COLERAINE — I was driving through my hometown of Coleraine the other day when I drove past Longyear Park.
It was conspicuously clear to me as I drove by the park that things really change in a matter of 50 years or so. There was nobody in the park on this day, which is odd to me considering how important the park was to the kids of Coleraine in my youthful years.
I grew up kitty-corner to the park so I could look out my window to see if anybody was playing baseball. The baseball/softball diamond at the park was always busy with youngsters. I could hear their cries of delight or anguish from my yard which always had me wanting to play.
We thought the ball field was perfect, but I smile when I look back at our youthful exuberance. Left-handed hitters with power had a big advantage with a big pine tree smack in the middle of right field. A routine fly ball could get lost in the tree as the batter would gleefully circle the bases while the ball was searched for.
It was extremely tricky to play left field at the park. A fielder would have to dodge bushes to catch a routine fly ball. A hitter with power could reach the large hill which was every youngster’s goal to reach.
It was a place where we learned how to play baseball. We learned how the tag rule worked and it taught us how to slide to evade a tag.
That big hill in left field was an ominous presence, and it offered the town’s youth a chance to become part of a select group. That select group was made up of hitters who could put a baseball or softball over the hill and onto Lakeview Boulevard.
I know there were hitters before me who reached the boulevard but their names are lost in memory. During my era, I am the only hitter that I know of who was able to put both a baseball and a softball into hallowed ground.
I talked with Justin Tomberlin, a Coleraine native, a few years ago and he too had fond memories of playing baseball in Longyear Park. He agreed that putting a baseball over that hill was the ultimate goal of every player. The former Greenway athlete who played Division I hockey and baseball at the University Maine, said he was proud when he was able to reach Lakeview Boulevard.
You can travel to the park in your town and probably see the same thing – the lack of youngsters out playing any sport. A once teeming park is now sparsely used. The cries of youngsters are no more.
Times sure do change.