In Ridgewood, organized sports was a religion, and its first manifestation occurred when boys were ready to participate in the Tiny Tots program, a baseball program for seven and eight year olds. Later there would be Biddy Basketball, street hockey and Jets and Rockets football, in all of which Josh would participate, but the first program was baseball about which I knew nothing and cared even less. It seemed the thing to do for Josh because he would enjoy it. What I didn’t expect was how much I would enjoy it, particularly that first day, a bright, crisp Saturday morning, when we were summoned to “tryouts” at one of the village’s elementary schools, a bucolic setting of rolling hills, manicured lawns and Douglas firs. There was no baseball field in sight, and at the time it didn’t seem to matter.
There were about fifty boys gathered there, each with an outsized baseball mitt and a proud father. We were told what would happen next, and we then stood aside as our boys were initiated into the wonders of baseball.
Fielding, being an important skill, was practiced and tested first. All of the boys were positioned in “the field”, and the man in charge batted balls over their heads and in the general direction of the trees. Once the bat had struck the ball, no matter where the boys stood, they immediately became part of a disorganized pack chasing the elusive ball. After the ball had hit the ground and squirted away down hill and dale, the pack of boys pursued it. They ran, they fell, they tumbled, they picked themselves up, baying all the while “Mine! Mine! Mine!” Once they caught up to the ball, it became a primitive struggle of all against all for its possession, the winner holding it aloft like a trophy. It was a wonderful scene of disorganization and chaos, and the boys had a wonderful time.
There was also a try-out for pitchers and that also was a scene full of wonder. The boys were asked to stand at a particular spot and told to throw the ball over a temporary home plate and at the glove of Tony Argente, the man in charge of the event. While the pitching was going on, the other boys stood around watching it, and waiting for their turn. Possibly this was too stressful for one of the little boys on the pitcher’s “mound”, for suddenly a dark spot developed on his pants, as his bladder uncontrollably voided itself as he stood there by himself, with all eyes fixed on him, on the pitcher’s mound. No one said a word, but everyone noticed. Of course, he didn’t stay on the mound, and ran off the field in terrible embarrassment, but it was no tragedy, as by the following week he was back on the field and did much better.
From that first Saturday on, for the next ten years or so, I spent every Saturday morning or afternoon watching Josh on athletic fields of one sort or another. Those Saturdays were among the happiest of my life.