It was summer 1964. The railroad had just transferred my dad from Huntington, Indiana, to Ashland, Ohio, and we were in the process of moving. At first I had been enthusiastic about it all, but then as summer rolled around, and my Pony League baseball season with it, I wasn’t so thrilled about the move at all.
As things developed, we had a pretty good team, and I was patrolling center field, making catches that, in distant recollection now, still amaze me! And I actually was hitting the ball more consistently. And it wasn’t only me. Every other player on that team had somehow metamorphosed into steady players and excellent teammates.
It’s pretty much a cliché now to say that we “came together” that summer, but I know of no other way to put it, nor can I think of another group, club, team, or organization I’ve ever been a part of and say the same thing about it. We came together, indeed!
Even practices out at an old rural school several times a week were something to which we looked forward to with the eagerness of the typical fourteen year olds that we were. Often, my good friend and I would pedal our bikes the three or four miles out to the school and meet up with the others. Along the way, we’d have serious discussions about when I was going to have to leave for Ohio and what it would do to our friendship.
As much as I wanted to put those kinds of thoughts out of my head and focus on baseball, there was always something there to remind me about how things were soon going to change in my life. I never wanted to admit that I would be a long way from the friends I’d known most of my life, so I usually tried not to take any of it too seriously.
On the last day of school that year, several parents had a graduation party for us, kind of an “end-of-junior high-getting-ready-for-high school” gathering. During the party, it seems that all anyone wanted to talk about when I was around was how I felt about having to move. I put on a fake persona, one where I shrugged it off and joked about it all, but, truth be told, I was really torn up inside.
And that’s where that summer’s magical baseball season helped. Why we–a ragtag group of basically mediocre ball players–turned into a championship team, is still beyond my wildest sense of reasoning. But we did, winning the championship with stellar pitching, timely hitting, and game-saving defense along the way.
Meanwhile, my parents and my sisters had made the move to our new home in Ohio in early August, but I still had a few weeks left of the season. I was invited to spend those days at my good friend’s house so I could finish out. Plus, I had been selected to be the starting center fielder for the All-Star Game, and I couldn’t miss out on that honor.
Somewhere in my “vault” of treasured memories and other pieces of my past is a faded newspaper article about our team winning the championship that summer. There’s an accompanying team photo with our smiling faces as we hold our trophies proudly and throw out endless wisecracks. We’re all sweaty, dirty, and very happy!
What I recall most clearly, though, was that the day after the photo appeared in the paper, I was on a train traveling to my new home in a strange and unfamiliar place and wondering what lay ahead, and the magic of that team of mine tucked away forever.
We all vowed to stay in touch and get together whenever the opportunity presented itself. For a time we did. But we all grew out of being fourteen year olds and our lives found their own varied paths. Eventually, I adjusted to my new surroundings and made some very good friends there. Yet, fifty-two years later, I still remember that magic summer!
7 thoughts on “That magic summer…”
This sounds like the makings of a great YA novel, Mark. 🙂
Hi, Jill. Believe it or not, as I was writing this post, I had thoughts of perhaps developing it further–as a kind of story for young folks. Thanks for the good suggestion! Have a safe and happy 4th of July. 🙂
Yay! Your post really made me happy today … thanks for sharing! 🙂
“Yay” right back at you! Your comment made me happy today as well. I hope you have a wonderful 4th of July weekend and your Orioles continue “up top” in the East. My White Sox have some work to do! 🙂
I was so touched by this story, Mark. That was a difficult time for me–moving between junior high and high school, and I didn’t handle it as well as you did, but I didn’t have the team either!
Thank you, Luanne. That move was one of those “crucial” turns in my life, and I still always wonder “what if…” from time to time. (Like “What if we’d never had to move then?” “What if I’d never had the chance to meet the people I eventually did in my new town?”, etc., etc.) But the one thing that will never change is being a part of that team that summer! Happy 4th to you. Stay cool out there! 🙂
Yes, you were blessed to have that team!