KILGORE – I lost a neighbor on Tuesday. We became neighbors almost 20 years ago when my wife and I bought a house on the corner of Hunter and Martin streets.
This neighbor was always busy and always loud – especially during the spring and summer — and I can’t tell you how many times over the years the events she hosted spilled into my yard in some way.
But I loved this neighbor, and I’m going to miss her like heck now that she’s gone. I spent some time watching them take her away Tuesday morning, but eventually had to close the blinds on my windows and just let her go.
My son, much like his old man, also quickly came to love the neighbor. When he was small, Kyle and I visited the neighbor almost daily. Sometimes we just sat and talked. Other times it was hard to tell who the kid was the way we both ran around over there playing.
Another neighbor, who I also lost too soon, owned the house beside me for decades. When Kyle and I visited the neighbor across the road, Mary Matthews always brought me a bottle of water and Kyle a juice box to enjoy while we took a break in the dugout.
That’s right. The neighbor I lost Tuesday was a baseball field.
The field, named for one of Kilgore’s longtime youth baseball supporters, was here long before we moved into our current house. I always thought it would be here long after I was gone – or at least long enough for future grandchildren to visit.
I’ll miss sitting on my front porch and listening to parents scream “Run to first!” the split second little Johnny’s bat made any sort of contact with the ball. The first time I heard that, I wanted to go next door and ask the parents if it was really necessary to tell little Johnny that most basic rule.
Then, I saw little Johnny sprint out of the batter’s box, head down the third base line, high-five the opposing third baseman and then go visit the Porta Potty stationed behind the left field fence since he was already out there.
I’ll miss the baseballs that landed in my yard and were still there the morning after games. It was almost as if the Baseball Bunny had left them so I wouldn’t have to buy baseballs for Kyle. Ever.
A few years back, a dad and his son were practicing on the field next door, and I took them a bucket full of about two dozen balls –a small portion of the ones I had collected from my yard over the years.
The kid thought Christmas had come early.
I’ll miss the random fans coming next door and taking water out of the small refrigerator in my garage. That refrigerator is there in memory of Mrs. Matthews, and it’s full of bottled water for any fan or player next door that might need it.
I’ll miss my son and his friends playing basketball deep into the night thanks to the lights the field provided when someone forgot to turn them off after games Or, maybe Kyle figured out how to turn them on. Let’s not get caught up in technicalities.
Several years ago, I visited my old hometown in Tennessee and discovered they had torn down the old Little League field I had played on and replaced it with a sparkling new complex across town.
I wrote a column comparing the old and new fields, but I’m not going to do that here.
The new fields are spectacular and something Kilgore should be proud of.
My old neighbor had seen better days, but she was still beautiful – a true diamond in the rough — and I’ll miss her terribly.
So, don’t bother telling me there’s no crying in baseball.