This past Monday evening, my wife-the Fabulous Judester and I returned from a week exploring areas of Minnesota, South and North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.
We flew into Minneapolis a week ago Monday, rented a car and headed west. During our trip we saw the Badlands and Mount Rushmore (South Dakota), The Big Horn mountain range (Wyoming), Little Big Horn National Park (Montana), Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota), along with a bunch of buffalo, deer, steer, and prairie dogs (wicked cunnin’!)
While on our road trip, we stopped into many small towns, some with populations less than 100. Many times we drove for two hours or more between these farming communities, with nothing but fields and cattle separating them.
Yet each town had one thing in common: each had a ball field in the center of town.
It seemed that people’s lives, likely for decades, revolved around the activities and happenings on and around their ball field. These parks, some doubling and even tripling as baseball/softball/football fields are visually, and I suspect, socially, at the center of town life. People gather there to visit, laugh, cheer, boo, support and otherwise root for their boys and girls. In some of these towns, there were perhaps 20-30 houses, a very small school, and a prominent ball field placed at the center of their community.
While it may seem strange to you, seeing these towns with their ball fields inspired us as we traveled along. Yes, I like winning. No, I don’t think every kid should get a trophy. Yet seeing how these small communities actually become community around their sporting fields reminded me that no…it’s really not who wins the game that’s most important; it’s what happens when people who work hard in their fields, schools, offices, homes and who are otherwise dealing with the difficulties of life gather around their field. They find conversation, conversation and a reason to cheer.
We’re home now, and it’s time to return to local ball fields to watch our grandkids play high school and middle school baseball, along with youth softball. As we cheer-on the kids as they do their thing, I will think of other communities gathering around other ball fields from Maine to Montana, and will once again be thankful for these fields that cause us to gather together as community…even when the score doesn’t favor our hometown teams.
Next time you find yourself at your local ball field, look around at what’s happening both on and off the field. And be thankful.