Saturday, August 21, 2010

When a Ball Game is More Than a Game

Doug and Libby with the Mayberry Deputy (above) and Doug signing one of his books for me (right).^

When I was a young boy, I played baseball on summer days for 10 to 15 hours in the South Carolina heat, almost never complaining about the discomfort and breaking only for lunch when Mama called in her best big-family voice. Baseball wasn't the point of the game we played all day. Friendship was.

It was a lesson that has stuck with me for many years and tonight it was on display again. I watched the Salem Red Sox come from behind in the late innings to beat the Fredrick Keys, 6-2 in a game that was exciting for anybody who cared about that part of the evening. I enjoyed it, but the enjoyment would not have been different had Fredrick come from behind to win.

I was with my friend Doug Cumming and his delightful wife Libby, who drove down from Lexington, where they both teach at Washington & Lee University (and my new pal Christina). They had enjoyed quite a summer to this point (Libby went to Paris with her daughter for several days, highlighting it) and Doug pointed out to Libby that they hadn't done a Salem ball game yet this summer and it would serve as a topper.

It ain't Paris, to be sure, but this ballpark is in a setting as pretty as any I've ever seen and the night was nearly perfect: light breeze, 82 degrees, mostly full moon, a pink sundown that was dazzling. And, on top of that, Doug signed both books he released this year, The Southern Press and Bylines, a collection of his father's work as a Newsweek bureau chief from the 1960s to the late 1990s. The books are remarkable and will not be read by nearly enough people, but one of the readers has been me and I jumped all over the chance to see a ball game, be with Doug and Libby and my new pal and have both books signed by my friend.

I promised Doug that if Clog! is published in the near (or even far) future, then I'll push my children's book (Saving Homer) into print so I can have two of my own to sign with one pen. Homer's been waiting a while and a while longer won't hurt.

It was a good evening, made better by baseball--the social event, not the game, though that was pretty good, too.

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