If you make it good enough, they will come

This summer sees a return to Cape Cod and, in particular, the chance to renew our acquaintance with the Cape's Summer Baseball League. Those who know my affection for cricket are surprised by my enthusiasm for this most American of pastimes, but I have to point out that the summer league represents what baseball might have become if it hadn't gone down the multi-million dollar route of franchises - in much the same way that the Cape itself, with its village greens, attractive main streets and relaxed atmosphere suggests a kinder alternative model for the development of the United States.

Each year, the best of college ball players are invited to play in the Cape's league, representing one of the dozen or so small towns. They stay with local families, gain vacation employment in their businesses and, when they are not playing in the league, coach numerous local and visiting youngsters in the finer points of the summer game.

The fixtures are played three nights a week throughout the summer on picturesque grounds along the Cape. Old-fashioned wooden bats are used instead of modern aluminium and the traditions are observed, such as halting the game after the third inning so everyone can join in singing "take me out to the ball game". As you would imagine, the whole spectacle attracts healthy crowds of locals and tourists keen to pass on baseball traditions to the younger generation.

There's an inevitable link with Kevin Costner's film Field of Dreams in which, as a midwestern farmer, he hears voices from the corn telling him to build a baseball diamond right there in the middle of nowhere. Despite his resistance, the voice from the fields keeps saying: "If you build it, they will come."

Eventually he succumbs and, when the park is ready he witnesses, through the magic of the movies, his long-dead baseball heroes at practice. Included is his dad, as a teenager, and they get to fulfil the dream of playing ball together.

I first saw the film when showing it to a class of school refusers in a youth strategy centre. At the repetition of "If you build it, they will come", one of the lads turned thoughtful. "Like school," he said, "if you make it good enough, all the pupils will come to it."

Sean McPartlin is depute head of St Margaret's Academy in Livingston.

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