Saturday, December 29, 2012

Softball

It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.  To quote a great novel, this is so true of my life with softball.  I write this post to get it all out before the new year.  I am putting some things behind me so I can be alive with joy in 2013.

Barb Wolfe started it all.  When I was a third grader at Joy Elementary she came to the school one day and talked to the girls about starting a softball league.  I had no idea what that was but I wanted to do it.  I signed up, or rather, she told me I was signed up.  She must have saw something in me and knew that my parents wouldn't do it or would forget.  They weren't sports people.

I still remember the first games I played.  I guess you can call them games.  We didn't know what the hell we were doing, but I loved it from the beginning.  I really sucked at first.  Wouldn't swing the bat.  I got walked a lot.  That first season was a lot of learning.  When I came back at 10, I knew what I was doing and I did it better than the others.  Lots of people knew who I was.  When I played for Pawloski grocery's team I was the shortstop.  I was really good. I could field the ball and if the first baseman caught it, it was great teamwork.  When I got up to bat everyone would say "move back!!!"  It felt so good.  This is when my wicked competitive nature started. I was not a nice kid on the field.  I wanted to win.  I moved to left field as I got older.  There wasn't a ball in play or out-of-bounds I couldn't run down.  Loved it.  Have a few fence-prints probably still on my back to show how I would jump to steal a homerun ball with a catch.

I still remember getting ready to go into high school.  I was so ready to play.  I sized up the current left fielder the first day of school and told her I was taking her spot.  She didn't like me much. Then the bomb hit.  My mom said that if I played high school softball she wouldn't let me play summer ball too.  I loved summer ball. I was on the same team for 4 years and they were the greatest girls in the world.  I still remember most of their names and where they played.  So I had to play tennis that first year of high school.  I was #3 singles and #1 doubles.  I hated it.  I would watch the softball team leave for the field to practice and get on the bus for games.  It was heart-breaking to me.  I still retain a lot of anger and hate from that time in my life - I am trying to let it go.  My love was torn from me.  I had a really good year in tennis and got a trophy in doubles for the city tourney or whatever it was called back then.  But it was empty.  That left fielder, Suzie, she just gave me that wicked smile every time she saw me.  She knew I had to eat my words.  The next 3 years were different.  I played softball, I didn't care at what cost.  I played hard.  I earned trophies, a MVP, and the highest batting average at the school.  That record stood for a very long time.

I played through college and had a good time.  There were some really fun girls on that team.  That's when people started talking about softball synonymous with lesbians.  What the hell were lesbians?  I never understood the connection.  Hell, if they were good players, I didn't care what they were.  They could be aliens and I was fine with it.  After college I was on many league teams.  Softball was fun.  I still wanted to win, but it was becoming fun.  The big deal then was when I played in the mixed league (men and women not lesbians and non-lesbians).  The guys would come in and I would hit it over them.  Hehe.  That was great.  They wouldn't do it a second time.

When my girls got older, I encouraged them to play.  Emmy didn't like it - she was a through and through soccer girl - flipping phenomenal that would lead to All State in high school, Erica played for a bit but her talents really were in music and speech - amazing talents that led to being a state champion.  Erin was the softball player.  She was good - better than me.  Hit more homeruns than I ever did.  She was a state and national champion. She was a catcher.  I remember one of the catchers I played with - Lynn.  She was good - really good.  Lynn had a look that I loved.  I bet the girls she stared at thought Lynn was going to kill them.  It was a GREAT look.  Erin became better than her, that's when I knew Erin had what it took.  She began to play travel ball.  That was when I was introduced to politics and who liked who in sports.  It didn't matter what Erin's stats were, if she wasn't the favorite or wasn't a coach's kid, she didn't play.  (Okay losing mind moment: CRAZY BULLSHIT THAT I WILL NEVER GET OVER.  HOW DO YOU NOT PLAY YOUR BEST PLAYERS? WTF IS THAT?)  Erin finished high school with a .492 avg.  She showed them.  I am just glad when it was over for Erin in college, she held her head high knowing she had the 3rd best batting average on her college team, led the team in homeruns, and was always a decent and kind person (she got that from her dad).  We did help get the coach removed from her position (or retired as they stated in the release).  She was a bitch, an old nasty bitch.

I do need to give a shout out to several coaches who made softball a wonderful experience for me or in my opinion for Erin during the 37 years of my life that it occupied:  Barb, Linda, Debbie, Sue, Bill, Bob and Gary (amazing shout out - I never appreciated them as much as I should have and I am sorry for that.  Gary holds a very strong place in Erin's heart now and probably always will), and Larry - Larry made Erin's last travel ball year one of her best.  Finally, a shout out to some of the memorable players for me: Lynn, Linda, Sue, Sue, Liz, Julie, Marilyn, and Tina.  I didn't have a lot of friends on the field.  I was too competitive.  These ladies I respected to no end.  I probably never told them that, but that is how I feel.

It feels so good to write this.  It allows me to finish this chapter in my life and walk away with the good memories.  Fade to black as Shelley wipes a tear from her eye...