Schuck's Clipboard

Seeing kids at play makes for great day

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 10, 2019 2:30 am

The ball cleared the house and the trees with surprising ease, landing near the sidewalk and bouncing into the middle of a Quincy street Tuesday. It brought traffic from both directions to an abrupt halt.

A moment later, a 10-year-old boy came sprinting through the yard, slowing as he neared the curb to survey the traffic.

He held up his hands and sheepishly dropped his head as if to say stop and apologize at the same time. He raced into the street, grabbed the ball and raised his hands again, this time looking both ways and nodding his head appreciatively.

By that point, his buddies were standing in the front yard watching the scene unfold.

After the successful retrieval of the ball, they started jumping around and high-fiving each other before disappearing to the backyard again.

"That's the first time any of us hit one over the house," said 10-year-old Brandon Wilson, the bat-toting slugger who was wearing a St. Louis Cardinals ballcap, a St. Louis Blues t-shirt and SpongeBob SquarePants socks. "We had to see if we could do it again."

None of them did, but not for lack of effort.

Their game of backyard home run derby started shortly after the four neighborhood friends got home from school and ended when the first one was summoned home to finish his homework. In between, they took countless swings, chased balls into the neighboring yards and had one home run make it all the way over the house.

The prize for that? Bragging rights, of course.

"I have to hit one so Brandon isn't the only one," said 11-year-old Josh Bennett, whose family's yard on the south side of Quincy is deep enough and wide enough to be the perfect field. "I hit one on the roof. That's as close as I got. Next time maybe."

And there will be a next time.

The boys said they play on local teams but none of them play on a traveling team. They admitted they like to play video games, including Fortnite, but they'd rather be outside playing baseball or shooting baskets over anything else.

In an age where specialization and year-round commitments have become the norm, it's refreshing to see kids being kids.

Sandlot games haven't faded away and become part of baseball's lore, but they are more difficult to find. Kids too often get dragged to turf fields to practice or whisked away in cars for a weekend tournament hours from home.

Traveling teams have a place in today's sports landscape, but they shouldn't replace the creativity, ingenuity and joy of backyard games. That might seem nostalgic to some, but the memories born in those moments are priceless.

You forget that until a ball bounces into the street and you're transported back to the day you used to play games like that.

And you smile knowing it's a great day seeing kids at play.