I arrive at the game early and set up camp under the shade of several hardwood trees. Other than this fairly large cool haven, there is no other respite from Georgia’s late summer scorcher.
This is an interesting part of the year, this week between the waning days of summer and the arrival of the autumnal equinox. Today marks the first game of little league community softball.
Across town where I live, carneys pull in to the Kiwanis fairgrounds to set up the midway; the county fair starts next week. The colorful nursery across from the fairgrounds is packing up the first of the blooming yellow, orange, and purple mums to be distributed throughout our community.
There are a few hundred female little leaguers, moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, umpires, coaches, and other onlookers gathering in the park today. Children scream, run, throw balls, and catch, some already playing on the ballfields and others awaiting their turn.
I think about life in America; this is a pretty typical Saturday morning for a lot of folks. And for me. Breezy starts her 8th season today. She’s played spring and fall ball since she was 4 1/2.
I watch the little girls as they practice, then gather up all their equipment and head off toward the ballfields. It’s time for me to leave my shady spot and move just behind home plate. It’s so hot! I put up my gigantic blue and white golf umbrella. It knocks off several degrees of heat.
The opposing team’s coach comes over to speak with us. Breezy was on his team for several seasons. He wishes us good luck. I smile to myself. That’s good sportsmanship. It’s one of the lessons team sports teaches these little ones early on.
As I watch the girls take their places on base or on deck, I remember myself, 40 years ago, as a college student walking by the ballfields on campus, wishing I felt comfortable playing ball, rather than being so self-conscious. I wondered then how those girls gathered their courage and confidence to get out there and play extracurricular softball.
Fast forward 40 years, I now understand many of those girls probably started playing ball when they were four. It became second nature to them.
I watch Breezy and her friends, the ones she’s made specifically through playing ball. Breezy is so comfortable in her own skin, and in the lime-green and gray uniform she wears this season. Her hair is pulled up high off her collar into a pony tail. She wears a huge green bow on it, the #4 on the ribbon identifying her pony tail from all the others.
The little girls scream softball jingles to each other. I don’t know what else to call them. Something about how “we’ll get you and your boyfriend too, with your funky hair style and ….” It’s all in fun.
As familiar opponents spend time on third base, Breezy chats up with them. She might even give them a hug. That’s good sportsmanship. By the time she gets in high school she’ll know every girl her age who’s played softball in this league.
The kids want to win, but if they don’t it’s OK. They aren’t like their parents who’ll yell for 5 minutes, under their breath, at the umpire for calling an opponent’s kid safe, when she was so clearly out!
Breezy’s team wins today. Three girls get stickers to put on their helmets, for doing something worthy in the game. Breezy’s name was the last one called. She leaped off the bench, so excited to get the yellow softball sticker, indicating she’d helped her team win today, by batting in a lot of runs. I was glad her coach noticed her.
Tears stream down my face as I write up today’s story; I don’t know why. Life is sweet and good. I’m grateful today for Saturday morning softball, and the meaning and memories it brings to my life, and to the rest of us who make children, family, friends, good sportsmanship and softball a significant part of our lives.
Until next time, Play Ball!