There’s No Place Like Home

Image: Diane GP

Image: Diane GP

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.

14 Comments

  1. oh, the memories! But it was on the soccer sidelines that I grew to LOVE the Galvez family!
    Great article Diane! I have always loved that home base is shaped like a home.

  2. Nice article! You know I have to make sure all my kids know the scenerios in baseball! By the way, I was told I went to YOUR softball game the minute I was released from the hospital. I was two days old and at the ball field already. Hardcore baseball/softball family alright! 🙂

    • Yes, that is another story that it told often. You were literally born at the field too! That is one of my best memories from that year. I was so proud looking into the stands, knowing that my new little sister was there. 🙂

  3. Diane;

    Your article fit it well with me at this moment, because we just came back from seeing the movie ” McFarland”. The many years I spent playing sandlot type ball in the forties and fifties at the Colton Municipal park , then pick-up football in the wide area of the park on a Saturday afternoon, then swimming competition at the plunge those years. My coaching baseball began with your Dad and Joe at 15 years old., in the Colt league. I did that and had a great time for four more years of it. Subsequently, also coaching Pony and Little League not only in Colton, but in La Mesa and in San Jose.
    Watching McFarland brought back more recent memories of my Sons (Tom) Cross country years at Helix in La Mesa. Doug also ran but decided to work his last years of high school. To this day, I’m in communication with a couple of Tom’s teammates who say I was their Cross country Dad. Of course my chest bubbles out hearing that. I also still go watch the Footlocker Cross Country National High School finals the second week of December, at Morley field in San Diego (for over 20 years now) So, in saying all this, your saying that Diamonds are best; applies for all our family, and I pray that it continues throughout each of our family downlines. McFarland is a must movie to see, for and avid sport spectator and any parent who has sweat in the summers just watching their child play any sport. Thanks for posting as this brought back many memories and I would do it all over again. (P S I’m so very glad sports has expanded so very much for girls also) And Yes, I’ve heard your Mom and Dad talk of their time as Pitcher and Umpire (funny )

    • That fact that this post brought back many good memories for you makes me happy! My intent in sharing my stories is to awaken the emotions and/or memories of my readers. As for my parents, I think that anyone who has ever met them knows their umpire/pitcher story.

  4. Love this article. Brings back a lot of great memories.

  5. Great article Diane! Does bring back old memories playing softball with your mom, but she was the athlete and I was a horrible player, as I was there for the boys! Lol

  6. Great post! Baseball is definitely a thread in my family too. From my Grandpa Mike, to my dad, to my siblings, to my children. All of us have been baseball or softball or t-ball players or spectators or fans. In fact, my mom met my dad when he played ball at Whittier College. I love the Cal Ripken quote too. One of my all-time favorite players, from my favorite team. I still haven’t gotten over the “Amazing Mets” beating my Orioles in the 1969 World Series. 😉

    • Thank you! Over the years, I have heard stories about your Grandpa and Dad and what type of athletes that they were. Isn’t it interesting how the love (or obsession!) of sports has been passed through the generations?

  7. Kelli Van Velkinburgh

    Such great times! I find myself longing for those days this time of year. Baseball players and snack bar entrepeneuers.

    • Yes, those were great times! As I said, many of the parents we saw on a daily basis and became our friends too. Some of them became close enough to last long past the seasons. 🙂 By the way, I may have to write a future post about your son, the snack bar entrepreneur.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *