Granite State of Mind, #82: Brickyard Park, Exeter
A long day at the diamond with the boys yesterday reminded me forcefully of my own early experiences coaching youth baseball, more than fifteen years ago for the Exeter Rec. My nephew Al Pace was seven or eight or nine or whatever he was, playing coach-pitch. I worked with one of the teams (co-coaching with Jen, I think) - the Cardinals one year, the Red Sox another. It was pretty rudimentary stuff - a lot of these kids were emulating Michael Jackson (you know, wearing one glove for no apparent reason). The real trick to coach-pitch was figuring out the batter's unvarying swing and doing your best to hit the bat with your pitch. Harder than it sounds, and a couple of times I remember beaning a kid or two in the helmet. Hey, stop taking such big swings and I won't have to brush you back, kid.
Our games were usually either with the mosquitoes at Gilman Park or at Brickyard, which still had a couple of baseball diamonds in those days. I liked Brickyard. For one thing, after I moved to Ernest Ave in 2002 it was just around the corner (literally). We used to go down there with a bucket of tennis balls and aluminum bats and swing for the fences and the brush beyond. "Feeding the Beast" we called it, and the beast mostly went hungry; you really have to put a charge into a tennis ball to go big fly. We used to play that game behind Lincoln Street and at Gilman, too, which had the blessing of shorter porches.
Before Sarah and I got married we had a friends and family softball game at Brickyard, and I remember Russell Dean putting on a hitting clinic. Some of the stuff on this list is about how awesome New Hampshire is, or about specific memories that are deeply important to me. Some entries will be like this one - about a place that most towns have, all around the country, but that I have warm memories of. And frankly, those are every bit as close to my heart.