I saw Stith – Talbert Park for the first time on the 3rd day of September. It would have been a perfect time for people to head to the park for a ballgame. The heat was still intense but one could hope that the shadows of the early evening might bring relief. On the lush green carpet of the ball field, young men at practice were throwing a ball around the bases and then the unforgettable sound of balls hit into the outfield. I have Tarrick Pittman and Sam Battle to thank for bringing me to the Park. They were once ballplayers themselves. I listened to them reminisce about their youthful summers when they walked to the field with their bat and glove in hand. Those were the days when local businesses sponsored teams, and organizations like The Optimist Club were involved. Families watched their youth play ball and enjoyed a snowcone.
I was teary as I took some photos, remembering all the games at Wrigley Field with my parents watching the Cubs play and Harry Cary leading, Take Me Out To The Ballgame. People on the train heading North after work looking for the winning flag or not, flying from the flagpole as the train passed by. I thought of several boys I dated and watched play during the high school Spring seasons and then in the summer leagues. Perhaps Tarrick, Sam, and I were sharing a moment of grief for the loss of those summers that are easily revisited in a setting like this beautiful, manicured space.
It was explained to me that the field is used for practice but games are played at The Stadium. That has to change. Play a ballgame and people will come to Seith-Talbert Park once more. We sat looking out on this setting trying to problem solve….how to recapture the days of leagues and sponsors. Terrick and Sam remain friends, with those they played baseball with. There is the importance of discipline in playing a sport, learning to be accountable to a team, to show up, and play hard. We must give this generation of kids the great opportunity to smell fresh-cut grass, to hear the magical sound of chatter, and watch a pitcher wind up. Think what a gift this would be to those who will look back one day and remember the pride they felt in playing The American Game. This Park is a jewel in Ward 1 and by next summer, there is the hope to have some teams and sponsors put together. Get involved with this planning. Call Tarrick and have at it. Imagine the call from the home plate umpire, LET’S PLAY BALL!
“Walt Whitman once said, ‘I see great things in baseball. It’s our game. The American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.’ You could look it up.” (From The Movie-Bull Durham)
FYI: The expression, Boys of Summer, comes from a 1972 baseball book by Roger Kahn called Boys of Summer. The book is about The Brooklyn Dodgers, who broke the hearts of their fans when they moved to Los Angeles. That book got its title from a Dylan Thomas poem, publised in 1939, called, I See the Boys of Summer.