I went to the grocery store and came home to a ball field in our backyard. Complete with bases, foul lines, and an outfield.
Our typically low-key Fourth of July plans had exploded (pun intended). In 2017, my husband and I offered to host his family’s Fourth of July gathering. It’s always more like a family reunion, as relatives from out-of-town come in for the event. My husband, an avid sport’s fan with many years of coaching under his belt, decided to make a Wiffle ball field in our backyard to entertain his softball-loving family. Everyone had a blast trying out the new field, and the tradition began.
The following year, it grew to include an outfield wall and a chicken wire backstop. Despite being an avid Yankees fan, my husband sacrificed for show and made a monstrous green wall. An added touch included hand-painted advertisements of local businesses owned by friends displayed on the fence — all a surprise to our guests.
Dubbed “Ellis Field”, this infamous grassy playground brought out the kid in us all. There wasn’t a moment during our Fourth of July celebrations that the field wasn’t in use. Memories were made that we will savor, and even laugh about, for the rest of our lives — including a local historian and revered former high school teacher who arrived one year abruptly screeching his small pickup truck to a halt right on the main road in front of our house. After laying eyes on the closest guest and tossing his keys, he murmured “park it for me” then made his appearance — in a powdered, curly white wig that would make Thomas Jefferson envious. Certainly on point and fashionable for commemorating the anniversary of our country’s independence and fitting for some traditional ball playing.
No ball field would be complete with a concession stand, so in 2019 my hubby had to outdo himself by building a kid-approved wooden concession stand for our boys. Painted green to match the giant wall in the outfield the stand was deemed the “Pitchin’ Kitchen”, as stated on the sign above the stand. Of course, the menu included the traditional variety of Cracker Jacks, sunflower seeds, and over sized pink bubble gum. Over one hundred people came and went during our event that year. More than half the guests participated in the home-run challenges at some point during the day and the concessions were hopping.
The news was out about our backyard “stadium”, stirring interest from folks in our community. Several, somewhat official, home run derbies, complete with a high-quality acrylic plastic championship belt, took place. Most importantly the winner had small-town bragging rights for being the heavy-hitter.
Coaches held team baseball banquets at the ball field, presenting tall, gold-colored trophies to boys sweaty and dirty from hours of playing ball like it was the last inning of the World Series. Cookouts and gatherings always included plenty of ball game action. Participants ranged in age from three to 70 and everything in between. It’s hard to conclude who had more fun — the kids or the adults. Home run hitting contests continued until the bitter cold set in and everyone reluctantly agreed to pause until spring.
Sadly, spring 2020 did not bring life to the field and it remained empty for the remainder of the year. The lines began fading. The wall had started sagging a little, and the bright advertisements were now showing age. Missing are the sounds of a high-pitch whizz of the ball being smacked over the wall and curving mercilessly into the cow field.
This year the green backdrop of the fence is gone. Removed due to a nearby tree that needed to be cut down, it creates an emptiness that carries over from last year that seemed harsh. White chalky lines have been repainted, the soft grass is neatly trimmed; all in anticipation of the next ball to sail through its green canvas. But without competition adding excitement and challenge, our kids rarely play ball now. We hope to revive the field and once again hear the laughter, watch the unpredictable dancing of the ball, and cheer as someone crosses home plate. Nothing boosts confidence like smacking the fire out of a plastic ball full of holes using an air pressured power bat, but, of course, you need an audience to make it fully effective.
A promise was made the first year the ball field was built (after my objections were voiced upon pulling in the driveway from the grocery store). I was assured that it was temporary and could easily be taken out. My husband guaranteed that the white coating would grow out of the grass; the bases could easily be removed and the holes filled. After our family cookout, he would take everything down as if it was never there.
However, that field grew on me. Since the field was first built, I have witnessed the joy it brought to kids and adults alike. It has become a conversation point, peaking interest anytime mentioned. Most importantly, it will be lifelong memories that my children and friends’ children, can treasure. It was, after all, just an empty open yard before, with an occasional deer grazing or kite diving into the ground, but nothing more. Now it is a local legend, bringing unity, happiness, and fun. Why on earth would I ever want to remove that?