How We Played On the Fields Of Our Dreams

Today I was able to walk outside in just a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. Let me remind you that this is still winter. That this is the Northeast. Baseball season is more than a month away, but I had to go outside and take some swings. I had to put my glove on and throw myself a couple of pop-ups. Like a child in a candy store, I could not resist temptation.

I had to go outside.

I looked at my small, but adaptable backyard, a place I see differently than everyone else does, except for perhaps my older brother.

I could still see the miniature baseball field on which we played countless games, for countless hours. The front of the patio that was home plate. The slight rise in the middle of the yard served as the pitcher's mound and, somehow, as part of the outfield as well.

My poor mother's flowers (she worked so hard on them, and they were so frequently trampled) served many purposes.

The pink cone flowers, the black-eyed Susans, and of course the cosmos in the back were our beautiful warning track, reminiscent of Chicago's Wrigley Field. The perennial flowers on the side - my mother's pride and joy, painstakingly planted in meticulous rows - were the always-sold-out crowd, like Atlanta's old Fulton County Stadium.

The big evergreen that hangs over onto our property, planted in the Conboys' yard next door before I was born, was none other than the Green Monster of Boston's Fenway Park. The ground cover lining the driveway behind center field was like the waterfalls at the stadium in which the Kansas City Royals play. And behind home plate, the window to our kitchen could only be one thing: the restaurant at the SkyDome in Toronto.

Unfortunately, I have only one brother, so there was never a catcher. The house was our willing backstop, our durable Thurman Munson. Never mind the broken shingles from our erratic pitches, old No.15 kept on playing. Of course, the owner of the field, my mother, objected to our catcher. We figured it was a given that owners and players don't always agree.

Being older now, and sometimes more mature, I can say that my brother, Joe, and I imagined ourselves playing in every major- league ballpark in America. But the pros will never get to play in ours.

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