Saturday, July 4, 2009

The 4th of July

As my home land celebrates another birthday this weekend, I've been racking my brain trying to remember some of my favorite Independence Day memories. This day reminds me a bit of my birthday because I am having trouble remembering just one that stands out.

My greatest memories of this day come from Alumni Field in Keene, New Hampshire. Most of my July 4th's have been spent here watching or playing baseball, followed by a spectacular display of fireworks. In Keene, sometimes this night took place on the third.

For those of you who have never been there, Alumni consists of two baseball fields and a football field. The crowd on the 4th could reach up to six thousand people by the time the fireworks went off. I could be way off on that estimation, but it was always jammed packed with people. The Keene Rotary Club had game booths and a large food tent in between the baseball fields. It felt almost like a small fair for a night.

When I was 16, I played on the Keene Senior Babe Ruth team, while my brother played for the American Legion Post #4 baseball team. That team was coached by my Grandpa Watterson and my dad. It was a memorable night because for the game that year we scrambled up the SBR and Legion teams and played a scrimmage. I wish I had it here, but there's a photo of my brother, dad, gramp and myself in our uniforms before the game. It was the only time I probably ever was in a game situation with my gramp. Honestly, I can't remember the game, but it was special.

I don't remember too much of my 17 and 18 year old year but I know I played in the 4th of July game. Thinking about those games now makes me appreciate so much having that opportunity. Nothing against the Keene Swamp Bats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, who now play in this game each year, but being able to play in front of a few thousand people as a teenager was a great childhood memory. We were only kids, but the city of Keene cheered us on like we were the Red Sox. They were some of the biggest crowds I ever played in front of.

Another memory of the 4th of July is of the men in my family chasing down juveniles trying to set off fire crackers. I don't know if it was that or just good parenting, but I never got into fireworks. The kids, mostly teens would gather down the right field line where it was dark. Uncle D took care of business.

The 4th of July also reminds me of chasing girls. Not literally, but I remember that after the game, there was usually about five to ten minutes before the lights were turned off and the thousands of people were left in the pitch darkness waiting for the fireworks to begin. So, the hope was each year that I would watch the fireworks on a blanket with a cute girl, or a girl I was crushing on. I can't say I was ever fully satisfied with the results. In fact, I don't remember ever sharing a blanket on the grass with the girl I wanted. But the chase and the anticipation of maybe having a romantic moment under the fireworks were what growing up was all about. It was much like hoping for that kiss at midnight on New Year's Eve and not getting it. Those are some moments of growing up I miss...I guess from an early age I always knew that women were far more interesting than baseball.

There aren't many non-Keene 4th of July memories. In 2000, I was in Orlando, Florida with Up with People. My host dad worked at the Peabody hotel and there was a group of us that watched the Disney World fireworks from the roof.

Another year, my girlfriend in college surprised me by taking me to a big fireworks display in Wisconsin after I had told her all about how much I used to like watching them at Alumni Field. That was pretty special now that I think of it.

My 4th of July is winding down here and I'm not doing anything special to celebrate. I might have a beer later and watch a movie. In my heart, I'm saying a little cheer for the USA today. I hope you all have a great 4th of July and I can't wait for next summer to be out at Alumni Field watching baseball and the fireworks. Pass the word onto any single women that I'll be in right center field on a blanket. Thanks.

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