[Continued…] I’m still not sure how my boyfriend Ed convinced a bunch of women at my newspaper to form a softball team. Maybe women just liked him.
I’m also unclear how he convinced me to start lifting weights. He was a fanatic about that, too. I got a membership at the local YMCA. I swam laps and lifted weights, and got reinforcement from Ed, who noticed every emerging muscle fiber on my body.
On the women’s team, I played in the outfield and I played catcher and I was bad at both of them. I don’t remember what my batting average was, but I have a photo of myself hitting a softball (badly), so I guess that I didn’t strike out every single time.
Being a bad softball player gave me a great gift, though: an appreciation for baseball talent.
I used to think that sports were for dumb guys who had muscle and no brains. I used to think that professional athletes were a waste of space on the beautiful earth. I used to complain about Americans’ priorities in spending, and that was long before the $25 million pitchers.
But when I couldn’t even throw a ball from home plate to first base on a softball field without screwing it up, I started to have respect for professional outfielders.
And eventually, this came to top my list of “If I could do anything, I’d want to be able to …”
To throw a ball from center field to home plate. In a real baseball stadium.
I will not make that throw in this lifetime. But oh. What a joy that would be. It’s a beautiful thing, that throw.
Ed got me started reading Roger Angell. I kept playing softball. I got a tiny bit better.
Ed moved away. I got married to Tim, who was also a sports nut. When we moved to Seattle, I switched my loyalty to the Mariners. Hard to believe that I could find a team worse than the Indians, I joked with my friends back home.
We planned our Arizona vacations around spring training.
I continued to keep score. I loved looking back over games, loved reading the score sheet the way a musician reads sheet music. Those little notches and dots for the pitches, the tiny space to track so much, my marks progressing from pencil to ink as I got better at seeing.
My fellow reporters in Seattle – the men, that is – were impressed. They were a little nicer to me when they knew that I kept score. Took me seriously. Saw me as a real person, not just the bimbo from Ohio who was an Affirmative Action hire.
I guess it was when I started traveling overseas that I lost interest in baseball. But maybe it was when my marriage fell apart. Or maybe it was because my new boyfriend was a concert pianist. Or maybe because I went to live in China. Those things all happened around the same three-year span.
Somehow 25 years went by and I hardly glanced at a baseball game.
In the wee hours of the morning today, I watched the last two innings of Game 7 of the World Series. I had meant to watch the whole series, but life kept intervening, as it does these days.
We were winding down, I was trying to make myself go to bed. I asked Tom if he’d seen any mention of the score online.
“Tied in the 9th,” he said.
What the hell! Game 7, Indians and Cubs, tied in the 9th! It doesn’t get any better than that.
We have to watch. Sleep be damned.
Hung on during the rain delay. Once it was on the screen, I was there to the bitter end.
The love came back to me in a minute – the beauty of the game. The slow dance, the signals, the stats … and the grace of the pitch, the hit, the throw. So much to admire, no matter whose side you’re on.
Yeah, I wanted the Indians to win. Some loyalties never die.
Yeah, I had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach at the first out in the bottom of the 10th. Fans who follow losing teams know this sensation well. They know their team is going to screw up again.
And yet they hope.
It’s impossible to feel bad about the Cubs winning the World Series. I love underdogs, so this game was a win-win.
Baseball is about hope. Anything can happen. That’s why I kept following the Indians and the Mariners. It just feels good when sometimes the game turns out right.
Today’s penny is a 1997, the year that the Indians also lost the World Series 4-3 – to the Marlins. (WHO?)
Featured image – Creative Commons Zero license via Pixabay.