Arts & Culture
Shtickball: Dog Days
Should sports just go on a break during the dog days of summer? Time to wax nostalgic about little league. Read More
Ah, the dog days of August. A time when 12 year-olds lay down their Xbox consoles and go questing for a little league world series title. The games are a multicultural event, with everyone from Chinese Taipei to Honduras to Canada participating, with irritating has-beens like Nomar Garciaparra in the booth to gush about sportsmanship and praise well-executed sacrifice bunts. There have been some great local stories come out of Williamsport, and watching these kids reminds me of my own days as a doe-eyed first basemen in my local New Jersey little league chapter . For my friends and I, it was our first introduction to what we called ‘the other side of the tracks’. Our town’s train rails divided the rich, white affluent Jewish population from the poor African American and Hispanic communities. My first tryout was in the back of a public school, and us pasties looking on in trepidation as our darker-skinned brethren hit screaming line drives and threw fast enough to make a catchers mitt smoke. I remember going up against Jason Hernandez, who threw so fast I tried in vain to re-create the batters box as a rectangle rather than, well, a box. I remember watching a mammoth of a kid named Jamal Bush launch home runs that looked like they actually might never land. After practice, I’d watch these kids get on their bikes and ride like the wind to mysterious corners of my town as I waited for a minivan to pick me up for Carvel ice cream. They were almost an alien species, appearing for practices and games and disappearing just as quickly. But they loved baseball, and were full of antics and shenanigans that loosened up our severely anal upbringings. I remember a kid named Hassan lying in wait as my friend swung a bat in the on deck circle and, just as he was heading to the plate, snuck up and pantsed the crap out of him. It was one of the funniest things I had ever seen, and something none of my friends would have had the balls to do. Pre-game jitters were usually justified, as our commissioner, a short, no-nonsense, consistently hoarse voiced black woman named Barbara would make us line up and ‘check’ to see if we were wearing cups. Still, those hot summer days on Garrity Field were some of the best of my life, and although we never saw any of these kids again, made us realize at a young age that there was life outside our cozy corner of the world. Also, our teams would have absolutely sucked had they been all Jewish.