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MODERNERA BALLPARK TOUR INSPIRATION by www.modernerabaseball.com

For many, a ballpark tour is a lifelong dream. Dreams of watching baseball's best in the game's grandest cathedrals remain until the dream has become reality, as do memories of your first catch - or big hit.

Need a little inspiration to plan your ballpark tour? Remember the infamous Les Nesman "outfield scene" from the television series "WKRP in Cincinnati"? Well, let one of our troops explain.

I remember it like it was yesterdayÖ

Arenít these kind of stories supposed to start out that way? But truth is, the memory is still as fresh as the day it happened: My first catch.

Mom never seemed to have much time for herself while my brother and I grew up. The summer I started playing T-ball was no different. Between working at a few jobs and taking us to our various practices, games and other events, I donít think she got much rest, unless you count sitting in her lawn chair watching her youngest learning the sport of baseball.

I remember my glove: A hand-me-down Wilson with the name ďVida BlueĒ etched on the thumb (I had no idea who Vida was at the time).

I remember I hated the baby-blue uniform because I wanted to wear red, or at least navy blue, the same color as the Detroit Tigers.

That day started like any other early summer day in Southern Michigan: cool in the morning and blazing by afternoon. Mom loaded us into the car and we headed to Frost Elementary School, near the world famous Cascades Falls Park.

I was a timid kid and didnít put up much fuss when they stuck me out in left field. As I recall, I was pretty bored just standing out there on the school lawn, studying Vidaís signature and waiting for the third out so I could go back in and sit down.

Then it happened: An older kid stepped up to the plate. He took a mighty swing, undercutting the black plastic tee and knocking the ball to the ground. Strike one. Then another lumberjack chop caught the ball dead-on, and it flew up into the cumulus clouds above my head. I lost sight of it for a second, and thought maybe he had popped it up. Then I saw it, coming right at me. I stuck up my Vida Blue, making sure my right hand waited next to it like they had taught me. Then the jolt of leather meeting leather - and I had it.

Iím sure no one was as surprised as I was. I heard the other teamís coach actually swear before he remembered where he was. I stood, stunned for a moment, until my coach clapped, and then the crowd clapped, and he told me to throw the ball into third base. (Later, he walked over to tell me I had secured my starting left field position for the rest of the season).

Mom, of course, was proud. And my older brother could have cared less, Iím sure. But the memory of that catch stayed with me through T-ball, little league and into high school. We can never duplicate a first time, no matter how we may try, but the memory will last for the rest of our lives.

Brian Converse still hasn't learned. He's still rooting for the hapless Tigers. Comic book fan? Visit Brian's Web site, www.stonesoldiers.com: It's cool!

Copyright 2002