STICKBALL

My favorite baseball variant was stickball. Here’s the version we played. You found a suitable schoolyard wall. You drew a batter’s box on the wall. You marked off a distance from the pitcher to the batter, measured so that the pitcher had a reasonable advantage, more closely resembling what we imagined to be a major league batting situation. The pitcher threw a tennis ball. The batter used a broomstick, although by the mid-1960’s you could buy manufactured stick ball bats. The game was best played as a 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 matchup.

Depending on who you played with and where you played, there were different rules for hits and outs. Typically a ground ball hit past the pitcher was a single. A hard ground ball fielded cleanly by the pitcher was an out (a double play if hard hit with men in base). Fly balls caught by the outfielder were outs.

The most intriguing aspect of the game was delineating the foul lines and the extra-base hit boundaries. We searched for schoolyards that were appropriately scaled. The ideal schoolyard had a tall fence or wall in the outfield, simulating the grandeur of hitting a home run out of the ball park. Every schoolyard had unique dimensionality and boundaries which in turn determined the rules of the game.

Stickball wasn’t as benign as softball, but less dangerous than hardball. Some kids could throw the ball with blinding speed, and if it hit you, it hurt! There was a dose of fear when facing a fastball pitcher. To be a good hitter you had to overcome that fear.  My strengths in stickball (and in every athletic endeavor) were good eye-hand coordination and excellent game playing intelligence. I could always read situations well and then figure out with my totally average running, speed, strength, and quickness, how to accomplish what I was most capable of achieving.  I was a contact hitter with modest power. As a pitcher I had sneaky side-arm speed, good control, a slow curve, an ability to assess my opponents strengths and weaknesses, the foresight to change speed and location and to never throw the ball right over the plate. 

When I was in high school I used to love to get in the car with three other friends, drive to a schoolyard (I especially liked number 3 school in Cedarhurst) and play stickball. Number 3 had perfect dimensions—a high fence, a reasonable distance from home plate to the fence, all neatly framed by a peaceful, tree-lined street. There were fences all around the yard so you’d never have to go to far to retrieve a ball unless you hit a home run in which case you didn’t care. We literally played inside a cage yet we felt incredibly free.

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Mitch Thomashow

Thomashow devotes his life and work to promoting ecological awareness, sustainable living, creative learning, improvisational thinking, social networking, and organizational excellence. Currently he is engaged in teaching, writing, and executive consulting, cultivating opportunities and exchanges that transform how people engage with sustainability and ecological learning. In August, 2011 Thomashow became Director of the Second Nature Presidential Fellows Program. This new program is designed to assist the executive leadership of colleges and universities in promoting a comprehensive sustainability agenda on their campuses. Fellows provide executive consulting on climate action planning, long-range financial planning, organizational leadership, curricular implementation, and community investment. From 2006-2011, Thomashow was the president of Unity College in Maine. With his management team, he integrated concepts of ecology, sustainability, natural history, wellness, participatory governance, and community service into all aspects of college and community life. This included construction of The Unity House, the first LEED Platinum President’s Residence in North America, and the TeraHaus, a passive house student residence, as well as comprehensive campus energy planning, an integrated approach to growing food on campus, and a new academic master plan. Previously from 1976-2006, Thomashow was the Chair of the Environmental Studies program at Antioch University New England. He founded an interdisciplinary environmental studies doctoral program and worked collaboratively to grow and nourish a suite of engaging Masters programs, geared to working adults. Thomashow is the founder of Whole Terrain, an environmental literary publication, originating at Antioch University New England, and “Hawk and Handsaw,” a journal of creative sustainability, published at Unity College. He serves on the boards of Orion Magazine and The Coalition on Environmental and Jewish Life (COEJL). Thomashow is a founding organizer of the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD), a national organization that supports interdisciplinary environmental studies in higher education. He provides ongoing consultation to the Sustainable Endowments Institute and their new Billion Dollar Green Challenge program. His two books have significantly influenced environmental studies education. Ecological Identity: Becoming a Reflective Environmentalist (The MIT Press, 1995) offers an approach to teaching environmental education based on reflective practice—a guide to teachers, educators and concerned citizens that incorporates issues of citizenship, ecological identity, and civic responsibility within the framework of environmental studies. Bringing the Biosphere Home, (The MIT Press, 2001) is a guide for learning how to perceive global environmental change. It shows readers that through a blend of local natural history observations, global change science, the use of imagination and memory, and philosophical contemplation, you can learn how to broaden your spatial and temporal view so that it encompasses the entire biosphere. His essay (2010), “The Gaian Generation: A New Approach to Environmental Learning” provides provocative new concepts for teaching about global environmental change. Another essay (2012) “Where You At 2.0” reasserts the relevance of bioregionalism for digital age learners. A recent essay (2013),“Sustainability as Turnaround” is a case study of his work as president at Unity College. with mandolin.png His new book, The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus (The MIT Press) provides a framework for advancing sustainable living and teaching in a variety of campus environments. It will be available in January, 2014. Thomashow is currently working on two writing, networking, and teaching projects. Improvisational Excellence suggests that improvisation emulates the patterns and processes of the biosphere. It’s a series of essays linking play, music, and observing nature to the paths of everyday living. It is the philosophical basis for Thomashow’s workshops on global environmental change, music and nature, and ecological perception. Wilson’s Library is a series of prose poems depicting extraordinary moments during the history of life on earth. Thomashow lives in the hill country of southwest New Hampshire in the shadow of Mount Monadnock. He loves to explore the fields, forests, wetlands, hills, and lakes of Northern New England where you can often find him on his bicycle. His recreational interests include basketball, baseball, board games, jazz piano, electronic keyboards, musical composition and recording, guitars, hiking, and lake swimming.