I was driving to Humphrey, Neb., last Saturday morning, and on my way I passed by Gerrard Park in Columbus.
I pass by Gerrard Park every day on my way to Humphrey, but on this day the baseball fields were filled by the newest crop of Columbus Mariners.
It was their annual tournament, and the fields were busy with games, and the parking lot was filled with parents.
Gerrard Park used to be a regular hangout for me because that was where my son, Alek, played while he was a member of the Mariners, the local traveling club team.
It was where Alek played his first real competitive games.
It was no longer required that everyone spend the same amount of time on the field.
It was no longer important to just participate.
It was no longer just a fun summer activity.
What it was, what it turned out to be, was a lifetime of members with people we will always remember.
It also started my son's march toward the college scholarship he earned this year.
I drove past Gerrard Park and remembered those days; game days; travel days.
Lunches packed, gear loaded in the car for the weekends we traveled to games.
My thoughts raced back to those days as I passed the busy park because last week Alek played his last high school baseball game.
Never again will he take the field as a member of the Columbus High baseball team.
His uniforms were washed the final time and returned to the school.
Someone else will grab No. 6 next year, but he won't be my No. 6.
This season was the farewell tour all parents and high school students go through.
Alek has graduated high school; next stop college and adulthood.
Later this month he begins the final three months of his American Legion baseball career.
No doubt that time will zip by as quickly as high school did.
There are more games, the competition will be stiff, and instead of listening to the ping of aluminum bats all season, there are three wood-bats tournaments — real baseball.
After July, the next games Alek will play will be as a college freshman, and I won't see many of them.
Now, if I'm forced to miss a game, I have to text another dad or my wife, and then wait impatiently for an update on the game.
There will be no one to text next season. I will have to wait for Alek's call or text after each game.
He will travel out of state for almost all road games, and even some of his home games will be hard for me to get to.
No more will I be able to take my usual spot with the other dads along the leftfield or rightfield lines, lean against a fence and nervously twitch with each pitch — my version of baseball Tourette Syndrome.
Passing Gerrard Park made me think about all this, and as the families gathered for a mini reunion last weekend, we retold the stories from days gone by.
Now, so many families are back where we were years ago.
They have a few more years of club team baseball before their children enter high school.
I and the other dads are part of that time line now. We were there watching our kids play, and now have been replaced by other dads, who will be replaced some day.
It's a continuous pattern. As one group of kids moved up a grade level, they are replaced by another.
The things we all have in common is the memories we make along the way and how quickly the time goes by.
In a little more than a week, Legion baseball games begin.
I will be back on the fence line with the other dads for our last go-round, and I am going to enjoy it like never before.
Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.