Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. They are often a boy’s best friend too. Would you agree? Are you confused? Let me clarify this for you. It’s that time of the year where many lives revolve around a diamond: A baseball diamonds, that is.
(You will find me using the terms baseball and softball intermittently, as they apply. The only real differences between the two are the size of ball and pitching styles that are used; otherwise, the game uses the same equipment, positions, and four bases.)
Listening to everyone talk about practices, opening ceremonies, games and candy sales recently made me smile. It doesn’t matter what age or gender; hearing each conversation carries a special memory. Some of them are my own, while others involve shared stories. There are way too many to share in this post, so I’ll just take you through the bases.
My Parents (First Base)
For as long as I can remember, I have heard my parents’ youth little league and softball stories. My father was a catcher and his twin brother was a pitcher. My mother was a pitcher and my grandmother coached her. However, the better part of the story is how my parents’ lives crossed on the softball diamond. My dad was a behind-the-plate umpire when my mom used to pitch. To this day, they still disagree with his strike zone. However, it must not have been too much of an issue, because she still says, “I knew at 14 that I was going to marry him.” Not only did they get married (and have three awesome daughters), but they continued to meet thereafter at the diamond – as adult softball players. They played in a coed slo-pitch softball league for many years with (and against) some of the same people that they played youth sports with. Because of this, I grew up on a baseball diamond.
Diane GP (Second Base)
I do not remember the first time that I threw a ball, caught a ball, or even hit a ball. In my eyes, softball was always a part of my life. After reading the last section, I am sure that you understand why. I couldn’t wait to start playing! When I was growing up, eight was the golden age to join the local girls’ softball league. There were three divisions: Elementary (8-10), Junior (11-13) and Senior (14-18). A player stayed on the same team throughout their division. The teams that I remember the most were the Junior Division Little Rascals and the Senior Division Cobras. Do you know that my most vivid memory from the Little Rascals was when I volunteered to climb a chain link fence at practice to fetch a ball and ripped my pants? As expected, I didn’t live that one down all season. I also remember a lot of laughter between the coaches and players. We learned while we had fun.
As good as it was on that team, it wasn’t until I played on the Cobras that I found my niche. Prior to that team, I played various infield and outfield positions. I don’t remember the circumstances, but my coach, Mr. Leyva, asked me to try the catcher position. I put on the catcher’s equipment and it was love at first site. My coach encouraged me to continue even though I was still learning (at a much later age than the other catchers in that division). “Come on Baby, you can do it.” ‘Baby’ was his term of endearment for all of the players throughout the years. It didn’t take me long to build my confidence. There was something about being in every play, getting in the batter’s head, and of course, throwing a runner out at second base that was so gratifying. As a result of that first recreational season, the catcher position would be my spot for the next three years in high school too. Why three years? The only excuse that I can remember telling my parents was that I wanted “to work” my senior year. What was I thinking? I was on Varsity my sophomore year and was the starting catcher my junior year! Why didn’t somebody talk me out of that decision? Oh well, regret won’t get me anywhere. Everything happens for a reason. That’s how I always look at things. Don’t feel too sorry for me though. I have continued to play softball, off-and-on, for the past 25+ years. As a matter of fact, I played last Friday!
My Son (Third Base)
“Time flies!” That’s what I tell my family and friends, with young children, who are trying to work dinner and homework around everyone’s hectic schedule. It isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it in the end. My son played many sports throughout the years and I wouldn’t trade the busyness of it all for anything! Some great memories were made.
It is not a new discovery that sports are a good outlet for active children. As a 5 year-old, my son needed something to release his energy and baseball was just the cure. Ok, let’s be honest. After reading the last two sections, you KNOW that it was in his DNA to play at least one baseball season. Lucky for us, he played many! I say us, because his fan club could easily take up half of the small little league bleachers. There was never a game where he didn’t have a family member (or two, or four, or six) attend a game. As we watched the games, we rooted for each child as they made a good play, encouraged them if they didn’t, disagreed with some umpires’ calls, ate snack bar nachos, and bonded with those sitting on the same metal benches with us.
I don’t know if children realize how much their sports become our social life. We see the same families year-after-year, with many of them being on the same team. As the children/players become friends, so do many of the parents. I miss seeing my son play, but I also miss the camaraderie of the parents. We watched out for each other’s kids on the baseball field, at school, or around town. We were family—a baseball family. So, for those of you who are in the middle of the craziness right now—just sit down, buckle up, hold on, and enjoy the ride because it will be over before you know it.
Today (Home Plate)
Baseball and softball are still an important part of my life. I currently play in a coed softball league with friends, where the laughter alone makes it a great way to de-stress on a Friday night, after a long work week. Don’t get me wrong though; we don’t play to lose. We are all competitive.
As for watching the game, I have young nieces, nephews and extended family; so, I will have someone to watch for quite a while, whether it is a scorching hot Saturday game or a freezing cold weeknight game. Occasionally, I will go to watch one of my students’ games, if they invite me. I also enjoy following some of my son’s college sports family friends (who have become mine, as well), whether they are playing college softball now or inspiring young players across the country.
Every age offers a different level of competition, which makes each game unique. For instance, it’s cute if a t-ball player forgets when or where to run, but it’s not cute if an older player forgets to run or throws to the wrong base. I have also learned that being a non-parent spectator brings a different perspective to the game. In the end, I like all of the spectator roles that I have played so far.
It has been said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Why yes, they are! I learned that no matter how much time passes, once I lace up my cleats, put on my softball glove, and grip the ball to throw, all is right in the world. There really is no place like home.
You could be a kid for as long as you want when you play baseball. ~Cal Ripken, Jr.