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BY KENNETH LUNDGREN

“These little town blues, are melting away. I’m gonna make a brand new start of it – in old New York. And if I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere.”

I have never quite experienced anything like 56,000 booming fans swarming the streets of South Bronx at ten past midnight…

I went to the Yankees/Red Sox game last night. Took my father out for a nice belated Father’s Day and it turned out to be a great game. I splurged and got wicked kablamo great seats on the first base line, much better view than I thought, nice box.

The Red Sox thundered out to an early lead, and the crowd, all 56,000 of them were, were stewin’. Behind me, a loudmouth Red Sox fan in an obscene red Varitek jersey started running his mouthpiece, and I swear I feared for this guy’s life. My father, who was a Marine and most certainly is always serious, even got into the act, laughing and jeering at those evil fans… What a ballgame can do to ya!!! (I had three huge Pepsis and an entire obscenely fat jumbo popcorn — no regrets!)

In the bottom of the 8th, the Yanks rallied and tied the game. It was hypnotic seeing the crowd come to colorful life, the stadium reverberating with pure emotion as the pinstriped players flew around the bases on a bases-clearing triple… One word: electric. I can say without doubt that everyone in that House that Ruth Built was on his/her feet, hootin’ and hollerin’. Nothing quite like a Red Sox/Yankees game…

In the bottom of the 10th, with every seat, even in the upper deck, still filled, Cano laced a leadout single, then moved to second with the forced bunt. Then Gardner, after fouling off 7 pitches, dribbled a tight pitch up through second base, and the shortstop fumbled with the ball and Cano was already racing around third… Game over and endless roars of approval and everyone in this tiny vicinity of the world was happy.

Afterwards: the flood. I could still hear Sinatra’s “New York, New York” as we floated further and further away from the stadium. Happy people dumping out onto the South Bronx streets, millions of them everywhere, everyone high-fiving and charged. The visual was bizarre — there were people in front, behind, to both sides, up the street, as far as I could see — just people EVERYWHERE. Ain’t no one gettin’ mugged in this section of the city on THIS night — unless your a traitor wearin’ red… The night was quite an experience… Happy Father’s Day, Dad!!!

So that was the end of my siesta. After States, I needed a break. Time to recharge physically but more importantly mentally. I still rode, doing a few easy rides, leaving the meter at home. I’m fat, ate like a pig (I should I deserve it), 165 pounds, right where I need to be!!! Plump and healthy and full of energy, ready to finish off the rest of the year…

I played some tennis, too. Haven’t played in years. I used to play at a very high level, with aspirations to play professionally (uber competitive tennis, I can say, has Burnout written all over it). I remember in high school I broke my right thumb in wrestling and had to miss the first month or so of baseball. I had to sit and watch the practices, and one day I was supremely bored and I ambled over to the tennis courts. I picked up a racquet and started playing the school’s #1 Singles guy, just like that, and I ran him all over the court. We started playing a set and I was winning and a freshman ran over and said, “Lundgren, you’d better get your arse back to the field. Rogers is lookin’ for ya…” That was that. But if I could pick up a racquet and play one-handed and pretty much beat our school’s best player, I thought I was onto something!

But tennis was for weenies. This is high school! Gotta be cool! 🙂 I was the starting first baseman, and my peers would never let me live it down (or live period) if I switched over to tennis. TENNIS?!… Oh Ken the Idiot. You do things differently, go to college on a scholarship and see what happens…

So I ended up playing through college, winning tournaments and progressing through the USTA rankings… but then this little thing called cycling got in the way!!! I was teaching at the Ridgewood Racquet Club throughout college, making over $400 cash a week working part part time, doing private lessons and kid’s camps (ah, the memories 🙂 ). I was looking to take the tennis to another level, did some cross-training, and then that addiction to the bike just came along — we all know how that happens! One minute I’m trying to get into semi-pro challenger tournaments, and the next I’m off to Prospect Park at four in da morn!…

Well, when I hit this week, I was surprised at how UNsucky I was. The game came right back. The footwork, the timing, the flow… Almost intrinsic. Memories, things I haven’t thought about in years, came flooding back to me, matches, places I travelled to, the smell of new tennis balls, the sounds of slice serves, of heavy topspin forehands, how it feels to uncork a crosscourt backhand winner…

Hitting the ball, dancing around the court, putting away volleys, unleashing some sharp overheads, just getting into the flow and seeing that tennis ball big as if it were a grapefruit, everything just felt right…

I’m gonna have to round up Bruno and the Goldsmith brothers, as I know they play. This week I’m heading to Ridgewood to see if, during the winter, they could use an additional instructor (ain’t no pro anymore!). Would be nice to keep tennis a part of my life — I just realized, just this week, how much I miss that game…

“It’s up to you, New York, New York…” 🙂 Go YANKEES!

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Kenneth Lundgren's Diary | Tuesday, July 8th, 2008 | | |