I never played because I thought it would be a career and I’m nowhere near good enough to play for a college team but I don’t care. Some of my teammates take the sport very seriously; they have several games each weekend and play so much that they already have back and shoulder problems in their teens.
Me, I just show up to have fun. I’m perfectly content to rotate between second base, left field, and right field. (I used to play first base but that was when I was the oldest and therefore tallest girl on the team. Now I’m too short.) I don’t even care whether or not my team wins. I love games where one team narrowly beats the other, because that means both teams played hard and tried their best.
Around this time next year, things will feel out of place. Softball doesn’t have much of a place in my life for three-quarters of the year, then for a while it seems like there’s games every other day. A third of my summer memories are of softball games and practices. (In case you’re wondering, the other two-thirds are comprised of 4-H memories and memories of vacations out West where Dad made us hike halfway up a mountain to go look at a rock or something.) Although I no longer remember my first game at age seven, I remember that first practice. In particular, I remember being awed by the older players. They could catch! They could pitch! They didn’t get tagged out!
They were, like, nine. But to a seven-year-old, that was really mature. If there’s a theme in my softball memories (other than OH MY GOD YES WE WON THE GAME DAD WE SHOULD GO TO DAIRY QUEEN AND GET ICE CREAM TO CELEBRATE), it’s that in the years when I moved up to a new age division, I always thought the older girls were. So. Cool. I realized only now that with my seventeenth birthday just months away, I’m older than the oldest girl on my team was when I joined the Senior division. (And nowhere near as awesome, sigh. Some peoples’ awkwardness disappears with age but mine lingers.) It freaks me out slightly that other girls on my team might think I’m cool because I’m older. People, I’m a Professional Dork! Don’t look up to me!
I’ll miss my teammates. There were some years when I didn’t care about my team at all because we barely knew one another and no one seemed to want to make friends, but I’ve been on the same team with most of the same girls for four years now. It’s hard to spend so many hours with someone and not get to know them. In general, I’ll miss all my friends from softball, even if they were on opposing teams. I haven’t hung out with some of them in years, but I won’t easily forget girls like Amanda, Donna, Heather, Allison, Amy, and Peyton. I mean, who will collide with me on the field because we were trying to catch the same pop fly, now that I’m not playing with Allison? We had some good times together.
I’ll miss the coaches too. I’ve been lucky in that I only had one year with horrid coaches. (I nearly quit playing after that.) But they’ve generally been nice people who taught me a lot, who were competitive but not pushy, who put up with our teen girl silliness. The best were probably Coach Ken, Coach Tammy, and Coach Kathy. The last two coached the only all-female (in terms of players and coaches) team I’ve ever been on and I liked their no-nonsense attitudes. They weren’t afraid to make us work hard or maybe even scold us if we really messed up – sometimes the guy coaches wouldn’t do the latter because they seemed to think that it would make us burst into tears. Because boobs apparently equal sensitivity. Or something.
And Coach Ken. He was my very first coach, so I’ll credit him with teaching me most of the basics as well as just being a great guy. If I’d hated my coach the first year, I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself and wouldn’t have kept playing. I love the game, but I think I like its people more. I wish one of my softball memories didn’t include Ken’s funeral visitation because it dawned on me that day that I’d never get to see him smile again after his team scored and I started to cry. It just doesn’t seem possible, you know? It seems like just yesterday that I was playing softball with his daughters when we were less than ten and now the three of us have all graduated high school or are nearly there. This sounds like something old people say a lot, but where did the time go?
I never really thought I’d stick with the sport as long as I did, but I did, and here I am. It was a good ten years, time well spent. I made many friends, went from being extremely awkward athletically to only somewhat so, consumed many overly buttery bags of the concession stand’s popcorn, and struck out about as many times as I actually hit something. (Usually the ball, but one time I accidentally hit the catcher. Yeah, with the bat. I felt so bad afterwards. Anyone who says softball is a weak sport because it’s girly doesn’t know what they’re talking about. We definitely get beat up.) Now that I don’t have time already committed to softball, I’m looking forward to pursing new sports, perhaps karate. But softball was the first sport I ever loved and I don’t think anything can truly replace it.