“Every Child Needs Space to Play”
A few years ago, I was visiting my brother Chris in Los Angeles, where we spent several days recalling memorable stories from our youth. We shared lots of laughs, but one story in particular that we fondly remembered took place in 1958 and centered around our search for a nearby place to play ball. As kids, my brother and I were passionate about the game of baseball. We loved the Dodgers, who had just moved to L.A. from Brooklyn, New York.
Chris suggested I write the story down and that eventually led to the publishing of my most recent illustrated children’s book, Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille?
Writing the story brought back many great memories, not the least of which was an unforgettable encounter with perhaps the greatest and most legendary person in film. But going through the process of producing the book also made me even more cognizant of how my childhood search for a field to play ball influenced my later work as an environmental advocate and a proponent of outdoor spaces for all to enjoy.
The neighborhood I lived in as a boy was beautiful, but it was also located in the hills. There were very few appropriate and accessible places to play ball. In addition, public parks were too far away for young kids like us to get to on our own.
It was those circumstances that ultimately led us to Mr. DeMille’s backyard which, rightly or wrongly, became the “the field of our dreams.”
Fast forwarding to current day, I’ve long believed that from a city planning perspective, we should do everything possible to ensure that residents— especially kids— have nearby access to sports fields and places to play ball. In addition, ensuring that more natural parks are readily accessible to all is a key issue. Many youngsters don’t get exposed to nature and the outdoors as much as we’d like, particularly in cities. The alternative often becomes screen-time for children. If not used thoughtfully and moderately, we know from research this can have detrimental effects on both mental and physical health. After all, how can a kid get excited to play outside if they don’t have the space?
For those that read Can We Play Baseball Mr. DeMille, my hope is that the story of a young boy’s love for a game and his dogged determination to find a place where he and his friends can play, will make you smile and inspire young ones. To this day, while watching my own grandchildren play ball, I still find myself thinking back on occasion to those early days and the field of my youth that had such an impression.
The book has several elements to it, including a sense of nostalgia along with a slice of classic Hollywood history. But just as importantly, it has an environmental message that highlights the fact that accessible outdoor spaces are good for all of us, both young and old. From parks to sports fields, they provide active and passive recreational opportunities, contribute to our improved health and well-being, and make our communities better places to live!
Illustrated by Patricia & Robin DeWitt
Published January 30, 2023
About the Book: Set in 1958, a young boy and his friends want to be baseball players just like their Dodger idols. There’s just one problem: they don’t have a field to play in.
Luckily, the kids know a secret. There’s a mansion around the corner with a yard big enough for an entire ball field and the hedge surrounding it has a gap just big enough to crawl through. Apparently, the owner is a big-time Hollywood mogul. He won’t mind a few ball games, right?
This sensational true story of a young boy’s encounter with a Hollywood legend is rich with youthful determination and summer fun, highlighting how every child needs space to play.
About the Author: Mark Angelo has been a baseball fan since he was a little boy! He is also a globally renowned river conservationist and the founder of World Rivers Day, now celebrated by millions of people in over one hundred countries. Among his many accolades, Mark is a recipient of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest honor. His acclaimed best-selling debut picture book, The Little Creek that Could, is the true story of a stream that came back to life. Through his work with groups such as the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC, Mark has been a long-time advocate for outdoor spaces for all to enjoy. Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille?, about a young boy’s search for a place to play ball, recounts an actual experience from his childhood. Mark lives in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada with his wife, Kathie.
For more information on Mark, please visit: https://www.canweplaybaseballmrdemille.com/
Thank you, Mark, for this focus on play and its importance!