I grew up in Chicago. We lived across the street from a church while I grew up. That church brought me many memories; I attended my first church service and I had my first communion there. Though those are memories still thick in my mind, they are no match to the memories that that church parking lot brought me. We had taken a can of white spray paint and painted a strike zone with a template. Yes, it was defacing private property but no one cared – we just wanted to play baseball. Over the twelve year span that we lived there, my two brothers and I, along with the neighborhood kids, easily lost one hundred tennis balls over the backstop wall and into the Seminary’s community garden.
Where it all began. Where my love for baseball started. Twelve years later, the strike zone is still there pic.twitter.com/7A01Q1FQHw
— Jack Zones (@Jack_Zones94) August 16, 2015
That church parking lot taught me the most about baseball. The professional lessons and showcase camps taught me a lot, but pick-up baseball taught me the most. It taught me plate vision; it taught me my two-strike approach because I never wanted my brother to ring me up on some bullshit. It taught me how to square the ball up so I didn’t foul a ball back and into the garden. But most of all, it made me love baseball.
A church parking lot taught me so much because baseball was being played in its purest form; there were no signs, no situational hitting, and no bunting, just try to rip a dickshot somewhere and make the one fielder run after it.
Unfortunately, I don’t see that anymore. I don’t see little kids playing pick up baseball in a parking lot anymore. Yes, I know wiffleball is a thing but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about good old fashioned, tennis ball and strike-zone pick up baseball. That’s what my summers consisted of until I was thirteen and then I started travel baseball.
According to the Wall Street Journal, enrollment in little league baseball fell 24% in kids between the ages of 7 and 17 in the past ten years. Wow. When I was in little league I couldn’t wait for game day. I lived for it; I could barely sleep the night before a game because I knew I was pitching and I wanted to shove.
Kids are handed everything these days. They cry if they don’t get what they want when they want it. So, baseball, being a game of failure, they don’t want to play it because they’re failing too much. They’d rather play video games so they can quit when the going gets tough.
Though I don’t see kids out in a random lot chasing down a shot in the gap, I still see little kids with their dads at the ballpark. That’s what baseball is really about; nostalgia. Just like in the “Field of Dreams,” baseball takes you back to a simpler time.
Thanks to my brothers and that church lot I love when the going gets tough. I love being in the pressure situations and I love baseball because it’s hard. Baseball will always be there. And ten years later, the strike zone is still painted on the church wall.
What’s your story?