Ballparks aren’t what they used to be

Published 7:09 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The kids playing on the fields at Sports Force on the Mississippi are getting spoiled.

I remember back in my early years when I played baseball and softball we never had synthetic turf to play on. Astroturf was just beginning to make its way into the sports arenas, and only the rich — like the Astros and other pro teams. For the rest of us peasants, it was grass and dirt. I still have scars on my knees from sliding on the infield gravel.

During the summers of my teen and pre-teen years, I played softball in the Baton Rouge Recreation and Parks softball leagues. At the time, Baton Rouge did not have the facilities it has now, and more often than not, games were played on a diamond at an elementary or junior high school. If we were lucky, we would get to play a Howell Park or Perkins Road Park, which had softball fields. Actually, each park had one softball field; American Legion baseball was king in Baton Rouge, and they baseball diamonds were well kept and looked like palaces to what the softball teams were playing on.

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If I remember correctly, most of my team’s games were played at Bernard Terrace Elementary School and Broadmoor Junior High School. Broadmoor was the least desirable, especially if you played outfield. The rear yards of several homes backed up on the ball field, and each one had a dog. When you played outfield, you prayed that no one would hit a long ball into one of those yards. Of course, if you played a night game, you couldn’t see the ball anyway, because all the field lights were focused on the infield.

The Platters’ song “Twilight Time” had a whole different meaning if you played outfield at Broadmoor Junior.

The lights at Perkins Road Park were no better; neither were they at Bernard Terrace, but then neither park bordered on backyards with dogs.

If you wanted to have a pickup baseball or softball game with friends, the pickings were just as slim. When I was in the eighth grade, a group of us would hop on bikes and travel to a small intramural field at LSU in the shadow of the old Alex Box Stadium for a Saturday afternoon game. The field’s backstop had holes, which meant a trip into the brush and weeds to get passed balls, but overall it was a nice field to play.

Until that day.

One Saturday, one of our regular need to call one of his parents to come get him; that was back in the day when you used pay phones. We walked around “The Box” looking for a phone. What we found was a hole in the fence, and we snuck on the field. We were in heaven. The grass was clipped and the base paths smooth. We played for a few minutes then left, but the memory has remained.

Yep, those kids playing off Fisher Ferry are getting spoiled.

But I wouldn’t give up my memories of “suffering” for anything.

John Surratt is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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