Civilization has swallowed up my field of dreams

LAFAYETTE, LA.—The excheerleader and I spent last week meandering through Louisiana, stopping to visit some of the places I hung out when I was a kid and lived in Lafayette for 10 years.

Despite eating ourselves into Cajun food oblivion, we were able to walk upright and actually function as human beings.

And, if I threw a pitch or caught a ball or shot a basket anywhere in Lafayette, we paid a visit.

(That is after getting over our disappointment of not being able to get tickets to see Justin Bieber, who was performing at the Cajundome Saturday night).

I dragged this poor girl all over town on my glory days tour. You know, the older I get, the better I was.

The journey began by seeking out all the schools I attended, which I was surprised to see were still standing since it has been 40 years since I darkened their doorways and they were ancient when I went.

Venerable old Broussard Elementary was still upright but had been converted into a detective training center.

As I strolled the playground, I recalled scampering around the grass without a care in the world. I saw the monkey bars where I broke my arm in the second grade.

Plantation Elementary was still hanging in there and is where we held Little League practices for many years when I played for Holiday Park, Leonpacher Engineers and Prof Ernie.

Went by St. Pius church where we had football practices when I played quarterback for the green and white Guaranty Bank team. We were city champs in 1971.

St. Pius also sponsored us in baseball for a couple of years.

Spacious and picturesque Girard Park was in the heart of Lafayette and if you played Little League baseball or were looking for the best pickup basketball games in the city, it was the place to be.

The city pool was in Girard Park and is where I took swimming lessons.

The field where the Babe Ruth League played (the oldest players) was still there, but looked like it hadn’t been used in a while.

I scored the winning run in the league championship game there once and while circling back to the dugout, an opposing parent threw a cup of beer on me.

We noticed there was an old rusty McDonald’s sign stuck in the ground across the street and I distinctly recall that particular McDonald’s because it was the very first in Lafayette and it was such a big deal.

Burger Chef was the big hamburger joint in town. Well, the McDonald’s was gone.

When we finally found my old neighborhood, much to my sadness, our sandlot baseball field (which also served as a football field in the winter) had been swallowed up by civilization.

It’s where we learned how to play. My brother Timmy was my catcher. Dale Gautreaux, Keith Signorelli, Gary Faulk, Marcus Delahousey, Mark Guillote were also on the roster.

We played hundreds of games a year on that field (alongside our regular Little League teams) against other sandlot teams from all over Lafayette.

My dad, along with the other fathers in the neighborhood, made sure the field was kept up as good, if not better, than any city field. There was a backstop. It was dragged, it was mowed.

Now, it’s covered up by an oil field company warehouse and four brand new houses.

But when I look into that corner of the neighborhood, I don’t see buildings. I see my brother squatting behind the plate in mask and equipment way t0o big for him.

I see Keith Signorelli swatting another home run.

I see my past.

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2010-08-05 digital edition

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