We met at Fletcher Field on Wednesday for a reconnaissance mission — a look-and-see what needs to be done before the annual spring cleanup at the park, which takes place Saturday (10 a.m. sharp for those who want to help).
I arrived about 5:45 p.m., 20 minutes ahead of most of the rest of the group. What I saw immediately made me smile. There were a half-dozen young kids in the playground area and two teenagers on the basketball court.
I waved to them all as I got out of my car on Mt. Olivet Street and then proceeded to the game of one-on-one to inspect what another brutal winter had done to the asphalt court. The court looked bad, as if Thor had slammed his hammer into the center of it, causing 3-inch fractures near the impact point and slightly smaller ones spidering out from there.
I questioned the teens about the court conditions, if they had twisted an ankle or two, or were close to abandoning it because of its deterioration.
“Nah,” said one of them. “It’s cool. It improves our skills. If we can play here, we can play anywhere.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
When I was a kid and the ball diamonds were packed at Fletcher — which was most of the time — we moved our games to the fat alley between Nuernberg and Dobel, the mouth of it opening wide onto Gilbo. Like the basketball court is at Fletcher today, the surface of the alley was less than ideal: jagged rocks, pebbles and grimy gray dust.
Despite a summerful of skinned hands and knees, it was said back then that if you could play shortstop in the fat alley, you could play it anywhere.
East-siders have and always will be tough as nails, and will make the most out of whatever life gives them.