Friday Frivolity: Elementary Playground

A friend from grade school (hmmm, if that doesn’t give you a clue as to just how long ago I was in 6th grade). Anyway, a guy who went to Christiancy Street Elementary School and I have been sharing remembrances from the playground.

Actually playGROUND is a misnomer. It was closer to a rock quarry. It wasn’t even ground rocks. It is beneath even the Lansing School District’s foolhardiness to use gravel for a softball diamond. They dumped stones everywhere except the muddy puddles under the teeter-totter.

Stones were arguable okay for kick-ball, where a bouncing ball of that size was not likely to veer suddenly. Softballs, however, do change directions very suddenly when careening wildly across the infield (field also being a misnomer). Be advised, my childhood stature, even if I stood up straight, put my nose much too close to an erratically bouncing softball (soft also being a misnomer).

Of course, considering the roughness of the playing surface, it is understandable why “sliding into base” was discourage. Ramming the defensive occupant of said base was not outlawed. My personal foolhardiness was to choose to play second base. Collisions were inevitable and…did I mention my diminutive stature. Further on the “no sliding rule”. For an undersized, uncoordinated juvenile like me, sliding, stumbling and nose-diving were inevitable.

Do any of you remember playing “500”? That’s a ball game where the batter “pitches’ to himself and hits the ball to a bunch of kids congregating in the outfield. Each outfielder was granted a rather loosely defined “space” in which they had the rights to catch a fly ball. Catch 5 flies (not to be confused with insects) and you get to be the batter. You did not populate the outfield if you had no desire to be the batter. Desire was also very loosely defined, so desire frequently invaded space. Nobody had to even bother to push me out of the way of their desire. Not only was I shorter than most of my playmates, my jumping ability was closer to toad than frog.

If I did somehow manage to pick up enough bouncing balls (everybody wanted 100-point flies, not 25-point grounders), I’d earn my turn at batting. That feat would further testify to my lack of athletic prowess. I know I mentioned that the batter was his own pitcher. In my enthusiasm, if not a distinctly necessary need for sufficient time to get the bat in both hands, I would toss the ball so high…and wide…in the air that I often needed to lunge to hit the ball. It should not be surprising to you that the ‘outfielders’ quickly took up their “space” in the infield.  That’s okay, though.  Do the math. During my turn at bat, I would get four times as many swings as a guy who would crush 5 long fly balls.

And that’s the way it was on the playground of my Elementary edification.

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