Tyler Abrams was sitting in his comfortable office chair at his home in North Kingstown when an email popped up on his computer screen. It was from North Kingstown/Wickford Little League and the email announced a date for their Fall Cleanup Day. Fall Cleanup Day is an annual volunteer event in North Kingstown, and consists of taking down sponsorship banners in the outfield, cleaning up dugouts and bleacher areas, winterizing all the baseball fields of North Kingstown – essentially closing the fields for the winter season. Abrams, new to North Kingstown by way of Arlington, Massachusetts, had signed up his son TJ up for Spring and Fall baseball in North Kingstown and was getting familiar with the league, its wonderful baseball fields, and its incredible tradition of baseball. After checking his work schedule and talking with his wife Elsa, Tyler responded to the email by typing “The Abrams will attend.”
North Kingstown/Wickford Little League utilizes several baseball fields in their organization. Primarily, they operate out of three baseball fields for players 12 years and younger – Wilson Park, Signal Rock, and McGinn Park. All of these fields have an active practice schedule, league games, some even hosted tournaments, and regional competitions throughout the year. The baseball fields at Wilson, Signal Rock, and McGinn all have sponsorship banners that adorn the outfield fences, active bleachers and dugouts, and got a ton of usage this past year. Thus, all would need parents, players, and volunteers to step up and help get them closed safely for the winter.
After reviewing the three fields that would need volunteers, Tyler selected Signal Rock Field. TJ had played a few games at Signal Rock this Spring and the Abrams’ home on Highbank Avenue was not too far away. In fact, Tyler and TJ had gone over to Signal Rock over the summer to practice and it was quickly becoming their favorite baseball park in North Kingstown. Plus, Elsa and their two dogs had plenty of space around the Signal Rock complex to walk around while Tyler and TJ practiced on the field. So it was settled. Signal Rock baseball field it was. The Abrams minus their dogs, packed up rakes, a wheelbarrow, leaf blower, lawn bags, garbage bags, and plenty of hot chocolate for a great morning of volunteer work in North Kingstown.
After a warmer than average summer, the leaves around Signal Rock Field had created a sort of Mother Nature’s blanket around the field’s perimeter and surrounding recreational sections. For a November Saturday, it was also warmer than average, which pleased the Abrams as they drove up the long hill and entered the Signal Rock Field complex. In the parking lot already, a small gathering of league volunteers, kids, and parents were chatting and high fiving and ready to get going on the field closing checklist. After unloading the rakes, wheelbarrow, and yard bags, the Abrams picked ‘cleaning up the leaves around the outfield fence area’ as their task for the morning. There was a swing door gate in the right field fence area which opened up nicely to allow the wheelbarrow, their tools, and the Abrams to enter so they could get started on their task. There was a lot to do, so they got to work – Tyler had the leaf blower moving a big pile towards the fence, Elsa and TJ would scoop up the leaves and place them in the wheelbarrow, and then TJ would cart the leaves off into the woods behind the field. Any garbage, recycling items would go into the yard bags to be disposed of later.
Eight or nine wheelbarrow loads of leaves created quite the leaf pile and TJ yelled over to his Dad to show him his excellent yard work. “Check it out, Dad. A giant mound of leaves!” Tyler, the Dad who was a kid at heart and former Little Leaguer himsels, had an idea. “Hold that thought, TJ. I’ll be right back.” Elsa, looking at Tyler with the “don’t forget we are volunteering and working on this task” look, shook her head and kept raking a pile of leaves. Tyler, in somewhat sprinting mode, ran over to his car and grabbed his glove, TJ’s glove, and a few baseballs. Then, ran back over to the right field area just before the warning track dirt. “Here,” shouted Tyler as he first showed TJ his glove and then hucked it over to his son. “Are you thinking divers, Dad?” asked the adventurous TJ Abrams. “Yep!” answered Tyler Abrams, the kid at heart who was supposed to be cleaning up the outfield area of leaves. TJ backed up about 15 feet from the gigantic leaf pile he had created, got into a ready position, and focused his eyes on his Dad. Tyler lifted up a baseball over his head and held the baseball for a few seconds. Meanwhile, Elsa had crept up behind Tyler and got her camera phone ready to take a photo or video. “Go” yelled Tyler and released the baseball, hurling it towards the leaf pile. TJ turned and ran like the graceful outfielder he was, picked up a little speed, then dove for the baseball, catching it in mid air, then landing in the giant leaf pile. “Let’s go again!” yelled TJ as he threw the baseball over the fence, back to his overly excited Dad standing just outside the warning track area of the outfield. Tyler turned to his wife. “Did you get that on video? That was amazing!” Elsa, who was already walking back to work on the leaves responded “Yes, now can we get back to work now? Little leaguers of ages?” Tyler replied in a higher than normal pitch, “oh yeah, just a few tosses and we promise, right TJ?” “Right Dad, just a few tosses, Mom.”
Tyler and TJ were having a blast with this diving contest. TJ would back up a few more steps after each successful dive/catch to challenge himself. Tyler would yell out and egg on his son after each attempt and each catch. After about 10 throws, Tyler looked over at Elsa who was now holding a rake with one hand, and placed the other hand on her hip. She was not smiling, just staring. Tyler yelled over to TJ. “Ok one more throw and then back to work. Let’s make this one legendary.” TJ positioned himself about 40 feet from the pile. Tyler backed up to about the first base bag and wound up his arm – windmill style. He looked over at his son and yelled “Ready?” TJ nodded and yelled back, “Ready!” A small crowd of the other volunteers had gathered, all parents, and were eager to see this legendary event at their Fall Cleanup Day. Tyler reared back and just as he released the baseball yelled “Go!!!” TJ pivoted his right foot and got into a full sprint within the first few steps. The ball tumbled over the fence as TJ was approaching the launch area right before the leaf pile. When he was sure he was within its grasp, TJ lunged his body in a full out dive, caught the baseball, and then landed and skidded through the leaf pile and into the first section of woods behind the field. The small crowd “oohed” and “ahhhed” as Tyler yelled out for TJ. “Great catch TJ.” No response.
“TJ, are you okay?” yelled Elsa, then she and Tyler ran out of the baseball field and towards the leaf pile. The pile was indeed so large that TJ was actually hidden from sight. As Elsa and Tyler got around the pile, they noticed TJ sitting on the ground holding what appeared to be a trophy. “TJ, are you okay bud?” asked Tyler. “Yeah Dad, I hit something on the ground here. It looks like someone’s trophy. And look there. There is another trophy case with a signed baseball.” Tyler and Elsa took the trophy and the baseball case and walked TJ back over to the field. The crowd had gathered as well to see if TJ was ok. Understanding that he was, the crowd did a mock cheer before returning to their tasks on the two baseball fields. The Abrams did the same. Tyler put the two trophies on the bleachers outside the ball field, along with his glove, TJ’s glove, and the baseballs from the fielding adventure. Then, he picked up his leaf blower and began to move leaves towards his wife and son, who were once again picking them up and into the wheelbarrow.
To be continued…