Strong winds to left field and three first-inning home runs only made it seem like Wrigley Field. No one really minded when this all-star game, more prelude than feature attraction, was called after four innings because of severe heat. All the more time to grab a good spot to watch the fireworks.
Boys' softball was only a small part of the Fourth of July celebration at District Heights Municipal Grounds yesterday. Food and fireworks were featured in conjunction with yesterday's Boys and Girls Club of District Heights (7- to 12-year-olds) all-star game, each holding the players' interest more than the game itself.
"This is fun, but I came to see fireworks," said Charles Vaughn, 11, almost forgetting the homer he hit in the previous inning that gave his team, wearing white jerseys, a short-lived lead. "It's too hot" to play.
The coaches and umpires agreed, halting the game after the white squad had batted in the fourth. Because it took so long to get the young players situated on the field at the start, the game lasted only about an hour. It proved more than enough time, though, for the teams to score a combined 22 runs.
Although some were disappointed with the premature ending, it allowed players from both sides, culled from the five teams in the club's intramural softball league, a chance to rest -- and eat. Hot dogs, potato chips and sodas were provided for each participant by the Boys and Girls Club, which tries each year to make it a day for the children.
"Our main goal is to keep the kids off the streets," said Catherine Wade, one of the club's volunteer directors and a District Heights resident for more than 12 years. "We want to give them organized recreation, keep them involved in organized activities."
The activity might have been too organized for this group of free spirits, who often wandered from the dugout while waiting to bat, lost their concentration in the outfield, and stopped running the bases after a hit ball, all of which can drive coaches -- even volunteer coaches -- crazy.
"It's usually a lot of fun getting a team to work together," said Warren Adams, one of the coaches for the victorious blue-and-yellow team. "As long as you can keep their attention."
That normally isn't a problem once the fireworks start. Attendance was moderate for the softball game -- won by the blue-and-yellow squad, 13-9 -- but increases quickly as the hours pass.
"It's a decent turnout," said club president Thomas McCoy, who umpired the game. "I think if the game would have been started a little later in the afternoon, you'd get a larger crowd."
Said Wade: "When it starts getting dark, this place will be overflowing with people."
To prepare for the night activities, Vitale Display Inc. representative Brian Wilson of New Castle, Pa., arrived in Washington yesterday morning at 5:30. He slept for three hours then went to work, spending most of the day and early evening creating the scene for a show scheduled to last 20 to 30 minutes.
Wilson also was responsible for setting off the fireworks, a job that requires a unique mindset.
"After I light the fuse, I'll be turning away so I don't get a shell in my face," Wilson said. "I'm not afraid, because I enjoy doing it by hand. But I've got a healthy fear about these things. It's good to have a respect for them."