Monday, July 29, 2013

Labor of Love for the Game

My father did not bury bodies for the mob. It only looked that way, every spring and summer, based on the contents of the trunk of his sedan.

springdale llShovels. Pick. Soil rake. Gloves. Pull-over galoshes. A thick, crusty layer of dried mud everywhere.

The only DNA a forensics team would recover, though, would be from dad's sweat, blood and popped blisters.

These tools were not of his accounting trade. They were the ones that helped keep me and my teammates playing on the poorly draining baseball infields of my youth.

I don't carry these implements today, even though the minivan I drive could house half a Home Depot. This is because we have a storage shed full of tools and more at our Little League field. My fellow baseball parents and I used them often all this usually cold then usually rainy then usually hot season.

We started well before the grass could rub the pollen from its eyes into ours this March. We will finish in a week or so when the last out is recorded by one of our many summer "friendship" teams.

My back will be happy that day. My lungs, too. This season I've inhaled enough quick-dry infield clay to cough out a line of Play-Doh figurines.

Ah . . . Rick and Ilsa will always have Paris, but it can't match the romance we field rats have for quick-dry clay. It lets you literally walk on water. It can often make an infield mud bath playable, still with a lot of elbow grease, but usually a lot less time. It's the stuff Fields of Dreams are really made of.

The year before it was just mostly trench warfare. That's what a handful of fathers and I would wage by digging canals to try to drain the swamps at middle school where our kids played AAA ball, a mile and a half and a world away from the manicured diamond of the “major leagues.”

Most of those days, the still water and mud proved too deep and too vast. It'd make you feel like a doctor pounding on some poor victim's chest, refusing to call a time of death.

I know I swore, under my breath and maybe just once or twice aloud, at a few other parents who stood there watching us and bemoaning the patients' fate when they very well could have been grabbing a rake themselves.

The quality and intensity of care, as well as the actual playing surface, vastly improves when you make The Show, and we are luckier than most. We have a good crew of volunteers always ready to enhance the basics the city's Park and Recreation team provides.

One night, a few weeks back, a gaggle of us primped the field beyond ridiculousness the night before a district playoff game.

Someone painted the bases white. Others painted rotting trim on the snack bar blue. Our resident real-life groundskeeper, Tom, and his crew "painted" the grass to make it appear greener and lusher than could ever possibly be given the heat, heavy rains and heavy use of recent months.

Then a hose blew out on the sprayer.

Tom's face and his white truck soon matched the green of his thumb.

But the next day, the field looked awesome. Even one of the umpires said so.

That was one call that every spectator would agree with him on that night.

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