It’s a good thing I’d already turned in the manuscript of Die Like an Eagle last year. Because if I’d still been working on it this weekend, I’d have been tempted to steal from John Grisham.
Not his words, mind you, lovely though they are. His ball park.
This past weekend, I went down to Charlottesville with my nephew’s 12U baseball travel team. Actually, though we stayed at a hotel in Charlottesville, we played in Cove Creek Park, a youth sports complex built by John Grisham.
Since we don’t quite move in the same social circles, I hadn’t previously realized that Grisham was a baseball fan. Had aspirations—sadly unfulfilled—of playing ball himself. Is a big supporter of the sports program at the University of Virginia—my alma mater—where his son, Ty, played on the baseball team from 2001 to 2004.
Actually, he built seven, in various sizes, ranging from a t-ball field to fields sized for 14- and 15-year-old baseball and softball players. And he didn't stop with the fields--he built the whole support system around them.
More than one parent commented that it was among the nicest tournament facilities we’d ever played in. Possibly the nicest.
The fields were beautifully maintained, and we understand that they have the same kind of expensive underground drainage systems major leagues use to make the fields playable as soon as possible after a rain.
But perhaps more important was the great attention given to the comfort and safety of the players and spectators. Well-designed dugouts that give plenty of shade for the players. A nice high backstop to reduce the number of fouls that target the spectators like heat-seeking missiles. Lots of canopies to provide shade for the spectators and for teams and families that are taking a break between games. Real flush toilets. A splendid snack shack. A playground for the kids. A whiffleball field where the nephew’s team played a lively game to take the sting out of their defeat—at the hands of the team that won the tournament, I’ll have you know.
It’s just the sort of wonderful ball field that my fictional town of Caerphilly doesn’t have.
I’d already seen two kids miss balls that had taken bad hops, thanks to the extraordinary number of bumps, dents, divots, hillocks, tussocks, molehills, and patches of tall dead weeds afflicting the field. And was it just the angle I was viewing it from, or was second base a good foot too far to the left?
It’s not just the field. The bleachers are falling apart. The dugouts are falling apart, so perhaps it’s a good thing they have no roofs. And there are no real toilets. Only portapotties. Don’t get me started about portapotties.
Of course, since Meg’s twin sons are now playing baseball, she’s taking an interest in the condition of the ball field—and if you think they’ll be allowed to stay in the hideous condition in which she first finds them . . . you don’t know Meg. But first she has to deal with Biff, the petty tyrant who’s running the league. It’s his construction company that’s supposed to be keeping the Caerphilly ball fields in shape—and unfortunately, in Meg’s new job as Special Assistant to the Mayor, she’s also supposed to be getting Biff to complete a construction project for Caerphilly—renovating the town square, also afflicted with more than its fair share of mounds, dents, and weeds.
Meg makes progress during the course of the book, and since the boys, at seven or eight, are only at the beginning of their baseball careers, I’m sure she’ll have plenty of opportunities to work on improving Caerphilly’s baseball facilities. I may have to revisit that field when Meg’s had a few years to improve them.
Want to know what they’ll look like when she’s finished? Go visit Cove Creek Park. And you’ll understand why this morning I’m feeling particularly fond of John Grisham.