MURPHY'S LAW Lining the fence for memories

By Patrick Murphy

You can go home again, even if that home is a fence you leaned over while watching your son play baseball.

I found myself back at Pawnee Park in Columbus, Neb., this time watching kids who belonged to other parents, but it felt great.

I couldn’t stop smiling, just being there brought back so many memories and so many good feelings.

Things have changed. The bathroom was no longer a glorified outhouse, and just behind the home team’s dugout is a large bleacher built for the football field, facing away from the baseball field.

However, the biggest change is most of the fans were sitting in the bleachers behind home plate or behind the visitor’s dugout.

When my son, Alek, played high school and American Legion baseball the moms sat in the stands, but most of the dads lined the fence along the third base line. We leaned over it as we laughed and joked with each other, went through the ups and downs of the game, and more specifically the ups and downs of how our sons were playing.

I honestly don’t remember ever sitting in the bleachers —  not in little league, not when he played on a traveling team, and never when he was older.

I am not sure how it started, but I must have seen the other dads lined up next to the fence, and I joined them. Sitting in the bleachers where I had to behave myself was not going to happen.

But when I returned recently to watch other parents’ kids play, most of the families settled in the bleachers and just three parents stood in the area, where me and the other dads used to wear out the grass. Times had changed

It had been a long time since I was in that park. After Alek graduated I told myself I would be back. I still knew a few of the players and their families, so I figured I would make the short drive back to the field, but life gets in the way. I was usually too tired from work and ready to sit on the couch, so it was easier to stay home, and pretty soon the years rolled by. Before I realized it nine years had gone by since the last time I stepped into the park.

It was great to be back.

I couldn’t believe it but I saw another dad whose son played with Alek.

He and his wife were working the concession stand, and we got caught up with each other’s families and talked about how things had changed, yet were still pretty much the same.

I recognized a guy sitting in the stands, whom I remembered from Alek’s playing days. He never had any of his own kids playing as long as I had known him, but just loved to watch baseball — just as he did nine years ago.

I cannot even begin to calculate how much time I spent at that ballpark watching high school and American Legion practices and games over Alek’s four years, but it was a lot.

It’s funny how things are so important to you during a point in your life, and then not at all.

We’re a baseball family, and from t-ball through Legion ball, our family schedule was centered around baseball.

Now, our place has been taken by other families, just as we took the place of those baseball families before us.

But at least for one night, it was great to be standing near that fence again.

Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor at The Telegram.