I'm a softy when it comes to little kids and baseball.
Youth league sports can be difficult to cover, but I still get a kick from occasionally stopping and watching boys and girls as they experience the great game of baseball for the first time.
I played my first organized baseball 48 years ago in a Memphis, Tenn., church league. The next year, my family was in Gulf Breeze, where I played another five years of youth league ball before my talent limits caught up with me.
To say I wasn't much of a baseball player would be an understatement. If there was some way to go back and check my old stats, I'd dare say I didn't hit my weight at the time, which, for the record, was around 70 or 75 pounds.
There was no minor league baseball in Pensacola when I was a kid. And Gulf Breeze didn't have a high school until my seventh-grade year, so youth baseball and the Saturday Game of the Week were links to the game I loved.
When Gulf Breeze High was formed in the fall of 1970 and fielded the school's first baseball team in the spring of 1971, I quickly became one of the team's biggest fans.
Those early Dolphin teams played all home, day games just a quick five-minute bike ride from my house and I seldom missed a game.
Growing up in Gulf Breeze back then was, in many ways, similar to growing up in Baker, Crestview or Laurel Hill.
There was one town with one high school team and the athletes who played for the Dolphins were the guys impressionable youngsters such as myself looked up to.
I continued to support the Dolphins, even after I got to high school and failed to make the team. As a high school student I could still take pride in the accomplishments of my classmates and friends on the diamond.
Life has a way of pushing all of us forward and then coming full circle.
There was a period in my life when I didn't have time for high school baseball — or any other high school sport, for that matter. I was too busy with life trying to figure out the next step I should take and how to move forward in search of my version of the American Dream.
But the last 15 or 20 years, my job has brought me back to high school baseball. The games I once took for granted as a kid now have special meaning. Maybe it's because this is the first spring of baseball without my dad being around, or maybe this season of life just serves to remind me that the simple things are often the best things.
I love being at a game with my scorebook in hand, camera around my neck and a bag of peanuts by my side. As I work covering a game, I can forget the world outside the ball park's confines as I'm carried back to those special days of youth when I first learned to love the great game.
Yes, you can take me out to the ball game. And, I really don't care if I ever get back.
I'll see you at the ball park.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.