The lost art of the pick-up game

Summertime always makes me a little bit sentimental.

As I get ready to turn the big 44 in a couple of months, reflecting on my boyhood days is not hard.

Of course, summer vacations were a lot longer back then, often running from the early part of June until Labor Day.

That left plenty of time for playing sports.

You name it, if it had a ball, and could be bounced or thrown, I had by hands on it.

I was not a great athlete, but that didn't matter.

In my backyard, I could hit the strike zone with the precision of Bob Gibson, sink a jump shot on the basket nailed to the top my garage like Dr. J or kick the soccer ball like Pele.

At the lake, I learned to water ski, and at the neighborhood pool, I cooled off on those hot and humid days by taking a dip.

In my neighborhood near Philadelphia we all played some kind of organized sport, but it was the pick-up games in the vacant lot that ruled the day.

It was almost as if a perfect baseball diamond had been laid out for us in our Shires' Crossing subdivision, and we took advantage of it, playing the game for hours-both boys and girls getting in on the fun.

There were no umpires and no adults to get in the way, and there didn't seem to be any arguments as each day we all played on our version of the sandlot.

The games would go on until one by one we were called home for dinner, then usually we would all trickle out after we ate and the game would magically get started again until dark.

I have often wondered if a new generation is making use of the baseball field in the old neighborhood.

It was truely a special time to be a kid.

There is nothing better than organized sports. One of my fondest memories was playing for a league soccer championship when I was in sixth grade.

My team, First Newtown Bank knocked off our biggest rivals George's Canoe Rental to take the league title.

I still remember how most of my friends were on the opposing team and how much I wanted to win the game.

Sitting through church the morning of the championship was not an easy thing to do as my mind drifted to from Rev. Creiman's sermon to the big game.

When we won, it created one of my fondest childhood memories.

Somewhere in a box in my parents basement is the trophy I won and even the uniform, a simple blue t-shirt with the name of the team on the front and the No. 28 on the back.

Playing organized sports helps teach a young person team work, and it should be something every child experiences as he grows up. However, it shouldn't dominate his life.

Those pick-up games in the backyard, where the score didn't matter, were just as important to me as any soccer game or basketball contest I played in.

But the pick-up game where kids are just having fun seems to be a lost art.

Maybe someday it will make a return visit and kids will create their own childhood memories like mine.

Doug Gorman is the sports editor of the Clayton News-Daily and Henry Daily Herald, He can be reached at dgorman@news-daily.com