As ridiculously stereotypical as this is going to sound, I have never been what anyone would consider even remotely athletic. I had a “Get in Shape Girl” set when those came out, but I mostly did the baton and aerobic type exercises. I had some kind of bracelet weights from that line too.
When my church youth group started a summer softball league, my parents agreed it would be a good idea for me to play. It seemed safe and it was supposed to be about having fun and learning fellowship and sportsmanship. It was also where my friends were going to be all summer.
The first year, my coaches were two brothers in their twenties, Hosea and Frank. They were all about the fun and fellowship parts of the program and I learned a lot about the game that first year. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience.
My most memorable lesson was the position of “catcher “ and where on the field the catcher is supposed to be. During my first game Hosea came over and picked me up off the ground to carry me to home plate with the umpire. I didn’t mind this because it reminded me of the horseback rides my uncle gave me when we lived in Chicago.
I was tiny back then and wondered if that’s how Lois Lane felt when Superman picked her up off the ground. I actually remember being lifted up from the ground and then gently placed back down. It was a fun ride and my parents and our longtime family friends were laughing. Then they put the helmet and padding and everything on me.
I liked the kneepads because kneeling on the hard Georgia clay could really hurt sometimes. The helmet and mask over my glasses were a different story because the helmet and mask kept pushing my glasses down. I wonder if that’s why I adapted so quickly to having to wear a mask now.
I was the kind of kid who wanted to follow instructions to the best of my ability as long as they were reasonable. As an adult, I’m still like that, come to think of it. Anyway, I had been told not to move, so I didn’t. I thought it was the umpire’s job to get the ball and throw it back to the pitcher.
My mom realized what was going on and she told my coach about my tendency to take instructions literally. Hosea’s brother Frank laughed and before the next inning, I was given some clarification on exactly what my role was as “catcher”.
Also, at some point during the season, I actually managed to hit the ball! I was stunned and the spectators had to shout to me to run. I got pretty good at determining whether I should attempt to hit the ball or take the walk. Usually, I took the walk. There was no shame in taking the walk. I got on base. Sometimes I even managed to make it all the way back home.
At the end of the season, there was a pizza party and we were presented with our trophies. Okay, yes, they were participation trophies, but it was already the 1990’s and it was a church league. I won a legit trophy a couple years later, but that’s another story for another season.
There’s an entry in my Especially For Girls “Magic Summer” journal about a water fight some of my friends and I had at the end of the very first trophy party. The water fight was particularly memorable because my crush at the time poured a cup of water down the back of my t-shirt. What a great way to cool down!
I continued with the church league for the rest of middle school through high school. I even had my sixteenth birthday at the park where we played the games. Because what you really want after you’ve been running around in the heat is a piece of Publix sheet cake with a paper cup of water or Gatorade. It was fun and it was where almost everybody I knew was going on those hot summer nights in Georgia.