It was the summer of 1964 in Upstate New York, and the dirt balls were flying.
Not only dirt balls, but stones and anything that a small, young hand could be wrapped around and flung at a target some distance away.
I was 7 years old, living in my parents’ first house in Endwell, a town filled primarily with employees of nearby IBM. My father had just taken on the ambitious task of putting in an entire new lawn on the half-acre property — a yard that, to me, looked more like an entire football field.
When the dump trucks filled with dirt began arriving at our house, I suddenly felt like I’d been turned loose in a candy store with an unending pocket full of pennies. In those piles of dirt were more dirt balls than a kid could possibly hope for.
With school out for the summer and my dad still putting in time at work during the day, I was given a playground of opportunities in my own yard. For the next few days, I flung dirt balls at trees, fence posts, stop signs, telephone poles and just about anything else that was stationary.
Got pretty good at it, too.
But each day, my father would come home and see all the results of my dirt ball bombs scattered all around the yard — the neighborhood, really — and admonish me. Each time, the potential punishment grew worse. Finally, as Saturday loomed, he asked me why I continued to throw dirt balls.
“I want to be a Yankee,” I blurted out.
You see, those were the days of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and Whitey Ford and Mel Allen and Mel Stottlemyer and Tom Tresh and Manager Yogi Berra. They were my team.
It was also the year I started to hear about a young guy by the name of Bobby Murcer, who soon became my favorite Yankees player.
Fifty-four years later, there is another young guy who has his sights set on the Yankees’ major-league roster — Sincere “Skippy” Smith, a three-sport star at East Bladen High, who was recently drafted in the 32nd round by the most celebrated franchise in all of professional sports.
I’m sure he’s tossed a few dirt balls.
Skippy, who will graduate Saturday morning, has shown he has the talent, but that’s merely the tip of the iceberg. His road ahead will need to be filled with hard work, determination, support and prayer. Even with all that, there will be successes and failures along the way.
I’m excited for his opportunity.
Even after all my dirt ball flinging, the closest I came to being a Yankee was when I was born above the Mason-Dixon line.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or email@example.com.