If you know me, you know I’m not talking about that kind of diamond. Even when I was married, I wasn’t interested in that kind of diamond. The way I see things, big diamond rings get in the way and are unnecessary. Instead, I’m talking about a softball diamond.
I grew up on the ball field. Well, more accurately, the park or the dugout or the bleachers next to the ball field. My parents both played softball when I was younger and didn’t quit playing until my sister and my’s softball schedules became too much to keep up with. I remember spending weekends at tournaments watching them play, running around playing with the other ballpark brats and keeping an eye on my kid sister. (Back in the day she was known to pee her pants and then sit in the dirt to try to hide it – yes, we were that young.) As we got older, my brother came along, and we were bribed to watch him. I remember my dad promising to buy us a scooter if a foul ball was coming at my brother Aaron (who was in a car seat at the time) and we protected him. (Unfortunately for us, that never happened.) During the last season my parents played in a league in Hartford, my sister and I got to take turns filling in at catcher when my parent’s co-ed team was short a girl. Man, we loved it when that happened.
Growing up watching my parents play provided a good foundation for me and really got me interested in playing softball. I looked forward to practice and games, and would cry if a game got rained out. The Lebo teams I played on were always pretty strong. My dad usually coached, or helped coach, and we almost always won. I remember going undefeated and winning the league tournament when we were playing t-ball. It was a cool year because everyone on the team hit a home run at some point.
Once I turned 14 most of the girls on my Lebo team had lost interest in playing, so I started traveling to Emporia to play with Emporia Energy. We were a traveling fast pitch team that made my Lebo team look like a bunch of grandmas. It was the first time that I was playing with an entire team of girls that loved to play as much as I did and were good. Every single person. Even the girl that got stuck in right field. For the next few summers I spent every weekend on the road, traveling all around Kansas playing softball and staying in hotels. It was a hot. It was dirty. It was tiring. And I loved it. For the most part, we all did.
After 12 long years, I’m finally back on the softball field, and man it feels good. Thanks to Michelle Stubblefield, I’ve found a women’s team to play with this summer. And over the course of the past month, I’ve managed to pick up a couple of co-ed teams to help fill-in when they’re short on players. So now I’m on the ball field two or three nights a week, and I’m loving it. I’m definitely not anywhere near as strong of a player as I use to be, and my teams aren’t as dominant as they use to be. But it’s starting to come back, and we’re starting to win on a pretty regular basis.
And now the circle continues. I’m taking Leo to my games and he’s getting his first experiences watching his mom play. Although he doesn’t get to come to many of my games, I know the early exposure is important. It will help him learn to appreciate the game (and winning) and plant the seeds that will make him an athlete for life.