Reader Lou DeCaro lives in Wading River.
The other day I drove past a Little League baseball game on Route 25A in Rocky Point. It made me think about my very first Little League game. It took place in 1961, and I was only 10 at the time.
Every player or former player remembers his or her first game like it was yesterday. Mine was on a field off Pine Acres Drive in Deer Park, about three miles from my house. I remember riding my bike to the field. The familiar jingle of the Good Humor truck told me I was close.
My team was the Panthers. Our uniform was silver with black lettering. We wore high stirrup socks and a black hat with the letter P on it.
When I arrived at the field that day I took a seat in the dugout and waited for my coach's instructions. I could hardly contain my exuberance. All those early evening and Saturday morning practices were about to pay off.
"Play ball!" the umpire yelled out.
I stepped onto the hard clay and took my position at first base. My eyes opened wide and my heart started beating fast.
I prayed the first batter wouldn't hit the ball to me, but just as I completed the thought, the batter hit a sharp grounder right at me. I almost swallowed my Bazooka bubblegum. I grabbed the ball as if my life depended on it.
"You're out!" the umpire told the batter as I touched first base with my right foot. Two more outs later, I made my way back to where my coach, Mr. Ferrara, was standing. I grabbed a bat.
As I stepped into the batter's box, I pretended I was Yankees slugger Roger Maris, my childhood hero. I gripped the bat as hard as I could and lost my breath the first time the ball sped toward me. Time seemed to stand still when I swung. Somehow I made contact, and when I finally noticed the ball trickling on the ground, I ran as fast as I could.
"Safe!" the umpire cried out as my foot touched first base, a millisecond before the first baseman's.
The world was a perfect place that day. We won our first game, and I got my first hit. Mr. Ferrara treated the entire team to ice cream.
He made the Good Humor man very happy.
I may not have done as well as Roger Maris did in 1961, but I'll never forget that first game and the excitement I felt as I played on my own field of dreams.
These days, every time I see a Little League game in progress, I wonder which one of those players will get his or her very first hit.