was a simpler time, probably for all of us. There was a time, one that now feels like forever ago, where bills, mortgages, student loan payments and full-time jobs were nothing more than foreign concepts to us.
Although it gets hazier with each passing day, I remember the time when my biggest concern in life was my next little league game. I think we all do. All I needed to have the time of my life was a baseball mitt, a ball and a throwing partner, but if nobody was available, a brick wall would certainly suffice. It was the best of times, and baseball always kept me company during the most trying times. For that reason, the Fourth of July always brings back memories that, at least for one day, burn brighter than a shooting star across the twilight sky.
Much like the young boys in the 1993 film The Sandlot, I too can’t help but stand still and be hypnotized by the exploding fireworks crackling and sizzling from above. When I was a kid, I used to be terrified by their loud noises; now, I long for them every year, if for no other reason than to hold onto my childhood for a few more minutes.
Anytime we step out onto a field, it reminds us why we love sports so much. For me, my participation in a church softball league keeps that childhood nostalgic fire burning inside of my soul.
Our team hasn’t won a game in almost two seasons, but that doesn’t rob me of the pure joy I feel every time I take my spot in right field, begging for the ball to be hit in my direction and make my legs feel like they are 12 years old again. Every time I step into the batter’s box, I think back to the year 2000 when, while playing for Holy Terrors in the summer before high school, I launched a bases-clearing triple that towered over the outfielder’s heads that turned me into a hero for just one day. Soon after that moment had come and gone, I moved onto high school, then college, then the real world…but I never forget that magical moment that occurred a dozen years ago. The Fourth of July won’t let me.
I know that the parents who read the Northeast Times sports section every week feel the same way that I do. There was probably a time that you experienced this beautiful feeling, one you wish you could bottle up and keep on a shelf above your bed forever.
Parents long for the glory days too, and some are lucky enough to live it again vicariously through their own children. Kids may scoff or roll their eyes at how much Mom and Dad embarrass them on the sidelines of their own games, but they only do so because they know how quickly that time came and went in their lives. It’s not easy to let that go, and nobody ever should have to. The youngsters playing sports all around the Northeast may not understand it now, but they will one day. In the meantime, treat every game like it is indeed your last, because one day, it will be.
When you’re a kid, it’s easy to take time for granted. For years, we give very little thought as to what adulthood and responsibility will bring. Growing up and getting older are certainly exhilarating in their own right, but in a much more complicated sense. One day you’re in diapers, and the next it’s gone, which is a fleeting example of how cruel time can be.
So no matter your age, make sure to peer up at the night sky this week when the fireworks begin to explode and grab a hold of that moment from your childhood and don’t let it go. Remember the time when you felt like a big leaguer under the night sky, because there really is nothing like it. As you grow older, time tries to rob you of the last remaining remnants of youth like money in a bank vault, but it can never rob you of your memories.
At almost 26, those wonderful memories continue to fade and feel far away for me most of the year. But for one day, just one day, time turns back its greedy hands and lets us go back into that moment one more time. It may only last a few minutes, and that particular moment may be a little bit different for all of us, but it should be enjoyed no matter what it contains.
However, the one uniting factor is that when we take in the fireworks on the Fourth of July, we’re all kids again. That is a wonderful feeling, one that should be felt by every reader of the Times sports section.
I won’t let that moment go, and you shouldn’t either. Heck, why would you want to? ••EndFragment