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Goodbye to Tigard's 'Field of Dreams'

Jon Schoblaske is a Tigard resident.

It took almost 18 years to draw me in. The presence of a 4-foot cyclone fence set approximately 100 feet from a home plate and placed on a semi-maintained baseball diamond was the attraction. Hitting wiffle balls over that fence was the challenge. Just as hitting self-tossed wiffle balls from my childhood driveway, through the elm tree and over the old telephone and electrical wires was a challenge for me in the ’60s while growing up in Wisconsin. These are the kinds of things that kids with much older siblings once did to keep busy before the teen years set in.

When I moved to Tigard in 1994 with my young family of five, the small baseball diamond on the corner of Johnson and Grant was often used by Cub Scouts and t-ball teams, and I didn’t give much thought to the fun I could have on it. When it became apparent last summer that the field would be replaced with the new St. Anthony Parish Community Center, I decided to make the most of its remaining months of existence. So I bought some plastic baseballs at a local sporting goods store, resurrected my son’s 28-inch/20-ounce Louisville Slugger aluminum Little League bat from 10 years of hibernation and proceeded to re-live my youth. Aside from an appearance as a contestant on the short-lived ESPN game show "The Dream League" in the summer of 1993 (where I hit a pitched squish ball over a 15-foot barrier to win the day’s grand prize for my team), I hadn’t had that much fun playing sports in a long time. Youth certainly cannot be repeated, but it sure is invigorating to revisit every once in awhile.

With fewer kids currently playing baseball, I often found no one around and got a kick out of watching passers-by cast their glances at me over the past year. Many runners and walkers on their way to the Fanno Creek Trail venture down Johnson Street on weekend days and fall/spring/summer evenings. They, along with the people on bikes and in various vehicles, would stare and probably wonder what this crazy middle-age guy was doing throwing balls up in the air and hitting them, retrieving and then doing the same thing over again. One time, I got in a groove and hit six in a row over the fence. Other times it took me a dozen swings before I got one over. It really became a challenge when a stiff wind was blowing in from the south. That’s when hitting home runs over that cyclone was more difficult but added to the overall enjoyment. A parking lot was positioned about 20 feet beyond the fence, so I always made sure no cars were reachable while I was doing my thing. Once, I found a true hardball and for the heck of it hit it toward the fence. When it landed halfway to the church, I realized my policy was a good one.

With the change of seasons, came a variety of visitors and events. Judging from things left behind, I noticed the field had been visited by golfers, soccer players and groups of geese and ducks. The chill of winter took a toll on my plastic baseballs, and I had to buy another bag. Spring brought out an Easter egg hunt along with a t-ball team who used the field for practice and even weeded the base paths so they could have a true diamond experience.

The people I came in contact with over the past year were also part of the experience. There were the neighbors who ventured out on various journeys for groceries, coffee or burgers. Some would pick up my home run balls and toss them back into the field. Also, a couple of the male residents of the retirement community on Grant Street would come by and do the same. On one occasion, a local homeless guy came by. He recognized me, retrieved the balls I hit onto the parking lot and commented that I was making too much work for myself. But I told him that was all part of the adventure.

On the Monday after Father’s Day, the construction fences went up and the baseball field with the short fence officially began the process of being transformed into a building. I had an enjoyable year of fun on it. My most memorable moment occurred the previous Wednesday when I showed up an hour before sunset and met a dad from the neighborhood and his two young elementary-age boys. Dad was playing pitcher while the boys hit. After telling them about the impending fate of the field, I asked the dad if he wanted to hit a few of my plastic baseballs over the cyclone fence. He obliged and then allowed me to step in to do the same. Before my last blast, one of the boys positioned himself on first base and turned it into a two-run home run. We both circled the bases, smiled and high fived at home plate.

Through a lifetime of hitting solo home runs with plastic baseballs and squishy softballs, that shot over the cyclone fence with another player on base was a wonderful way for me to draw the curtain on my own little Field of Dreams in Tigard.

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