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James Boyce

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Wiffle Ball: The Greatest Game

Posted: 06/15/10 04:00 PM ET

Second base is a granite rock. Third an upside down kettle. First the top of the step sewer. There is no home plate, only a slowly-being ground down patch of grass in front of the basement. The wiffle ball field my son and I play on is far from a flawless diamond and the rules are our own -- rules that make perfect sense to an eleven year old boy and his father and few others I suspect.

Two strikes is an out, fouls count, and one out is an inning. Oliver has too much baseball talent and too much hand-to-eye coordination to make it feasible otherwise. Five run max in every inning but the last, three balls a walk. It's a game meant for speed. But games I savior.

Wikipedia will tell you a father invented Wiffle Ball with his son in 1953 in Connecticut and today, 47 years later, a Wiffle Ball and stick is just $3.99. We don't go through many extra sticks but we have broken our share of balls out in the front yard.

The yard we play in is the yard I played in as a child -- the yard I walked through on a gray November day so many years ago when my father died across the sea -- sits in front of where we play. I know every inch of that yard. I remember the friends, the girls, and the lovers who have walked it. But now, nothing matters more to me than the game.

"One game" he will plead. "Just one game." Sometimes it's one inning. I always play because well, it's tough times right now for Oliver and I some days. He lives with his mother, I am working on my new business, trying to help take care of my mother, and the person I am closest to in the world has been going through her own hell.

So I make sure I show up for first pitch, in fact, now, I think the games mean more to me than to him.

My daughter once came out for five moments, announced she was cold and bored and that Wiffle Ball was stupid and returned to the house.

I have to play hard, dusting off what little game I had back in high school. I win some -- usually irritating and sometimes infuriating Oliver. But I lose more even when I try. He is getting bigger, faster and stronger every day.

We don't talk much about our situation out there in the front yard, in fact we rarely do at all. It's hard to find the right words when your son is hurting in front of your eyes. But I do try.

But mostly we play.

We play as the sun sets over the water.

We play in the rain.

We play before breakfast. And after dinner. We play in whipping wind and perfect calmness.

Two strikes, you're out. Three balls, it's a walk. One out and you move on. Six innings is a game. No cream rule in the last.

On Sunday, it was cold, misty, we were out there in bare feet, hoodies. The wind was from the east. Oliver won 14-3. He hit the ball great. He ran and played hard. He was happy.

 

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