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An old blister rose anew on my right palm. I had first gotten the blister 10 weeks earlier while helping to toll the bell at Greg's funeral.
We kept digging and hauling, digging and hauling. What dirt we didn't carry to the trees or "accidentally" throw on each other, we used to fill gullies and holes in the outfield. By 2 p.m., after a lunch break, we had finally excavated the infield.
Then we had to replace, in a sense, all of the dirt we had just removed. More than 100 tons of infield mix (clay, sand and dirt) loomed in five mountainous piles in foul territory, waiting for us.
Soon, the shovels were flying and the wheelbarrows were rolling, as we dumped loads of the reddish-brown mixture into the concave base paths. The laborers who weren't shoveling, dumping or raking the infield smooth were clambering on scaffolds, putting the finishing touches on the backstop. The poles were in place, but the wire fencing still had to be attached to them. I wasn't part of the backstop detail, but I heard it wasn't the most pleasant of assignments.
Finally, at around 6:30 p.m., the infield was filled. Slevin packed it down with the small steamroller. Daylight was fading and our ranks had dwindled to 25 beaten men. The sun and the earth had drained our bodies.
Then someone brought out a softball and we rallied. Almost magically, 10 gloves and the willingness to use them appeared. Gary Rowles threw out the first pitch, a ball that fell about a foot short of the plate, and the field was christened. "Play ball!" someone yelled.
We squeezed in only three innings before nightfall, and no one remembers for sure what the final score was. But one thing was certain as we threw and batted and ran on Greg's field: In building it, we had eased our pain.