After a scorcher of a day, evening brings relief with a cool breeze. Lights go on around the ball field behind the high school. Night becomes day again for the diamond and the outfield; darkness is banished until the game is over.
Slowly people arrive: singly and in groups, families and friends. Bleachers fill; blankets are spread just beyond the fences. Children toss frisbees and beachballs. Squads of young boys stand behind the backstop, ready to dive for foul balls, sqabbling good-naturedly with each other.
The teams take the field and begin to warm up. Noises are louder at night. Bat, ball, glove; each has its own distinct sound.
This is Cape Cod League baseball, one of the finest amateur summer baseball leagues in the nation. It’s where college kids go before they’re picked for the farm teams or the majors. In fact, as of 2006, there were over one thousand Cape League alums playing in the major. Not too shabby for amateur baseball.
It doesn’t matter who’s playing, though. Cape League or farm team, major, minor, or little league, baseball is uniquely us. It is Field of Dreams. It is The Natural. It’s Pride of the Yankees, Bad News Bears, A League of Their Own. It is summer, baseball, and America.
It’s cities and small towns and flyover country, and the American flag flying at the back of center field. It’s hot dogs and moms and dad and kids. It’s giggling teenaged girls with first crushes, and teenaged boys rough-housing in front of them. It’s older folks sitting in the folding chairs they brought because there’s never any room in the bleachers, so let’s just sit over here, Molly, behind third base.
It’s what we grew up with, it’s what we know, it’s what we understand. Even if we don’t particularly like the game, it is part of us, and it’s one of a million things both small and large that makes us proud of our country. It is, like so many other mundanes, the red beating heart of America.
It is not arugula or having a beer at the White House. It is neither bitter nor clingy. It is the America our president doesn’t know deep down inside, and will never understand.
But we know it. We understand it. And we love it.