July 24, 2008

Sandlot ball going the way of wooden bats : Sandlot baseball, a slice of American life enjoyed for decades by boys from coast to coast, appears on the verge of extinction. Nowadays, most neighborhood ball fields sit empty on summer afternoons, the idea of unsupervised play having gone the way of the rotary-dial phones kids once used to round up the fellas for a game.

posted by tommytrump to culture at 07:49 PM - 9 comments

As a kid that grew up in the 60's and 70's, the sandlot games dominated our summers. We all played on various VFW/Legion/Little League/etc teams that were the precursors of today's select teams. However, the organized games never reached anything close to the 70 games the average 14 year old plays now. To see boys, including my son, burnt out before they get to high school is a troubling sign. While I was successful in getting him to try other sports, many dads were hell bent on their kid being the next A-rod. So much money is spent on select teams, it's completely out of hand. Ironically, even if a group of boys wanted to get a game together they would most likely encounter a locked up field. The precious select teams ensure that the fields are kept in pristine condition for their games. At least that's how it is in my slice of suburbia. I'm off to bed, my son and I have a 7:30 tee time..I consider myself blessed that he wants to play a round of golf with me. Hope I can still beat him!

posted by dviking at 12:00 AM on July 25, 2008

In my youth (I am 27 so we are talking 80's-90's here) basketball was the pick up game of choice. Getting a baseball together is hard work. You need 18 kids, 18 mitts, catching equipment, bats and balls. Basketball requires a ball, two kids and hoop (which you can find on any suburban block or a full court in a park) Is it any wonder unorganized baseball is becoming extinct, it requires to much effort and coordination. Organized ball gets all the kids together and provides umpires (no more arguing over strikes and balls) To me it seems easier to join a baseball league and play than it is to organize one game by myself. The moral of the story here; the youth of America is lazy.

posted by HATER 187 at 12:33 AM on July 25, 2008

I wish I could have played sandlot ball when I was a kid. Hell, I wish there was a sandlot team near where I live now, I still want to play. (I'm 22.) I really want to play the game, but its nearly impossible to do for free here with out being in high school. I don't want to pay $200 to play in a league, only because I know I'm (at best) a mediocre player. I just want to play for fun. Tell you what, anyone else want to start a sandlot team? I'll get some bolt cutters and get us on a field.

posted by freeze_over98 at 02:18 AM on July 25, 2008

I can relate dviking, but I'm a little older than you. For games with too few kids, we used to close off two outfields, catch for the other team (if there was a play at the plate the pitcher had to cover), and play pitcher's hands out. We played with as few as 6 kids, a pitcher, one infielder, and one outfielder per team. The batter got to call which field was open and everyone shifted. It was GREAT. And you're right Hater, the kids of today are too lazy and unimaginative to play like we did.

posted by Shotput at 08:54 AM on July 25, 2008

Back in the 60's President Kennedy decried the state of physical fitness in the nations youth.Today we have an obesity epidemic.In the 50's,every boy played pick up baseball,football,b ball etc.Today its indoor electronic games.Do you think there is a pattern here?

posted by sickleguy at 01:47 PM on July 25, 2008

I live in the suburbs of a small city. There are no vacant lots within 2 miles of my house. The only potential places to play are taken up with fenced soccer pitches, youth baseball diamonds, also fenced, and school yards. The city has an extensive youth baseball and softball program, with leagues all the way from tee ball to senior Babe Ruth. Any kid who wants to play will be on a team, and used equipment is available for those who might not be able to afford it. There is really no excuse for not being able to play. The downside is that you have to practice, you might not be on the same team that your best buddy is on, and the fun of making up different ways to play the game is gone. When I was a kid, we just went out and threw a ball around, tried to tackle each other, got into impromptu wrestling matches, ran like hell after swiping fruit from a neighbor's pear tree, or got our exercise in many other ways. Somehow, I don't think I was grievously harmed by missing the organized youth sports.

posted by Howard_T at 05:19 PM on July 25, 2008

Replaced by sandlot soccer.

posted by Newbie Walker at 09:06 PM on July 25, 2008

Yep, I grew up in the late 50's and 60's. In the off-season, we always played baseball at the end of our cul-de-sac. If we couldn't get four or more, we played pickle. When baseball season came around, we all played Little League starting at 8 (Wally Moon's summer baseball camp) through 12, then on to Pony League. High School was next, but then we discovered football, and baseball was moved to the back seat. I can't remember seeing any sandlot/street games in a VERY long time.

posted by Toad8572 at 05:23 PM on July 26, 2008

There is a park within walking distance of my house, less than a mile. However I have never played a sandlot game there. I've never played a sandlot game anywhere for that matter. The kids who want to play baseball join little league. Around here there may be kids who would play, but they are so scattered it can't be done easily. Basketball is much easier to get going. Interestingly enough, volleyball is a popular one right now too.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 10:43 AM on July 27, 2008

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