I grew up on Little League® fields.
Playing baseball from Tee Ball to Senior Division, cheering on my older sister and twin brother, making pizzas with too much cheese in the concession stand, umpiring as a teenager, and being a Little League Challenger Division® Buddy – from the ages of five to 15, the East Lycoming Little League fields were my family’s home away from home.
The memories came flooding back when my father and I walked onto the East Lycoming Little League complex on April 25 for a fun alumni softball game in celebration of the league’s 65th Anniversary. It didn’t take a lot of convincing for us to participate. My dad played in the league in the mid-to late 1960s and helped build some of the fields at the complex where my siblings and I played from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. Neither of us, however, has spent much time there since the last year my brother and I played Senior League.
But, heading onto what is now the Junior League field for the first time in a generation, we were ready to play. In all, about 25 people came out for the game. Some had been my teammates and some were on my sister’s softball team, both of which my dad coached. Most were casual acquaintances, the kind of people you know when you grow up in a small town. Many of the alums are now volunteering in the league to support their kids, who all seemed eager to see how their parents stacked up as players.
After playing six innings, we all agreed to play seven. After the seventh inning, we decided to play two more. The green team had a four-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. Somehow, the gray team miraculously had a 2-out rally to tie it up before the green team could record the third out. The tie was a fitting end, though I’m not sure anyone was ready to hang up their cleats.
The next day, my mom and I went to the league’s Opening Ceremonies. The talk of the day was my 60-year-old father sliding into second base to break up a double play the night before, and if he was moving okay, which, he was.
We walked around the complex, noting how it has changed and how it has stayed the same in the 20 years since the McClintock kids were players and the McClintock adults were some of the core volunteers. Looking at the volunteers prepping the concession stand and setting up fundraising tables, my mom said, “that would have been me 20 years ago,” with a hint of pride, almost longing for those days that seemed so busy at the time, but now knowing they were completely worth it.
We caught up with old friends who we shared dugouts and bleachers with, now there to support their own children and grandchildren. I thought back to all the good memories and some of the bittersweet ones – the time we found eye black in the dugout before our last game when we were 12 and decided to paint our faces with it and my teammate who sadly passed away in a car accident just a few years later; not being called up to Majors when my twin brother did; coming to the field after meeting our puppy for the first time and deciding to name him Rookie on the ride home.
By the end of the ceremonies, the 2015 teams had been announced, last year’s championship teams had been recognized, the Little League pledge had been recited, the original East Lycoming Little Leaguers had been honored; and a baseball, softball, and Challenger player joined one of those originals to throw out ceremonial first pitches.
And as we looked around the complex, full of activity with families eating lunch, fields getting prepped, and teams warming up, it felt like we were back home.
Brian McClintock and his father, Dayl (back row, seventh and eigth from the left) with the participants in the alumni softball game. Above, Brian’s 1989 Tee Ball team, the Pirates, coached by his father.