“Are you crying? There’s no crying in baseball!” Tom Hank’s character in A League of Their Own admonished a player on his all-girls team. Ironically, I have yet to watch that movie and not shed tears, particularly when the actual players, who had aged into their 60s and 70s, came together to play one last game for old times’ sake.
Sports involvement, whether as a player or a fan, provides entertainment, fosters friendships, and marks milestones in your life.
Baseball was that sport for me. I attended my first Major League Baseball game as a teenager in the mid-’70s. The Houston Astros were playing inside the Astrodome, the “8th Wonder of the World!” (I believe the ninth wonder was the design of those wildly colorful uniforms.) But I mostly chatted with my friends and discussed where we were going after the game.
Ten years later, I saw my second MLB game. My husband’s company gave away free tickets to see the Texas Rangers play at the old Arlington Stadium. I watched the first three innings with interest, then turned my attention to the food. It was that night, at a Texas Rangers baseball game, that I ate my first jalapeño. I can’t imagine what tempted me to try a hot-as-fire pepper atop that gloppy nest of cheesy nachos, but it changed my life for the better! So thank you, Texas Rangers.
Another ten years passed, and suddenly I began attending baseball games regularly. Among my favorite games were the Rockies vs. Yankees, Cubs vs. Orioles, Red Sox vs. Rangers.
Those were not MLB games; they were PBA games, Plano Baseball Association. My sons played baseball and my husband Tony coached. I was the uniform washer, water bottle filler, fast-food picker-upper, and last-minute courier of things left at home.
Without a doubt, those were the most entertaining games I have ever watched. I’ll never forget when Tony’s batting order had three 6-year-olds—Lyle, Kyle, and Lyle—hitting one after the other. Shouts of … “Run to second Kyle…Not you Lyle, run to first…No Lyle, you run to third…” humorously resulted in all three of them on second base.
More than one kid used his glove as a hat, especially outfielders who didn’t see much action those first few years. On chilly evenings, a few kids would pull their arms through their sleeves to keep warm. It looked like we were fielding a team of armless players. When a ball was hit in their direction, arms popped back through the sleeves, and the boys picked up their gloves from the ground (or off their head), and the search began for a ball that rolled by long before.
Through the years, those boys grew into actual ball players. Although Tony never played baseball in his youth, he was a great coach. He read books, watched videos, and attended coaching classes. He taught the boys about double plays, force outs, stealing bases, fly balls, and line drives. I began to learn the game myself and started watching the Texas Rangers on TV. I became a fan of Pudge Rodriguez, Mark McLemore, and Michael Young.
But some of my all-time favorite players never played in the big leagues. Teenage players like Chad who could run the bases in a blur; Ben who could lay down perfect bunts, but more impressive was his knowledge of baseball facts and stats; first baseman Hunter who could stretch out all six feet of his lanky body to catch a ball securing an out; and Sam who covered home plate as catcher and threw down to second base to prevent a steal. I would love to see those boys of summer, now young men, play one more game for old times’ sake. For me, they were in a league of their own.
Here’s hoping you enjoy a fun, memory-making summer!