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Nostalgia, Hope and The Return of Cape Cod Baseball

Photo by Norm Kenneally

IT’S OUTTA HERE!

I’ve photographed guys on the Chatham and Orleans teams before. On this night I went to Chatham first for photos. By the time I got to Orleans to catch Steve Selsky, from Long Beach State if I remember correctly—he was a center-fielder with a great arm and powerful hit—I had to park in a small lot over the left field fence. I was given a head’s up about balls, but I didn’t care because I was hurrying to get a picture of Steve at bat. I ended up behind the backstop with a pro scout for Atlanta. No surprise that Steve hit a homerun, as I watched the ball fly over the left field fence, I said to the scout, “My car is one of about twenty parked there.” I continued to take photos walking counter clockwise down the right field line, and then headed home past center field to the left parking lot. People who were watching the game were waiting to see WHOSE CAR! The next night I delivered a card for Steve to the locker room with the photo of his homerun swing and included a photo of my Tahoe window with a note, “Its already been replaced.” Steve later made it to the Red Sox, but after a season or so was released. ~ Norm Kenneally Contributing Photographer
Photo by Norm Kenneally

It’s true that my first summer on Cape Cod, when I went to the park, my grandma was back at home with my grandpa, dying a slow death from Alzheimer’s, and there was nothing we could do about it. I spent hundreds of hours at the field, running the radar gun stand and handing out tickets. When a little kid would come up with their mom, head into the batting cage, throw five tosses so slowly against the pad hanging from the net that the gun wouldn’t register it, I would smile with encouragement as I made up a speed: 10 miles per hour, 12, 13, always ending on the fastest one. During the later innings I would stand down the first base line, hear the crack of the wooden bat, a far better sound than metal, watch a ball fly out to right field and disappear into the trees. Inevitably a group of little kids would go sprinting out there and come back 10 minutes later, one of them holding the slightly lopsided baseball over their head. When I came home at night the three of us would eat dinner, and my grandfather would ask me all about my day as my grandma sat at the head of the table, humming. 

Nostalgia can make us complacent, can lead to disappointment, to detachment from the suffering around us. But nostalgia is also a type of hope, and as we come out of the darkest winter in recent memory, begin to look forward, we shouldn’t push it away. Just the other day I noticed the first bright green blades of grass peeking up through the dirt. The vaccine rollout is progressing, the Major League season is in full swing, and I’m starting to think there might be a time this summer when my girlfriend and I get to drive across the country, from our home in Colorado, see my folks for the first time in far too long, and head over to Hyannis to catch a game. I imagine we’ll be wearing masks, and social distancing, but the hot dogs will be a dollar and the tickets free, and we’ll watch some college kid, who might never play professionally but who for now is living the dream, walk up to home plate with his wooden bat, tap it against his cleats, and step into the box. 

Photo by Norm Kenneally

Evan Senie is a freelance journalist and creative nonfiction writer with an MFA from Colorado State University. Find him online at evansenie.com



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