My 10-year-old son Gabriel loves baseball. When I received free tickets to a game at Dunkin' Donuts stadium this May, I pushed aside my feelings of hypocrisy and took him out to the old ball game.
And I have to admit, there's just nothing like it.
Take outfielder Dillon Thomas’s three-run shot for the Hartford Yard Goats in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The home crowd erupted. It was so much fun.
I loved hearing the crack of the bat connecting with the ball, and my son yelling, "Wow!" as he watched it sail through the air.
We laughed as the Dunkin' Donuts mascots raced each other between innings.
Gabriel wanted the doughnut to win, but the Coffee Coolatta edged him out.
We talked about the excellently-named player Correlle Prime. We had a blast.
As day turned to evening, Gabriel was getting tired. The Yard Goats were up 6-2, so we agreed to walk home.
Within two blocks of the stadium, we passed an open field, overgrown with grass and weeds. The only thing in it is a large wooden cross, covered with pictures and remembrances. Angelo Milardo, 41, was found dead there in August of 2016.
It's a weird thing, a cross in a field.
The first time I walked by it, I was drawn to learn more about this addition to my neighborhood. I walked into the field to take a closer look.
That's how I learned the man's name, from his picture in the center of the cross. When I got home, I searched for him online. There was almost nothing -- no mention of him by name in The Hartford Courant, for instance -- just a funeral home obit.
A monument to a largely forgotten man. It's fitting as the first thing you see when you enter the north end of Hartford. It screams: this is a place everyone but those of us who live here seems to have forgotten about.
Baseball's a complicated game. The ideas are simple enough: throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball.
Then you start asking questions. How should you throw the ball? Where? How hard should you hit it? The more questions you ask, the more complex the game becomes.
The idea of enjoying a baseball game in a sparkling new stadium in downtown Hartford is simple enough, too. As long as you don’t ask any questions. That’s when things become complicated.
Jamil Ragland is a writer who lives and works in Hartford.