And this is summer to me, on the first day of it: I'm walking the dog around the neighborhood early this a.m., and what should I stumble on but a baseball game. And not just any baseball game.
It's a bunch of kids in matching red caps with blue bills and a familiar white T-shirt with navy trim and a snarling wildcat on the front -- the emblem of one this city's true triumphs, Wildcat baseball.
So I stopped and watched for awhile, and it took me right back. The coach lobbing the ball in. The skinny kid in the enormous batting helmet taking a feeble swing. The tink of aluminum striking horsehide, and then the ball sailing into the blue morning sky, up and over the outstretched glove of the outfielder, patrolling his patch of grass out there like man on a three-day bender.
The ball dropped just beyond his glove, and the skinny kid at the plate scurried around the bases in a cartoon jumble of knocking knees and flying elbows, dropping anchor on second base.
And this was my summer, 45 or so years ago. I looked at the kid in the outfield with the faulty navigationals, and I saw myself. Whatever the direct inverse of Roberto Clemente was out there, that was me.
The next kid up popped up weakly to the third-base side, the ball corkscrewing foul. The third baseman immediately raced over and laid out in an ungainly half-gainer, the ball already hitting the grass six feet or so away from him.
He couldn't have caught it with an extension ladder and a time machine set three or four seconds in the past, but no matter: The coach who was pitching immediately bellowed "Awwright! Way to dive for that ball! That's what I like to see!", and the kid rose happily from the ground, his Wildcat T-shirt proudly christened with grass stains.
A baseball in flight, a coach's attaboy, grass stains early on a summer morning: God bless Wildcat. And thanks for the memories.