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MEMORIES

It's springtime in Smalltown USA, circa 1950. Just a few more minutes and I'm out the door of my elementary school headed for home, skipping along as fast as I can manage. I can't wait to change out of that nasty navy blue uniform jumper and get into my play clothes. I convince my mother that chores can wait until after the game. Now I hop on my dependable maroon- and white-striped Schwinn bike and zip down the street.

Yes, I've made it in time. The muddy snow that earlier covered patches of bright green grass has melted in the vacant lot. Although a bit muddy, our field is set for baseball. The game is just getting going. Aut is home from work and has the baseball and bases. He is assigning captains for today's game. Aut is our neighbor, who until just recent weeks has been in the U.S. Navy. He's the uncle of Bob, Dick and Clete, and now my friend, too. He's always fair, so he's the umpire and pitcher. Aut must love us a lot cause he's always available to organize our games. My palms are sweaty as I anticipate the excitement of today's game. We throw the bat and decide who will choose teams first. Today my brothers Tom, Jim and Kevin are also playing. There are other neighborhood boys but just a couple of us girls. Not to worry, the guys know we can run, watch for stolen bases, catch the fly balls and follow the rules.

This is a treasured memory of those early days of April in the life of a 10-year-old girl. I loved the chance to be part of baseball. Sometimes screaming my lungs out as I cheered on my team as we hurried to finish our game before the sun dipped behind the horizon. Knowing that soon my mother would holler out the door that I needed to be home NOW for supper. In those days, we ate supper promptly at 6. No one was allowed to be late. The punishment could mean not being able to go to the lot for tomorrow's game.

This time to express myself in sports was never experienced on this level ever again. Well, in high school we had an after-school program call the G.A.A (Girls Athletic Association). We did get to play volleyball, which I loved. However, this activity was meant for fun and fellowship, never competition. I guess they called me a tomboy, but to this day I feel accepted and equal to the guys. Something that started with the fever of "Let's play ball."

A. Bertrand

Fifth-grade teacher, Perkins Elementary

St. Petersburg

I would have to say when I was a young boy growing up in Bloomington, Ill. I won free tickets to go to my first-ever Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. I was a big Cubs fan and never got a chance to go to Wrigley Field. I sold a number of American Legion tickets, and the prize was a chance to go to see the Cubs play the Cardinals. I was only about 8 years old and I remember walking into the stadium and think how big the whole thing seemed. It was everything I thought it would be, and, to this day, I remember how it felt when I first walked in. I don't remember who won the game.

- Mark Anderson St. Petersburg

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