There once was a boy who loved baseball.
I know this because I have stood where he has.
It’s a spot many look out at when sitting behind home plate at Adair Kennedy Field.
I like to imagine this boy hitting a home run to center field there.
I’m sure, like many young boys, he’d go to the baseball parks in Juneau and press his face against the fences or through the cracks of wood siding or stand shielding his face from the rain or sun to gaze longingly out at his own dreams.
Maybe he’d be chewing the leather ties on his glove, in his mind hitting a home run like the bigger lads he idolized.
Maybe his hair would be wild from riding his bike like the wind to reach a park where he knew other lovers of the game were gathering. His glove dangling on the handlebars, a bat balanced on his shoulder, a ball tucked into a jacket pocket.
Maybe he’d go to every game he could go to, such as those of adult softball, or Little League or high school, or pick-up games at Cope Park or Melvin Park.
Some might remember the young boy as being quiet.
Some would know he played baseball because they chose him once or twice for their side in a pick-up game.
“He was always around,” a local would remember. “We didn’t have much to do then so we played pick-up games. He was a guy who always had a mitt.”
Many didn’t know him personally, as they played in town and he was from the Valley, living at Glacier View Trailer Court.
Most don’t remember him too well, but they do remember Sunday, July 6, 1986.
This baseball loving boy, age 15, and a friend, age 14, were spending a day riding their bikes on the East Glacier Trail at the Mendenhall Glacier.
I like to imagine they were passing time until a game that night.
They left their bikes and the trail and crossed a creek that fed the AJ Falls just below.
It began as a beautiful day.
I imagine they talked of fireworks from the days before, the parade, of many things including, of course, baseball.
On the return over the creek the boy slipped, fell into the water and was swept over the falls onto the rocks below.
It was about 1:45 p.m., possibly hours before a game time.
The young boy’s passion would be crushed in the fall.
The acquaintance of the boy would never again return to the glacier. The boy’s family would move away.
Roughly 328 feet from home plate at Adair Kennedy Field in Juneau is a place this boy dreamed of.
It’s just outside the center field fence, at the base of the flagpole where the United States and Alaska flags are tethered.
It’s a concrete block overgrown with weeds.
On the block, a plaque reads:
JOSHUA MCCUISTION III
"A BOY WHO LOVED BASEBALL"
This young baseball-loving boy would be buried far from center field, at St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in Beach, North Dakota. That spot is just across the aisle from the rest of his family, with one plot empty beside him for his mother.
But the spot in Juneau in center field still takes my breath away.
It’s a spot few know of. His legacy of how fragile life can be, forgotten.
It’s become covered with moss, wild flowers and other growth. It’s passed and ignored daily by people enjoying a day at the ball game or walking their dogs or strolling hand-in-hand.
Yet someone cleans it from time to time.
I, too, find myself rubbing away a spot of dirt whenever I stand there.
It’s a place where a young boy would have loved to have hit a home run.
A boy like Joshua Perry McCuistion III.
A boy who loved baseball.