My friends wonder why I would travel all the way to Phoenix for baseball. “It’s spring,” I said. “Time to energize and renew the spirit.” But I couldn’t really articulate my feelings until my book club read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird a few weeks ago. She loves baseball. It gives her hope.
It’s human nature to want to be part of a success. The young guys who hit the field in March hope to make the team. The mid-career guys hope for the resilience to come back from injury. Older guys just want to come back, to extend their youth one more year. The fans, if we cheer loudly enough or buy tickets enough, hope we can make our team, our city, us, essentially, into winners. The best in the US.
Baseball was always important to me. It meant spring, friends and exercise. It meant summer evenings in my backyard with the neighborhood kids and a whiffle ball set. I got so into it, I wanted to take it to the next level, hoping my reputation could get me onto the roster of the Cub Scout summer league.
I showed up at every game—my parents thought I was boy-crazy—and hung out in plain view in case the score was ever tied with a kid on third and the team needed a hero. One day a coach approached me, complimented me for my loyalty, and offered me a role. I could serve ice cream sandwiches after the game. I was crushed. I wanted to be a player, not a waitress. I never went back.
When my kids were old enough to walk, I bought a T- ball set to prep for Little League. By high school the young one with the broad shoulders hit a home run almost every time, and the quick, agile older one never let a ball get lose in right field. And I served oranges after the game.
One day, well into adulthood, I was invited to join a women’s softball league. Finally the invitation I’d always wanted. I said I had no experience, which I think was true. I hoped I wouldn’t embarrass myself.
But, as they sing in Damn Yankees, I seemed to have heart. After the first game my kids overheard people talking about me—in a good way.
As with any new endeavor, hope comes with goals. Mine were limited to the fact that my career might be short. I wanted to make the tourney and hit the huge fence that divided our field from the pool. Women rarely did that. But in the tournament, I did. And earned a triple and two RBI’s!
And after the game, someone else served me—beer.
So now another season back in the bleachers. The desert sun shines bright, not a discouraging cloud in sight, and the Mariners are smacking home runs every game. I hope the world flows smoothly this year, so my focus can rest on the diamond.