My Softball Days
Watching the Cleveland Indians in the World Series brought back some old memories.
Long ago and far away, I ventured into the world to team sports. I was never athletically inclined. In fact, I was a team sport disaster in my youth. I grew up in a neighborhood that consisted of my sister and best friend, Bonnie. We didn’t make up much of a sports league. When we tried to play baseball, we had very small teams and had to keep track of many “ghost men.”
I didn't have much of a chance to learn sports, and even in gym class, I didn’t catch on. We would play kick ball, and on a good day, when they chose teams, I would be the second last person chosen. I would go way out in the outfield and hope that no one would kick a ball in my direction. The bad part of that was when one would escape everyone and go flying down the field into the playground and beyond. I would have to be the one chasing it and bringing it back. I will never forget the day I caught a ball. It fell in my arms, and I just stood there stunned.
I must have been in 6th grade when my elementary school had an after school softball league. I don’t even know how it was possible that I joined it. My mother didn’t drive, and my dad worked odd shifts. It was seldom that I could get a ride home if I didn’t take the bus. Walking was out of the question because I lived on a very busy street with no sidewalks. Some friend of mine must have had a kind parent.
Anyway, I found myself on a softball league. I don’t know how the teams were chosen, but once they were, a captain had to be picked. One of the teachers in charge chose me to be the captain on my team. I was shocked, but did the best I could.
I often wonder why that teacher picked me. I don’t remember who it was, so I don’t know if she realized that I was a poor athlete that usually was chosen last because no one wanted me. Did she feel sorry for me? Did she think that this would give me a chance to shine? Did she actually think I would be a good captain? Did she know that it would mean a lot to me?
The captains didn’t have that many responsibilities, but we did have to make the big decisions like figuring out the team’s lineup and figuring out where the players should play. I understood how baseball worked quite well, even if I couldn’t catch a ball. Back then, I was a big Indians fan and listened to the games all summer on the radio. Rarely, I would have a chance to see them on TV.
I couldn’t hit a ball very far, but for some reason, I rather consistently hit base hits. When the season was over, I was surprised to realize I was batting over 300. When the other team was up, I would borrow a mitt; which didn’t even fit--yes, I didn’t even own my own mitt--and go out far into the outfield and pray that the ball wouldn’t come out to me. I could barely catch a softball; having so little practice using a mitt.
By some miracle, my team came in first in the league. I like to think it was my managerial skills, and maybe it was. Just because I wasn’t good at sports didn’t mean I couldn’t make good decisions. The winning team got the ultimate prize at the end of the season. We got to play the final game against the teachers. Everyone else would be watching. I was so proud of our team, and I wanted so much for them to beat the teachers. Everyone wanted to play in that game, and I had to choose the lineup, of course. In order to win, I realized that the person with a borrowed mitt that didn't fit and couldn’t catch a ball with it shouldn’t be playing the game. I made the ultimate sacrifice and stayed on the sidelines--directing the game. Isn’t that what managers do? I was so proud when we won the game.
The experience didn’t launch my career in sports. I never joined another league in any sort, again. I was still picked last for teams in gym. I hear they don’t do that anymore, and I sure hope that is true. It did boost my confidence in other aspects in my life, though, I’m sure. I never hesitated when given the opportunity for leadership roles, and I always felt I did my best.
I did turn out to be a rather athletic person, but not in team sports. I need activities that I can learn at my own pace, such as, horseback riding. It is not unusual for me to hike for hours a day, too. I still don’t know if I could catch a ball with a mitt...