I had forgotten how weird Roslindale is after holing myself in my apartment all winter. There’s the homeless guy who rides my bus and yells loudly about being a veteran. There are the drug dealers next door who were arrested in connection with a shooting. There’s the Village Market, which we like to call the Village Idiot, where you can shop if you specifically need Sun Chips but not crackers, or bulk nuts that may or may not have maggots crawling around in them. There’s Stanley the Corgi who frequents the park so that his owners can stage elaborate photo shoots with him (and who once got peed on by none other than Murray).
But by far the weirdest of all is a group of guys who I fondly refer to as the Sandlot Gang. We have a baseball field right next to our house that serves as a sort of all-purpose community meeting place. Most summer evenings, we’d walk down at night to watch club baseball games. In the winter, families used a large hill leading to the field for sledding and snowman-making. It’s also an informal dog park (hence the Stanley incident). And when the weather is nice, you’ll see people out there playing catch or picnicking.
The most dedicated park-goers of all are the members of the Sandlot Gang. They are three men who are, by my estimation, in their mid-40s. I see them just about every afternoon and weekend that I take Murray to the park. Their presence is notable because they play the most intense games of Wiffle ball I’ve ever seen. And they like to pretend to be announcers for their own games. And they keep score. On my most recent trip to the park, I heard the catcher calling out the count, while the pitcher threw the ball to the batter, who was standing approximately 4 feet away from him. “That’s a single to right field! Did you feel the breeze on that pitch? It was going at least 60! We’ve got men on first and third, 2 outs. Whoa, here comes some nasty wind! This could be a total game-changer right here!” The first time I saw them, I thought maybe it was a father-son trio who were re-living the olden days. Or that one of them maybe had an intellectual or developmental disability. But as I’ve gotten to know them (through careful stalking), I’ve come to the realization that they’re actually just three grown men who really, really enjoy playing Wiffle ball together.
While at first glance, this seems to be a slightly odd interest – there is not a lot of skill or exercise involved – it’s also strikingly sweet. Instead of getting home from work and sitting in front of the TV, they hit the ballpark with the same dedication as a group of 12-year-olds hoping to make it to the big leagues. Maybe they’re reliving the glory days, when they ran around with their neighborhood gang on hot summer nights, playing night games under the glow of July 4th fireworks. Or maybe they’re just super weird.
“It’s such a beautiful day,” I commented to Murray as I left the park, watching the Sandlot Gang with both awe and judgment. “Maybe we’ll be able to eat dinner on the porch.” After I realized that I was talking to my dog again, I decided that we probably all have a little bit of weird in us.