A Grip on Sports: Every sport you play – or watch – in summertime builds a different type of memory

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Today is, officially, the first day of summer. And summer is filled with only one thing. Great memories of sporting events gone by. Well, some of them aren’t all that great.

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• We do remember that time we were serving as bat boy of my dad’s Colt League team and gave the other bat boy a concussion. We were just swinging a bat and he happened to be standing in the wrong spot. It was an accident. But it isn’t our fondest summer memory.

There are great ones though, most revolving around baseball or softball or their backyard cousin, wiffle ball. The latter was a big deal in our youth – we even used to use the Styrofoam antenna balls handed out by 76 Union gasoline in our games because they moved so erratically – and our boys’ youth.

One of the reasons we chose the lot for our home we did on Spokane’s South Hill was because we could imagine an exceptional wiffle ball layout in the backyard. No lie. We even planted a tree right away to keep balls from going into the grumpy neighbor’s yard. Didn’t work, though. By the time it grew enough to serve its purpose, the boys had grown enough to launch moonshots over it. The best-laid plans and all that.

Other great summer sports memories reside down in Peaceful Valley, under the Maple Street Bridge. Long ago, the basketball court there was an undiscovered gem, little used, a little pockmarked and always open. Especially on Sunday mornings, when a few friends would gather for full-court games.

A tree came into play there as well, an old fellow who sat just off the court in the southwest corner. We nicknamed it Tree Rollins, of course. It was as good a shot blocker as its namesake.

The court had charm, what with a “why-is-that-here?” NBA 3-point line and the occasional Saturday night debris scattered about on Sunday morning. We always threw a push broom in the back of the pickup as we left the house just in case.

Then there were the many summer days of golf. The most frustrating of games carries a bag of joyful memories. Heck, even what seemed like sad moments at the time now carry a special place.

One clear August afternoon we were playing a round at Meadowwood with our father-in-law. We had just reached the sixth hole when the skies opened up, the clouds coming from out of nowhere and stopping in Liberty Lake to save the ground crew the pain of watering.

We took shelter under the eaves of the nearby bathroom, but as the rain continued unabated, we decided we had enough. We lit out for the clubhouse. By the time we arrived, we looked like Remy at the beginning of “Ratatouille.” It was also the day Fred, a veteran firefighter, explained how wet he got fighting a blaze. It had never occurred to us. And it’s a memory we’ll never forget.

Just like the ones that hit every summer these days concerning baseball and softball. Whether they cover games we played, coached or just watched. So many days spent on fields as green as Ireland or as dry as Death Valley. Either way, the competition was what mattered. Or the camaraderie. Both count. And still do. Every summer.

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WSU: It may be the first day of summer but Colton Clark is using it to delve into the most winter of winter college sports, hoops. He has a look this morning at the Cougars’ roster for next season. … Every Washington State grad loves Klay Thompson, right? He’s one of them. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college sports, Jon Wilner looks at the conference’s football coaches in the Mercury News and makes a judgment on their paycheck. He sees Jake Dickert as being fairly paid. … Kyle Whittingham and Utah will be in the spotlight as the Utes defend their title. … Arizona State is trying to pick up the recruiting after a slow spring. … It was not a good baseball season for the conference (nor was it a good softball one either). The self-proclaimed conference of champions expects to compete for the World Series title. But this season only Stanford made it to Omaha and the Cardinal were eliminated in two games.

Gonzaga: The fate of Chet Holmgren may be the No. 1 question before Thursday’s NBA draft.

Idaho: The Vandals have attracted a trio of high-profile football transfers. That nugget leads off the S-R’s latest local briefs column.

Hoopfest: We didn’t delve into our Hoopfest memories this morning, mainly because they are a separate part of summer. We’ll share them later. But to get you ready for the return of what was once an annual event – pre-pandemic – we have Dave Cook’s preview.

Mariners: The first day of summer also means every team in baseball had to revamp its roster. One fewer pitcher was allowed. Seattle decided to let go of two veteran relievers and to activate Ken Giles from the injured list. … If you had to blame someone for the M’s disappointing season, who would it be?

Seahawks: Seattle re-signed a key piece of its defensive line, Bryan Mone. … Which quarterback do you want in charge?

Kraken: There are reasons Seattle and just about everyone else pull their goalie earlier these days. … In other NHL news, Tampa Bay returned home and won for the first time in the Stanley Cup finals, topping Colorado 6-2.

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• One wiffle ball memory. Our son decided one summer to begin hitting the ball over the fence into the dirt road behind the house. waling around the block once to get the ball was fine. Heck, even enjoyed considering his new-found power of him. But after a handful of times, we had enough. The next day we were at the lumberyard buying the supplies needed to put in a gate. A weekend of hard work saved countless steps around the block over the year. Until later …

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