I love sports! I love watching them when my kids are participating, but I also have a select few that I love playing. Basketball, softball, and volleyball, not necessarily in that order have been a part of my life off and on since I was about 8 years old.
Baseball was my first love. I had two older brothers who taught me to play. For some reason I was blessed with a killer throwing arm and I set my heart on playing shortstop on my brother’s Little League team. We grew up in small-town Utah and they didn’t have a girls softball program. When my mom took me to tryouts with the boys, it caused a huge problem. They couldn’t let little girls and little boys play together! Someone might get hurt!
So they quickly threw together a girls’ league. Anyone from age 8 to age 18 could play on that team (provided that she happened to be a girl, of course). I made the team (everyone did) and sat most of the season. What 8-year-old (even one with a killer throwing arm) could compete with teenage girls? After a year or two they split the teams into several age levels and I finally got my chance. We played from early April until school started the end of August. It was my whole summer life!
I played until right before I got married and then I played another year after I had my first child. I tried again a couple of years later, but by then we had moved to the Wasatch Front and the teams were much harder to join. Don’t get me wrong, you could sign up, you just couldn’t JOIN. They put me in Center Field where I immediately threw out my arm and was benched for the rest of the season. I didn’t play softball for 20 years and then my best friend asked me to join her as a backup player on a co-ed county rec league. I agreed before I realized how terrifying that prospect could be. I sat and watched the whole first game.
During the second game they coaxed me onto the field. I still couldn’t throw, but I could catch. They put me on first base. I had never played that position before, but it seemed to work for me. I wasn’t afraid of the ball and some of those men would just burn it in. But like all other fairy tales, that one ended with the season and the team disbanded.
A couple of years later I was asked by my church to be the Women’s Sports Specialist. That meant I had to recruit people to play in our softball league. We had a great time, but I didn’t realize how much it meant to me until my mother passed away. I was in small-town Utah again, arguing with my brothers and sisters about the color of her casket when my dad totally broke down. We left the funeral home under a cloud of despair and gloom.
My sister’s husband, sensing the breakdown, drove 90 miles an hour to get us back to the good old Wasatch Front. We arrived just in time for the 3rd inning. Some of the women were insisting that it was time to go, but when I came running across the grass they agreed to one more inning. It was so therapeutic, just being there with my friends, smelling the dirt, and having the opportunity to pound that ball into the outfield. The frustrations and sorrows of the day just melted away and I knew I could face the upcoming funeral and my family. Sometimes life throws us a curve, and sometimes it’s a fastball, but the most important part is just staying in the game.