Chris Fay 2015-11-16 04:06:14
After the worst winter in Boston in recorded history I approached my wife with an idea. “Since we purchased our house, we really haven’t done any upgrades,” I said. “It’s time!” My wife was thrilled. She quickly started to think of all of her favorite HGTV shows and home makeover possibilities. “Absolutely! What do you have in mind? Re-finish the basement? Update the kitchen?” she asked. “Well, I was thinking something more to do outside with our yard.” I said. “We were stuck indoors all winter. I want to spend as much time as possible outside the next six months.” “How about a new patio? With a fire pit? A pool?!” she exclaimed. “I’ve got an even better idea,” I said. She knew right then that we may not be on the same page. “A baseball field!” I said while avoiding direct eye contact. As a father of three children I have come to appreciate silence. Silence under this scenario was not as welcoming. To break the silence I whispered, “The infield dirt arrives on Monday, and I love you.” She didn’t say anything, but the look I got screamed, “Let’s play ball!” or perhaps, “I am calling a lawyer.” I went with my initial thought. Operation FenFay Field was in full swing, complete with a fence, lights, mound, backstop, foul poles, and bleachers. Three generations helped build the field, including my father, his grandchildren, and some very generous neighbors. But why did I want to build a baseball field? Am I some crazy dad who thinks his kids are destined for a college scholarship? Or do I think they will be playing at the real Fenway Park one day? That better not be me. I played organized baseball in college and coached at that level as well. For the past decade I have overseen a baseball training center, organizing instructional classes and camps for kids of all ages. I am commissioner of our town’s K-2 baseball league and arrange practices and games for our 12 teams. The reason for FenFay Field? I wanted my kids to experience un-organized baseball. The field has been a huge success. Games are played there nearly every single day, and often cookouts and barbecues follow, fostering a baseball- loving community and lifelong friendships. The field provides a unique experience for my boys, their friends, and the entire neighborhood because it is their field. They make the rules. They make the teams. They settle disputes. They learn how to communicate with each other, and if the weather says rain, they are in charge of getting the tarp on the field. They are the players, the coaches, the umpires, and the general managers who have perfected the art of the mid-inning trade. I mean not too many organized sports allow you to make up a rule that if you hit a ball across the driveway into the basketball hoop your team automatically wins. Kids can learn so much playing baseball, and it has little to do with the rules that govern the game. The cool part about seeing them play these past several months is that I have noticed how much they have improved simply by playing. They have not been over-coached, which is becoming the American way. They have been given the freedom to be athletes and even figure things out on their own rather than have their shortcomings pointed out with every throw or swing. They are taking ownership on their development and becoming self-motivated in the process. Each time they step onto the field they get to experience the highs and lows that come with the game, and what fair play means and how sometimes life isn’t fair. Most importantly, it teaches them life lessons they can apply to other areas of their life far from any field. Sandlot baseball is a thing of the past -- and that’s unfortunate. Kids do not play sports unless it’s on the family calendar, an official is present, uniforms are worn, waivers are signed, and mom and dad are in attendance to add pressure and critique to every move and zap the enjoyment of simply playing the sport in its purest form. The first year of FenFay Field was a blast, and the entire neighborhood cannot wait for the second season to begin next spring. The boys are already thinking of team names and new fun rules on their field. Here in New England we begin to transition to hockey, and my wife is finally going to get her pool just for the winter months…a frozen pool. Chris Fay is the general manager of Frozen Ropes in Natick, Massachusetts, and the father of two young boys. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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