Monday, May 31, 2010

Youth Baseball: Great Fields, Great Memories

Great baseball fields make great memories.

The community of Noblesville, Indiana which is about 7 miles north of Indianpolis has developed an awesome youth baseball venue. They have eight beautifully maintained fields with fences and lights. The facility also houses one of the best concession stands that I have ever seen at a youth baseball facility. They serve a large menu of food and drinks (non-alcoholic) for nominal prices. Between games, I bought 2 hamburgers, 2 hot dogs and 4 drinks for the family. I handed the concession stand worker $20 and got back $5. At a MLB stadium, I would be lucky to get back anything after handling over $50 for a similar order. It was such a pleasant surprise.

The actual fields at the Noblesville facility are very unique. The outfield area is grass, but infields are made of field turf. There is no dirt anywhere on the field. The home plate area and the areas around each base are clay colored field turf. I was concerned that kids could be injured while sliding when I first saw the field, but the kids slid over the turf very easily. My son slid head first very smoothly into second base on a steal. He came up grimacing with turf burns on his arms, but I guess it didn't hurt too much because he stole third and slid head first again.

Two years ago at this same facility my son, Nic, got his 100th career hit for the club. He was in a battle with a teammate to be the first one to get 100 career hits for the club. An elbow injury early in that year cost my son some games and made the race closer than it should have been. His teammate got his 100th hit in game one of a doubleheader on Noblesville field 8. In the second game of the double header on the same field, Nic notched his 100th hit.

Games 61, 62, 63, 64 and 65

Two years later on Noblesville field 6, Nic hit his first "over the fence" home run. He has lots of "hit'em and run" home runs, but never experienced the joy of hitting one over a fence. He crushed a 2-1 fastball to dead center field and cleared the 225 foot fences easily. He ran around the bases in record time and jumped high into the air and landed on the plate surrounded by his teammates. The 3 run homer in the bottom of the last inning with two outs gave the team hope. Unfortunately, the rally did not last and fortunately for Nic didn't get hurt celebrating at home. The night before Kendry Morales of the Los Angeles Angels hit a walk-off homer then broke his leg as he jumped onto home plate surrounded by his teammates.

The slump may be coming to an end. My son, Nic, batted .385 with 4 RBIs and 6 Runs scored in the tournament. .385 is well under his lifetime average it was an encouraging sign. His team won 2 of 3 pool play games and got the 8th seed in the 15 team tournament. They ended up beating the 9th seed in the first elimination round and then lost to the number 1 team. It was a great tournament.

The Main Point

The people of Noblesville made a great facility where great life long memories are made. I know my son will never forget this field. I know from experience.

When I played little league, we rarely had an opportunity to play on a field with a fence. Gumpert Park in Westfield NJ had three fields. Two fields without fences and one field with a fence. Gumpert 1 was the field with the fence. I loved playing on that field. At 12, I hit a ball over the fence down the line on Gumpter One. I saw the ball fly high above the fence and into the branches and leaves of the trees beyond it. As I rounded first, I heard the umpire yell foul ball. I didn't want to believe it so I continued on and rounded second, the umpire yelled foul ball again. I looked at my dad, who was the third base coach, he was already pleading my case. The umpired yelled foul ball again. I didn't get a homer, but I still remember that hit and that field. As a teenager I played lacrosse so I would not get my first "over the fence" home run until I played adult softball.


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