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  • Dale Bowman

Jack Kaiser, infields & things pissing me off: Ramble with the Lady

Heavy equipment was at the ballfield on the edge of town. The dirt had been stripped down and piled between second base and the pitcher's mound.

I was surprised to see the pitcher's mound--BTW, the pitcher's mound is not ``the bump,'' avoid cliches in general, but especially stupid ones like ``the bump''--was still piled up in the middle of the infield.

My guess is the mound is a different type of material than the rest of the infield.

And I thought of the late Jack Kaiser, and what turned out to be a formulative moment in my writing and reporting career.

The Hall-of-Famer was baseball coach at Oak Park-River Forest for something like four decades.

Back in the mid-1980s I was starting my writing career and was covering high school sports for Lerner Newspapers and my main beat was the near-western suburbs with four schools--Leyden, Elmwood Park, Holy Cross and Ridgewood.

Leyden usually ended up meeting Oak Park in the regionals in baseball. I was out there one late May when rain delayed the start. Rather than driving back home to Chicago's North Side (this was before texting, Facebook and Twitter), I decided to sit it out.

When the rain stopped Kaiser began spreading drying agents on the wettest spots. And we got to talking about drying agents for ballfields. My dad worked many years in limestone quarries out east and one of the main products they handled was ag lime.

But Kaiser said what was used on ballfields came from a specific spot in New Jersey.

Part of me admired an old famed coach who still loved to work the basics of his job. It is something that I hope I incorporated into my life and career.

It also taught me that the people I was covering were also people with hopes, dreams, likes, failings and skills like all of us have.

Something sabermetricians would do well to incorporate into their thinking.

But I digress.

The geese families were scattered over both old clay pits this morning. And I was truly stunned at just how big the goslings were.

A big fish crashed the surface and disappeared before I had a good look in the middle of the north pit.

Then bam, one of those things that just piss me off no end.

As we crossed the bridge over the neckdown between the two pits, I saw trash strewn in a line. And it was the kind of trash only fishermen make: a blue plastic container for red worms, a white styrofoam box for night crawlers and a small plastic bag for split shot.

That is not trash from picnickers. It is not trash from couples sneaking off for some natural lovemaking. No, that is trash from my people, fishermen.

It just irks me no end.

How damm hard is it to pick it up and take it home or even throw it in the trash can on the other side of the bridge.

But that was just the small end of things that pissed me off this morning.

As we came around the south end of the south pit, bam, there was a big hunking sofa dumped in the brush.

You mean to tell me that you went to all the trouble of lugging a sofa out to the town pond and dumping it there in a wild spot and could not find the energy to just leave it for the trash guys or have somebody pick it up.

Arghh.

Invasive bush honeysuckle nearly made the trail, formerly a side rail, above the south pit, unwalkable. Apparently all this rain suits it.

Back on the edge of town, half a dozen mourning doves whistle-fluttered from picking grit by the gravel area by the grain elevators. (Hello, Charles Demuth?)

A new dog, or at least one I had not seen before, gave us a barking hello as we passed down the alley by the bus barn.

Lady flushed a gray squirrel up the neighbor's oak. Three doves whistle-fluttered off our porch from the below the feeders.

And we wait the latest round of heavy rain tonight.

Glad I had a ramble beforehand.

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