Jersey is a sleepy little township in Licking County and is home to a piece of Kam’s childhood. The old Jersey Elementary school which has a total of five rooms, a gymnasium housed in a separate building and two baseball fields sit nestled between a church and a farmer’s field off of Morse Rd. On any given Saturday in the Spring you can drive by with your window down and hear the bustling of chatter and chaos that comes with little league baseball. Not so much an elaborate gift but a gentle offering that has been upkept and tended to by the people of the community over the years, Jersey lies in the hearts of all who have run the bases and sat on the other side of the fence built out of love for the game.
Yesterday, Kam and I went to Jersey to take some pictures. On a brisk fall day in December, the fields sit quietly waiting for the air to become warmer and the children to return. Until then, the cold, damp sand and the cool breeze waft memories through the air and if you listen carefully you can hear the faint laughter and cheers that once were ours. You can see Kam on first base concentrating intently listening to his teammates chatter, you can see the kids giving hi-fives after a home run and you can feel the rush of blood through your veins when you close your eyes and listen to the loud crack of the bat and see cleats sliding into home. In the outfield on field 2, you will find the famous light pole. This is the pole that Kam’s ball hit during his home-run hit under the lights on his 9th birthday. Many little artifacts of Kam’s childhood years lay strewn across the field, each tiny grain of sand and chalk covered base tell the story of a little boy who had a talent for baseball that you can’t teach but whose heart was with another sport.
I remember sitting on the other side of that fence in my baseball mom chair, wearing my favorite t-shirt that advertised that I call my favorite player mine or that there is in fact no crying in baseball. I would rest my head on the back of my chair while each ray of sun beamed happiness into my pours and beads of joy rolled out of my forehead. When it was Kam’s turn to bat, I would get butterflies in my stomach as the umpire called balls and strikes, then a full count, and finally the ball would sail into the outfield freezing time in it’s tracks. While time was frozen, I just watched. I watched the eyes of the players get wide, I watched the intent looks on the faces of the fans, I watched the smiles and laughter of the little brothers and sisters, I watched the excitement all around me and I watched Kam. I watched Kam grow up running those bases as time was frozen for me and now when I watch the highlight reel I see his 4 yr. old self hitting the ball for the first time without the tee, his 5 year old self making it to 1st base, his 8 year old self rounding 2nd, his 10 year old self watching his coach as he approaches 3rd and his 12 year old self sliding into home. All the tiny fragments of frozen time built up over the nine years he played are like masterpieces of art hung in my memory to look at any time I need them.
After 8th grade, Kam quit playing baseball because he just did not love it like I did but I am so grateful to the little boy who played for nine years to bring joy to his mom and for the fields in Jersey (and all the other fields he played on) that nurtured a little boy’s talent and a mother’s love.