I can honestly say one of my first memories that ‘stuck’ with me was when I was climbing on the metal playground equipment at Back of the Yards. It’s memorable because just behind the playground was the softball diamond. There, my Dad played for Star Auto Parts. I don’t know how many nights a week he played but I remember enjoying the playground whenever I went. A few weeks ago I was looking through old pictures and came across a clipping. Dad, the Ackerman’s and several other guys in a newspaper clipping…and me. I was in the team photo and I was in my diaper. While the photo was black and white I saw my Dad and immediately recognized his red pants. Red softball pants with white stripes.
There’s a bit of a memory gap between Back-O and my next softball memories. I must have honed my begging because I became a pro at finding a way to tag along at weekend tournaments. I had a blast at the Beacon outside of Edgerton. It couldn’t have been all that appealing to have your young kid out for a weekend of softball with the guys but Dad usually let me tag along. Man, those memories were awesome. Great memories. Oh, those red pants with the white stripes. They were there too. In addition to those pants, Dad’s Slingback glove and McGregor spikes were in his bag. Awesome memories. He may not think I remember but I do and they are awesome.
Fast forward to the early-to-mid 80s and Dad made the move to Dawson. It was the new place to play in town. The red pants with white stripes were still on and the Star Auto team was together. Granted, they had matured to the over 35 league but they were still on the field. These memories are extremely vivid. I remember watching little Mikey Schmidt while my Dad and his Dad Dick played and I would occasionally think, “Man I can’t believe they still play when they're over 35”. They played and played well. The Slingback and McGregor’s must have helped. They helped on Sunday nights when he played fast pitch at Monterey. Now that was fun to watch.
With so many vivid memories of my Dad playing softball one memory I don’t have is the day he stopped playing. I do recall grabbing his Slingback, McGregor’s and heading to Dawson and playing my first rec league game on a Sunday night in 1989. I subbed for Doc N Eddy’s. Full disclosure, I wasn’t that good but I certainly had a good time. After a few years of Sunday night league I had the Slingback restrung at Janesville Sports Shop and moved to Monday night church league. That was an enjoyable 5 or 6 years and I met some life-long friends playing 10 Monday's a summer at Dawson.
Two Slingback glove repairs later and I graduated from college and moved to the now-defunct Thursday Industrial League – Parker Pen. Me, Dad’s glove and shoes were right at home with that bunch. Boy, do I miss those guys. I even took a whirl at the co-ed league on Friday’s. It was amazing how much I played considering I wasn’t all that good. It must have been Dad.
All these memories. I have incredible memories of my time at Dawson. It’s no longer the new place to play, but each time I walk into Dawson a smile comes to my face. I see the kids and remember running around and skinning my knees. I see the teens at the top of the bleachers and remember watching Mikey Schmidt on Wednesday nights. I look in the dugout and miss seeing the bat boys and girls. The kid in me wants to start a petition to allow kids back in the dugout. As a 45-year old I understand the liability of having kids run around.
But the memories all come back to that first one. I was 3 and on the playground, looked back and saw my Dad at bat. Dad was my hero. He was invincible. He could do no wrong. I walked into Dawson last night. Yes, I still play on Monday nights – church league again. It was a perfect night for ball. A night for memories. I thought of three things (in this order) – Dad, Slingback and McGregor. I thought of Dad because he’s still my hero. He gives back to so many – and in so many ways. I always strive to be as good as him. I will never be him on the ball diamond but I think I’ve learned a few things from him off the field. Why did I think of the Slingback and McGregor’s? Well, they’re still in my bag! The Slingback has seen better days and is my backup but I still use the shoes. A 44-year old glove and 35-year old shoes. Good memories.
Thanks Dad. Thanks for being my role model. It’s a little early but Happy Father’s Day. Now, what happened to those red pants? Man, I could have used them last night!