FROM FOSTER PARK TO CENTRAL TURKEY
Central Turkey and Foster Park have many miles between them. One is in Fort Wayne, Indiana and the other on the opposite side of the world. Fort Wayne is surrounded by lush farmland, some of the best in the world, lots of freshwater lakes and relaxing hardwood forests. Central Turkey is dry and mountainous, with countless little villages peopled by Turkish farmers raising their cows and planting their crops. But a couple of months ago, something happened bringing the two distant lands together.
My family has lived in Istanbul, Turkey for nearly eight years, while I work as a researcher and writer, regularly contributing to The Waynedale News. We have also enjoyed when in the U.S. participating in the Waynedale and Fort Wayne communities. My oldest two boys attended one term at Wayne High School, two of the younger guys went to Maplewood and the smallest enjoyed going to preschool at Avalon Church. Over the years, when the opportunity arose, they enjoyed the great American institution of baseball. Really, nothing is quite as fun as standing in the field, spitting out shells from sunflower seeds, and waiting for a good batter to break the monotony with a pop fly or a hard grounder.
All our boys like playing baseball and other sports, but our middle son, Judah, has kind of found his niche in sports. In the summer of 2009 the Turkish national Little League team invited him to join them in the European playoffs in Poland. Of course as his father, I might be inclined to be proud of that, but in all honesty, since baseball has just come to Turkey with just a handful of Turkish boys knowing how to play the game (soccer is everything here), he didn’t have much competition for a spot on the team. Nevertheless, he’s got a good arm for pitching and bats well, so they were happy to have him along. The European powerhouse teams of Germany, the UK, and Italy, that drew heavily from the sons of American military personnel stationed in their countries, did much better than Turkey, but the Turkish team did manage to pull out a last minute win over Lithuania.
Later in the fall we got a call from the Turkish Little League director inviting Judah to the Turkish national championships. So he packed up his new baseball bag and headed out with the Istanbul team deep into Central Turkey. They played hard for three days on a soccer field that was marginally converted into an American-style baseball field. Judah climbed upon on the makeshift pitcher’s mound and hurled his fast-balls as best he could, just as if he was back in Foster Park playing a Wildcat baseball game.
They say the world is changing with internet and all that other stuff. It is. But it is also changing in simple ways, like when a kid from Waynedale who cut his teeth playing Wildcat baseball down by the river throws his glove, bat and ball in a sports bag and travels deep into Anatolia, steps up to the batter’s plate, hits a double and knocks in his Turkish teammate for a score. Take me out to the ballpark, even in Turkey!