My favorite baseball field in Baltimore City is located behind one of the worst high schools in the city. That's part of its charm, in fact. You go the long way down to the western parts of North Avenue, past some of the worst, most neglected parts of the city, all made worse because, if you squint, you can sort of see how these buildings used to look, before they were abandoned into squalor.
Then, you turn into this school parking lot that might as well be a prison. The building has no windows, and 12-foot fences that might as well have barbed wire on top. If there's an uglier school in Baltimore, I haven't seen it. And you feel depressed, as you walk through the parking lot and think about having to be a student who goes to a building that looks like this every day.
And then, you go through a small patch of woods, and there appears a baseball field. And once you're on the field, you can't even hear the city any more. The grass is mowed, but, charmingly, little dandelions are sprouting everywhere. Mostly, though, you notice the quiet. Something about the field, and its location at a bottom of a forested hill, just dampens all the noise from the city. It's really beautiful. A bit of shade, woods all around, and only the sound of the bat hitting the ball. It's stunning, even.
Adding to the effect of this tiny little piece of tranquility in the middle of one of the worst parts of the city was seeing my first dead body on the way there. Near a shopping center on the way, our yellow bus was guided to the side by sirens behind us; a kid noticed a man lying on his back in a parking lot. We all peered out, and it was pretty clear what we were seeing: an old man, his arm twisted up in apparent rigor mortis, laying dead. One police officer had arrived, and the ambulance that was guiding us away was the first medical unit to arrive.
60 seconds later, we were pulling into the school. As we descended the hill to the field, the sound from the sirens became dimmer and dimmer, until we couldn't hear anything at all but ourselves.
We won big, and it almost ruined it - an ugly game, with lots of walks, to the point where we had to run into outs. But it was fun for the first half, at least.
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