Aahhh, springtime. When a young man’s mind turns to thoughts of baseball. Our national pastime was on full display on every level on May 4 in our fine city. The University of Puget Sound team finished their season. While they lost both of their games, they recognized the seven seniors who finished their collegiate playing careers, as well as their senior student assistant and assistant head coach Bob Walz, who completed his 25th season on the staff.
Over at the Heidelberg complex and Foss High School, high school squads competed in the West Central District playoffs. Some younger boys competed in little league action, while even younger kids played t-ball. Later that evening next door at Cheney Stadium, the Tacoma Rainiers faced off against the Albuquerque Isotopes in the Pacific Coast League, one step below Major League Baseball.
Our April 28 issue had a front-page article about Lakeview Hope Academy, an elementary school in Lakewood. Three surprise visitors made an appearance: Rainiers players Austin Nola and Matt Tenuta and team mascot Rhubarb.
The children had an opportunity to pose questions to the players. They both began playing the sport at a younger age than the fifth-graders they were speaking to. Part of the appeal of the sport was that, while a team sport, baseball requires specialized skills that can be practiced without the need for coaches and teammates present. They discussed hitting the batting cage. One mentioned taping up a strike zone on the side of his childhood home and practicing placing a pitch within the box.
The school shares its campus with the Gary and Carol Milgard Family Hope Center, a facility of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound.
One of reporters in attendance, a 61-year-old white male sports writer, was very impressed with the school complex. The Lakeview Elementary School he attended as a child was torn down and replaced in 2008 with the Lakeview Hope Academy.
Hats off to the Clover Park School District for placing a few historical artifacts at the front lobby of the school. Among the old black and white photographs was a team picture of his little league team from 1965, with him sporting a Tacoma Giants ball cap.
He noted the neighborhood in his youth had many families with a military connection, generally households with a father retired from active-duty status. It was a working-class neighborhood, full of adults with blue-collar jobs striving to provide for their families. The kids had various ethnic backgrounds – white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc…… Think of the movie “The Sandlot” and the kids playing baseball in that fictional, 1960s neighborhood.
Today, the children in the neighborhood can play in the gym at the club; some play basketball on the new courts outside or play tetherball. Some things have changed, such as the school; a few older homes have been demolished and replaced with new houses. One thing that has not is the baseball field in the corner of the campus. It gets little use, to no surprise. Of the millions of dollars spent on that campus, it does not appear the ball field received a penny.
Perhaps some person or organization may take that on as a community service project. Could that forlorn, abandoned diamond in the rough become a future field of dreams? Could one of those boys at Lakeview be playing for the L.A. Dodgers in 15 years, just like Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez?
Many adults wring their hands about our society being so deeply divided along lines of race, class and political ideology. We prefer to watch the children play, too busy living the American dream to even notice.