Learning about another family planning to move out of Forest Park this summer, my friend recently said, “you have to be tough to be a Forest Parker.”
It has really resonated with me. Made a list tonight, of 30 families (often with multiple kids) about my kid’s ages, who I really liked and respected, who moved out of town in the past seven years. That’s 30 families who I met from Little League, soccer, South PTO, from Betsy Ross events, Field Stevenson Events, Middle School Events and Cub Scouts.
Every family on that list, helped us build our community in different ways, sometimes big and sometimes little, but each family we lost was chasing a hope of something better, and I sincerely wished them the best.
So, this weekend while I stood on the sidelines of the home opening baseball game at Proviso East, right on the bank of the Des Plaines River, with hawks circling, a heron flying, and a small pile of deer scat in the outfield, standing on the farthest field from the corner of 1st and Washington Blvd, was something special for me. The once mighty Melrose Park kids we would face on Ruby Field are on the same team as my son, as our young freshmen and sophomore Pirates faced the Knights of North Ridge.
Many battles took place on Ruby Field, in Melrose Park, located just north of North Ave. and west of Winston Plaza. Forest Park kids would prepare for these games, a day coaches would advise kids to avoid the Forest Park pool (which would drain their energy), the only game scheduled on a turf field within the district with a memorable high pitching mound, Ruby was undeterred by the weather, this field gave every advantage to Melrose Park. While I remember the many losses, Henry only remembers the single victory, the night he got a ball in the eye from a practice throw gone awry. It was at this field; our Forest Park chant may have been born.
“Forest Park Cemetery.
This is where you will be buried.
But on this Saturday afternoon, at the historic Proviso High School, we were not the only Forest Park Little League family who had graduated from working the dugout on Harrison to meet on the nature-kissed field next to the 68,000 acres of Cook County Forest Preserve, just a few miles up the river from Marquette and Joliet’s voyage to the Pacific.
On this afternoon, there was a former Forest Park family there, with a son, now a sophomore, in a Knight uniform, who played catcher, just like he did back on our Dowd Field many years before.
In a twist of fate, Henry, my son, had to face the former teammate on the mound, wearing his new Pirate uniform. Henry never was able to master the art of pitching in Forest Park, there was no need, as the depth of talent on the mound from our home town was impressive. Those Forest Park boys are now at Fenwick, Riverside-Brookfield, Guerin Prep, Nazareth, St. Pat’s, OPRF and scattered among the suburbs and Chicago, but none of them are at Proviso.
Henry, the lone Forest Parker, is a pitcher by necessity. He pushed the count and with grace, delivered the strike out, as he defended his Proviso honor. He let up a few runs, in his debut inning plus, but this young Pirate team, filled with talent from Melrose Park, Maywood and Broadview, together scratched a victory, 13-9, showing the new brotherhood of Pirates, which includes, this year, one Forest Parker.
While victories on the East baseball diamond might be few, I will relish this one, even if it was only the freshmen- sophomore game, for a few more days. Just like all my friends who have moved away, I want to have nothing but the best for my children, but the best for my family is here, at this moment, right now.