***Stop #2 on the #MiLBRoundTripper: the Clearwater (FL) Threshers***
The pack of friends I ran with as a kid growing up on 17th Street needed nothing more than a small patch of grass to trigger an inventive, neighborhood competition.
When I was young, our fun was simple.
Today, entertaining my kids can be complicated and exhausting – organizing play dates, rides and planned activities that keep their attention.
I was reminded that simple can be fun again as I watched my kids frolic on the “berm” in left center field at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida.
Four contests, in particular, occupied my kids as I watched the hometown Clearwater Threshers play ball:
Contest #1: Catch and 500
The baseball mitts my children have are old and worn – they never use them. If you ask me, there is no pressing reason to buy new ones.
I had to laugh, though, as my 11 year-old, Yosef, began to complain about his plastic-y, way-too-small lefty glove as his brother hurled another fastball in his direction.
When one-on-one catch got old, a game of 500 crystallized the need for a new mitt for Yosef as each pop-up he chased would hit the glove’s pocket before falling harmlessly to the grass below.
I’m now willing to pay for a new glove to see my two son’s play catch or shag fly balls together again – all thanks to the berm.
Contest #2: Beg the Bullpen for Balls
The berm was adjacent to the home and visiting team’s bullpens – a fact that did not go unnoticed by my children.
The close proximity of the young ball players to irresistible little guys with over-sized mitts, like my sons, made for a plentiful harvest of free souvenirs for the kids in the berm.
My kids walked away with a bullpen ball each – without too much merciless prodding toward visiting team’s relievers.
The look on Everett’s face as he chased down a ball from “one of those baseball guys” was priceless.
Contest #3: Berm Bowling
New baseballs now in hand, my daughter created a make-shift bowling alley with empty soda cups – “Berm Bowling.”
The simple game made for a great, mostly ignored, fatherly lesson about:
- “playing the break” as the ball rolled down the hill and
- the importance of rolling (not throwing) the ball at the pins.
I, begrudgingly, spared my kids the lesson about properly tallying a bowling score.
Contest #4: Little Sister Fetch
My restless 1 year-old led to the invention of another berm game in the top of the fourth inning. Emersyn (20 months) was up and down – being a normal toddler that wants nothing more than to be chased.
I left it up to my 4 year-old son, Everett, to find a solution to occupy his baby sister – and, he was up for the task.
For more than an inning, Everett would roll the ball under Emersyn’s legs and down the hill. She’d laugh obnoxiously, turn around and run down the berm in a wobbly, terrifying-for-a-parent way toward the slowing baseball.
When other kids saw how much fun my littlest two were having running up and down the gradual incline, a track meet erupted.
For the next two innings, I became the official starter – shouting, “Ready, Set, GOOOO!” what had to be sixty times.
As the sun began to set, the homemade berm fun was subsiding as the Clearwater Threshers asserted total control of the game with a bases-clearing double in the seventh. As the home crowd cheered, Everett perfectly summarized our night on the berm at Spectrum Field.
Now red-faced and sweating profusely, he looked up at me with his new baseball in hand to ask two questions:
“Dad, is it the first inning?”
– and –
“Can we come back tomorrow? I want to beat Yosef in a race on that hill!”
Long live the berm, and the simplicity of kids playing on a patch of green grass.
About Clearwater, FL
As a top year-round destination, Clearwater offers a seemingly endless supply of entertainment, natural beauty and outdoor activities both on land and at sea. No one can afford to miss this ultimate destination, ideally situated on Florida’s stunning West Coast and offering something for every visitor and every budget.
Enjoy casual and fine dining, vibrant activities and the rich history and heritage of the area in a mild, temperate climate. Soak up the fun and sun of Clearwater’s outstanding coastline.
Learn more about what makes Clearwater so bright and beautiful!
The #MiLBRoundTripper’s next stop: Augusta (GA) GreenJackets