Today is special. Take a minute and look at the calendar. Nothing there for Saturday, April 13, not even a Canadian holiday. It’s special because it’s South Whidbey Little League Opening Day.
For those of us with a few years and pounds under our belts, Little League has special mean- ing. The stirrup socks. The leather shoes with spikes that were sadly rubber so future Ty Cobbs couldn’t file them to a razor’s edge. The scratchy wool uniforms that enveloped the wearer like a loose cocoon. The ball caps that fell down every time we looked up to see a fly ball rocketing toward our bare heads.
The memories are endless, kept hidden in a scrapbook where the black & white team photo is coming unglued. Look at that team. How could such a scraggly bunch of rejects ever think they’d some day make the Big Leagues?
Nobody from Whidbey Island has ever made it to the Big Leagues, although we’ve had some Big Leaguers living here. Wally Bunker, Baltimore Oriole pitcher, lived in Langley for a few years. Bruce Bochte, Seattle Mariners first basemen, lived along Maxwelton Creek. They’re gone. Modern baseball retirees favor golfing climes in Arizona and Florida.
But the dream lives on in each generation and when South Whidbey Little League opens today there will be plenty of boys imagining they’re the next Derek Jeter, Matt Kemp or Felix Fernandez.
Other boys and girls have soccer dreams, but those are relatively new. Soccer once was a P.E. demonstration sport, to show us how kids in the rest of the world had to live. They couldn’t afford socks, shoes, uniforms, mitts and bats, so they played with a single ball. Their families were lucky to own one bar of soap and that was saved for special religious rituals, so players could not use their hands. What a miserable hour of P.E. that was.
For many of us, baseball is still what it’s all about. We’re happy it’s Opening Day of Little League. We envy the kids and parents who will be playing and watching in the rain and mud.
Ten o’clock at the fields below Castle Park. Stop by for a hot dog, soak up some atmosphere and let the years slip away, if only for a moment. There’s only one time now: It’s time to play ball!