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The summers of my youth were spent at the local sandlot. Baseball cap backwards, dirty with dust and sweat and melted popsicles, hair tucked behind my ears in a lopsided ponytail. We wore jeans even in the melting heat of August, because you couldn't slide in shorts and dresses--well, dresses were for girls.

On the sandlot I was a ball player. "You throw like a girl" was something I said more than heard. Cooties were for the silly things down the street that would parade around in make-up while we played. Back then the boys didn't care for that kind of girl; she couldn't tag the plate or catch a pop fly and she sure didn't know what a bunt was.

We didn't wear gear or have a team to play against, so to be honest most of the time we just played hot box and traded baseball cards. It was too hot to play a full game, anyway, and the lot we played on was sand and dirt surrounded by blacktop, which meant the sun was on us like flies on--you get the picture. In the evening we would chase lightning bugs and put them in old pickle jars. I was always so glad to be a part of that; I was an ice cream truck chaser, a water balloon bomber. You know, just one of the guys.

The summer before I started junior high, Paul Carver pegged me in the chest with a baseball. What three months ago might have been a credit to his pitching was now a throbbing pain in my chest. Sometime in the middle of August, Stephanie and her cootie-filled girlfriends interrupted a good game of keep-away to offer some of the older boys lemonade. And the boys, having noticed Stephanie's new body but not my own, stopped the game to enjoy the ladies and their refreshments. When they were all gone, I sat in the middle of the field and cried. I guess the sandlot is where I learned what I know about men and women, sex, love and rejection.

I don't play baseball anymore--don't even watch it on tv. And I wear dresses sometimes, but not because I want to have cooties or anything. I just figured that being a tomboy is something I left on the sandlot next to an old Rawlings mitt, some chewed-out bubble gum and my childhood.

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