Old notebook brings back baseball memories - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

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Old notebook brings back baseball memories

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Jason P. Skoda is a reporter at the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Reach him at (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com

Posted: Friday, June 24, 2011 3:00 pm

In an instant the pseudo Green Monster was gone.

After hearing my friend and his family were OK, I was as distraught as a 13-year-old could be when I started to realize our home run porch was not coming back from its summer vacation.

My buddy and I used to play this elaborate individual baseball game where we used actual big-league lineups.

We'd hit a tennis ball with a bat - basically hitting fungos - from my driveway toward his driveway. Depending on where the ball went, we'd decide whether it was an out, a double or whatever. Then we'd run over and write down the results in our notebooks so we could keep stats (hard to believe I became a sports writer, huh?).

And in left-center field stood his family's Winnebago. A section of the "outfield wall" that was approximately 30 feet long and 12 feet high.

It was tough even for the likes of Gorman Thomas, Rob Deer and Dave Kingman to go deep over our White Monster.

It was the place where home runs went to die.

But then came the tragic news that it was essentially destroyed in a traffic accident.

The reason I bring it up is my mother recently sent me a bunch of my stuff from Ohio - she is converting my old bedroom into her laundry room since she can't make it down the stairs anymore after breaking her hip - and included in this box was my notebook from those summers of baseball.

We kept every stat possible - although OPS and WAR were not prevalent then - and seeing the names like John Lowenstein (one of the greatest hitters in the league), Oddibe McDowell and Jerry (although I had it as Jeremy) Remy brought a smile to my face.

I spent hours pouring over these stats and league standings thinking about how much we loved the game and spent the entire summer playing, watching or talking about baseball.

Then I did the recent story on the Bircz father and son combo and their completed quest of seeing a game in every major-league city.

Robert, the son, is 22 and has a passion of the game.

But in my conversation with him we talked about how not many of his friends are big baseball fans.

It wasn't a news flash or anything.

It is pretty clear that baseball is no longer the national pastime. Attendance is down this year and television has been lacking for years.

The idea that the generation behind mine, and the one coming up now, doesn't have the same connection to the game is bothersome.

I know it is not a fast-paced game and today's kids have so many more options (from 400 satellite stations on 46-inch LCD high-definition TVs to Internet to cell phones) than we did, but it is still a unique game in that there is so much down time that it can be a great way to debate and rehash the history of the game.

This probably sounds as if I'm an old-curmudgeon - I'm only 40, I swear - trying to protect my sport and that's true, but there is an opportunity to either re-introduce the game or do so for the first time coming up with the MLB All-Star game coming to Phoenix.

The FanFest that comes to town with the game is a first-class production. It will be July 8-12 at the Phoenix Convention Center. I hope to go at least twice and make sure my 4-year-old daughter is with me.

There will be an exhibit from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, batting cages, clinics from Major League legends, free autograph sessions with former D-Backs and MLB legends, memorabilia and who knows what else.

It's a chance to pull the kids away from the technology way of life they know today and show them what it once meant to be a kid in the summer.

Back to when summer once meant - at least for this guy - baseball, the All-Star game, riding our bikes through the woods to the local park for home run derby, hot dogs and trying to scale the White Monster while swinging away as Willie Upshaw.

It didn't get any better than that - unless Lowenstein was at the plate.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com

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