When word got around that a local couple was going to donate a real baseball field to our Denver neighborhood, there was much joy among the Nuts. The Nuts, if you'll recall, are the Catholic Youth Rec baseball team that I've been coaching for eight years and that has consistently led the league in:
1) Jokes told. We require one joke per nine-man mound meeting. The most recent was by Drewski, our first baseman, who, during a very tense situation, asked, "What's brown and sticky?" Nobody knew. "A stick!" beamed Drewski.
2) Rally rituals. These include, depending on how many runs we need, caps turned exactly three inches to the left (if we're close) and right pant legs hoisted above the knees (if we're getting creamed).
3) Ground balls in the mouth. We've always played on the worst baseball field this side of Chernobyl. It had a 40-year-old backstop, a buckled dirt field and the largest variety of North American weed this side of Berkeley. It also was the only baseball lot around for miles. Every piece of decent parkland has been gobbled up by the evil sport of soccer. And people wonder why baseball is dying in the cities.
Then the Nuts heard that this shiny new ball field would be built on the very spot of our hideous old one. They had only one design request: a 30-foot-high root beer mug just beyond left-field. After every home run a random Nut would slide down the mug into a giant pool of root beer.
The rest of the neighborhood, however, was underjoyed by the couple's offer. "You're not going to want a fence, are you?" the director of parks and rec asked the couple.
"A ball field?" a woman whined. "We don't want that kind around, do we?"
"I hear there are going to be lights and a concession stand!" one man wailed at a public meeting. "Won't that keep us awake?" I replied, helpfully, "No, I heard they had to lose that to make room for the chopper pad."
But enough arms were twisted and secretaries' dogs kidnapped that, little by little, a field started popping up with stuff the Nuts had never known: A mound! Dugouts! Infield grass! A backstop that actually stopped the ball! A regulation home plate! An outfield fence! Even a hand-operated scoreboard!
It was christened Fishhack Field, for reasons only the couple knew. Unfortunately, two weeks after the construction crews were gone, Fishhack resembled a dead mackerel. The sod was yellow, home plate was a swamp, and the infield dirt had more ruts than deer-mating season. Still, I loved Fishhack. It was our home field.