Old ballfields were once where game of life played out

BY BOB WACHS, Columnist
Posted 12/6/19

Every time I drive from my house to Pittsboro I pass by a place that gives me food for thought about life.

I’ve seen it hundreds, maybe even thousands of times through the years— this patch of …

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Old ballfields were once where game of life played out

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Posted

Every time I drive from my house to Pittsboro I pass by a place that gives me food for thought about life.

I’ve seen it hundreds, maybe even thousands of times through the years— this patch of mostly bare ground alongside N.C. Hwy. 902 between St. Matthews AMEZ Church and the nearby woods. The only thing that gives a clue to what the property is (or was) if you didn’t know, are the four or five tall poles in a cluster sticking out of the ground at various angles.

Those poles once held the wire that was the backstop of this neighborhood ball field beside the church. Now the wire is gone, either taken down on purpose or by Mother Nature and Father Time, and the ball field is silent.

Years ago when I was in full pursuit of my better half (before she was my better half), I’d go by that field on the way to her house. And as often as not, especially in spring or summer, there would be a crowd on hand both on the field and off — men, women, boys and girls, young and old. It didn’t seem to matter.

I’d tell myself often that one day I was going to stop and take in the big game, reasoning that I would likely know at least a handful of players and fans, most of whom, at least the home team, I thought, would be from Pittsboro. Of course I never did that and now I can’t remember the last time I saw somebody taking a cut at a curve ball or smashing a line drive to centerfield or running the bases.

Too bad.

In my humble opinion we’re losing something valuable when we lose places like that. I’ve long believed that when schools are consolidated and communities lose them and when post offices are closed in some sort of effort to save money so rates can go up again and when churches fold up because not enough folks care, that both the places that made us great and our greatness itself are going by the wayside.

Our obsession with technology is creating an artificial world. Why do you need “virtual” reality when you can find the real thing by volunteering at a nursing home? How can people “go” onto Facebook to find friends when they could have the same thing by saying “Hello” in person? What is the advantage to earning a degree online and never setting foot onto a campus or into a classroom?

The reality of life is we are made for companionship and we need people. That’s what the good folks at the field beside St. Matthews — and countless others — had when they played ball. They had community because they had each other. It didn’t matter how good you were or weren’t or whether you won or didn’t. What mattered was you were there and you were part of somebody’s life and they were part of yours. Games were won and lost, to be sure, but more than a game was being played. Life, itself, was unfolding.

We need that...and what it can do for us. It’s like the story handed down almost as legend in my family. One day, my daddy and his father-in-law were out somewhere miles away from home when they chanced upon a country ballgame at a similar field. Pulling over, they parked and got out of the car and leaned against the fender to take in the sights.

“What’s the score?” Grandpa eventually asked of an outfielder.

“Sixty-three to nothing,” the man said.

“Good gracious,” Grandpa said. “You’re getting beat pretty bad, aren’t you?”

“Nah,” the player replied. “We haven’t had our turn at bat yet.”

Can you get that online?

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