Oddly enough, I own a Louisville Slugger. As I write these words, it leans against the head of my bed, where it has leaned for almost two decades. Ostensibly it's there, I guess, so I have something with which to clobber an intruder unconscious. Something to hand him, more like, so he can beat me to a pulp, steal my meager possessions and run off with the kids. Admittedly, it’s a lousy defense plan, based on an unlikely premise since running off with my kids evokes The Ransom of Red Chief, but I digress.
Still, there the bat remains, collecting dust against the headboard.
Upon further thought, though, it’s likely that I’ve hung onto my Louisville Slugger because it reminds me of Boston University's Nickerson Field and summer nights spent playing softball there with my BU Dental School friends: TK, Carl McNanama, Harold Newman, Karen Willim and many others, more now than I can remember.
I doubt if there is a better place anywhere to play softball on a warm summer evening than BU's Nickerson Field. The stars and stadium lights co-exist beautifully under the twilight sky and sweetly illuminate the bright green Astroturf. It’s really a magical field. Large enough for multiple games to play at once and well enough tended to feel professional.
I loved spending summer nights, after work had let out, at that field off Commonwealth Avenue and I thoroughly enjoyed playing second base for the Dental School's softball team: the Jawbreakers. The league was co-ed, multi-aged, only mildly competitive, and filled with good-natured fun. After each game, we'd limp up to the stands, order a pitcher of beer and watch more inter-departmental teams battle it out on the field below. When we finally got out to our cars, the evening had usually cooled down some, and it was dark.
Lately, I've grown nostalgic for my twenties. I long for the freedom, the fun, the get-up-and go. When I think of those years, I remember last minute trips to Fenway Park, dressing up and dancing late into the night at clubs, seeing movies on their first run, white-water rafting trips in Maine, and, always, playing softball on summer nights with my BU buddies.
Of course we all worked hard back then too. Full time jobs and graduate school demanded huge chunks of both waking and sleeping hours. The pressure of college debt and car loans, making rent, relationship woes, and living with mice are intrinsically linked with my memories from those years as well. But ah, all that the freedom, fun – and summer evening softball!
I guess that Slugger hangs around still because it represents another time, another me. Leaner, younger, full of hope. Would I go back to that time and give up all that I love about life today? Nah.
Well, maybe. Just to play under the stars, on Nickerson Field, one last time.