My husband, son and I officially opened our summer last month by attending the ACC baseball championship playoffs in Durham, North Carolina.

It was a gorgeous early summer night, we had terrific seats (any seat where I don’t get beaned by a baseball is a good seat), and we met our friends at the game.

The sodas had been acquired, the popcorn bought — such prices! It was as bad as going to the movie theater! — and the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” was up next. Stern looks from parents to kids made them whip off their hats and stand at attention. The young woman who sang did something rare and beautiful — she didn’t add extra notes, she didn’t swoop the words, and she didn’t add a showy finish at the end. The song doesn’t need embellishment. It’s a fine song as is.

Respect from her to the fans — keeping her song true to its origins — and from the fans to her – remove your hat, stand at attention, don’t chew gum or talk during the anthem — made it all the better. Singing the anthem, a hymn of love to our country, confers upon the stadium and those within it a measure of dignity.

» Take your family to a Greenville Drive game

Out came the players and the stadium cheered their favorites. I heard one little boy yell, “Boooo!” as the players of the opposing team were introduced. I whipped my head around and yes, there was his mama, giving him a chewing out for that poor display of sportsmanship. I felt better about that young ’un. With a parent like that keeping watch, he won’t fall off the straight and narrow too often.

All was going well; the first inning was almost over when to my dismay a group of well-dressed young men — madras shorts and very nice golf shirts — arrived, clambering over people’s legs, cursing, slopping their beers onto the people beside them. The guy in front of me had his madras shorts cut too low, because I caught a distinct eyeful of plumber’s crack as he bent over.

Suddenly my appetite for popcorn was gone.

We tried to ignore the boors in front by concentrating on the T-shirt cannon, laughing at the mascots clowning around, and — oh, yeah — the game! We definitely celebrated the game, especially the two innings when we hit back-to-back home runs. After 12 innings, North Carolina State University was still all tied up with Georgia Tech. The game was won on — you guessed it — a home run.

After most games, the Durham Bulls shoot off fireworks, and tonight was no exception. I’m not too sure Georgia Tech wanted to celebrate their loss to N.C. State, but the rest of us enjoyed the pops and sizzles and bangs that came our way. It was as perfect of an all-American night as you can get — baseball, the national anthem done right, most people acting their age, and fireworks! Why don’t they serve apple pie at ballparks? You’re already going to have baseball, Mom and the American flag present.

This particular Durham ballpark lies in the shadow of the Durham County Courthouse, where those arrested are penned up while awaiting trial. I wondered if the prisoners could catch glimpses of the game or the fireworks. I wondered if they could hear “The Star Spangled Banner” or even “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

Taking in a summer baseball game is a privilege of freedom. This July, celebrate our country’s freedoms. I hope you take your kids — boys and girls — to a game soon.

Talk to Karen

Follow Karen on Twitter @KarenLeeGamble.

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