Friday, September 24, 2010

Reflections on Evans Field

For those not familiar with this small field in the center of my hometown, it has been in the news lately as the school district decides it's place in the athletic future of Canandaigua Academy....

     Fort Hill Avenue in Canandaigua NY was a great place to grow up.  My mother never drove when we were younger, so it was conveniently central to many places that were within walking distance. The list included St. Mary's School and Church, Canandaigua Academy, Papa Franks, Sonnenberg Park and Gardens, Downtown Cdga, and a whole host of others.  Back in the day, we could walk a lot of places, untethered, without cell phones or tracking devices, and we did.  The shortest place we walked to, however, was kitty corner across Fort Hill and was called Evans Field.

     The field consisted of a baseball diamond on one side, and a football field and a running track on the other side.  The path that we took into it, bisected them.  A sloped hill on the west side became a sledding hill in the winter and a popular perch during the football season.  The field itself was surrounded by houses, with fans that would host parties in their yards during the games, and on the south side stood an an older barn colorfully inscribed with well wishes to the  Canandaigua Braves.  In all my travels, I've never really seen a field like this, one so humble to look upon, but so grandiose during the athletic events played there.  It is truly one of a kind.

     I am sure that any football player that played on Evans Field, could write and talk about the place much more eloquently and emotionally than I can.  I never had the chance to don the Cherry and Gray, because my mother didn't let us play football after my older brother had suffered an injury doing it.  My perspective therefore has to be one of a Braves wannabee.  Statistically this should help me connect with the readers, as there are significantly more of us wannabees than actual football players.  Even without that experience, Evans Field and I had a history and these are my reflections of it.

     I walked on Evans Field almost daily.  I worked during high school at Papa Franks and the quickest way there was to cut across the field.  Each day heading to work and each night coming home, my feet would travel the same path as some the the legendary players at CA had and would travel.  As a wannabee, frequently I would run a pattern and imagine a perfect spiral placed right before me, and the inevitable touchdown that I would score after the reception.  My brothers, some sisters, and neighborhood kids would actually play football some afternoons on the Pleasant Street side of the field, but as the youngest of the group, I rarely distinguished myself in the plays, although I was pretty quick.  At one point one of my dreams of greatness intersected with Evans Field.  I had saved the extra rubber bands from my paper route and inter-connected them and made a big rubber band ball.  It weighed close to 10lbs and one day I spent the majority of the day unraveling it back and forth between the goal posts at Evans Field.  It easily went back and forth 20 times, and I was sure a Guinness Book record was in my future, until I actually looked up the record.  I wasn't really as close as I had thought.  Pictured here is the current record holder for those interested.

     I heard the sounds of Evans Field.  On game days, even if I couldn't go, (you see, back then kids were grounded, or had chores, so they sometimes had to miss events, oh the horror!) I could always tell how the Braves were doing based on the fan noise.  I could hear the crack of the bats, the announcements, the whistles, the cheerleaders cheers, the starter's pistols, the football players calls and grunts, and each one I can still hear clearly now. 

     I smelled the smells of Evans Field.  The Quonset hut that held all the equipment smelled of mildew and the sweat of generations of players that used the pads and equipment in it.  The concession stand smelled of the caramelized  sugars from the hot dogs on the grill.  The smell of thick coke syrup was prevalent there too, and your biggest worry wasn't the calories from the drink but the fear of ingesting an ever present bee from the paper cups.  I swear the grass on Evans field even had it's own unique scent apart from every other fresh cut lawn I have smelled.  Maybe it was the mixture of the paint or chalk lines added to it, but I can smell it right now.

     I spilled my blood on Evans Field.  Each winter we would sled on the hill and play King of the Mountain on it. One day, defending my position at the top of the hill, I leaped over my brother, and forgot to put my hands out to lessen the impact of the fall.  I fell face first on the icy hill and my top teeth and bottom teeth connected and severed my lower gum, clean through.  I absolutely gushed blood (as head wounds tend to do). My older brother scooped me up into his arms and he ran me clear back to the house, and behind him left a significant trail of my blood showing the path we had taken.  It is one of the few scars I have from childhood that still remain, and I earned it on Evans Field.

    I vandalized Evans Field.  On another day, we were flying kites there and we got hung up on the large scoreboard on the west side of the field. While throwing rocks at the scoreboard, we accidentally broke some bulbs on the board.  We liked the cool sound so much, my 2 brothers and I spent the next 10 minutes breaking many more of them.   Honestly until the police came and scooped us up, I don't think any of us realized that we were vandalizing the board.  We were run downtown, given a stern lecture, released to tell our father what we did (the worst part of the punishment), and made to pay restitution.  It was the last thing that I ever vandalized. 

     I rode in a Homecoming parade to Evans Field.  In my junior year, I was elected Class King for Homecoming.  I honestly don't know if it was a lark on behalf of my peers, or if I had started to gain some popularity at that point. That's the funniest thing about High School, is that you are never truly aware or comfortable in your social position while you are attending.  If it was a joke, the punchline was that I got to ride in a parade with one of the sweetest and prettiest girls that CA has ever produced (shout out to Stephanie Leuzze).  It was hard, but I mustered through.   I do miss the tradition of float building and homecoming parades.  Gathering in a barn to create the floats certainly does a lot to instill school spirit and pride. Sadly, my kid's school doesn't have this as a tradition.

     So my reflections on Evans Field contain sights, and sounds, and smells and memories, and a possible world record, and I never played a sport on the field once in my high school career.  It does make me ponder, that if I never did, and I love that place so much, how do the athletes, and parents of athletes that did feel?  Save Evans Field.

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