Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Softball Shuffle

'Salina starts softball this weekend.

Now, I know there are several camps of people in the world. There are those who will go "cool" and there are those who will shrug and think "so what".

The big so what about it, actually, is that this is the first moment in my child's life where I get to vicariously live my glory days - I don't have all that many to reenact and so I have to grasp an opportunity like this with both hands and sing to the rafters.

I mean, I know I get to relive my youth when the teacher tells us of her chatterbox nature and vaguities - oh yes, transported straight back to my own childhood - but I get more a whistful whimsy about that rather than a fist-pumping "that's my girl" reaction.

But softball? Ah, softball defined us as kids.

I may have mentioned in the past that I went to a small school. It was a very small school. At the time there were two teachers and about 27 students.

That equates to one cricket team and one softball team with a few reserves. Not many.

That also equates to a guaranteed spot on the team from grade 2 onwards.

That also equates to at least 5 years involvement in the best doggarned "B" school softball team in the whole region.

And man, we were a crack team. Unbeaten except for once in the whole 5 years I played - and that was when they were seeing if we were good enough for the "A" school competition.

The "B" schools competiton was made up of all the little schools (and in some cases, combinations of really, really little schools) in the regions and the next-best team from the "A" schools.

"A" schools were those big enough to choose who got to play on their team through a selection process based on merit rather than having to take everyone to make up the numbers.

Our challenge was to meet the winners of the "A" School Trophy to see if we were worthy of moving into the big time.

That equates to our crack team of 7 - 12 year olds up against the best 12 year olds in the whole region.

It wasn't pretty, but we didn't disgrace ourselves. The real unprettiness was learning how to be gracious losers - we didn't have a lot of practice at that - we had plenty of practice at being gracious winners, so we had to pretend it was exactly like that, and most of us pulled it off fairly well.

Anyhow - back to our glory days, not our one day of shame.

Being in a team such as ours, we had to learn as soon as possible what our strengths were so the team could use them, and to learn what our flaws were so the team could hide them.

I am crap at throwing long distance - mainly due to the fact that I am really crap at seeing anything clearly (which I didn't realise at the time) and aim is an issue when you can't see the target - so while its great to hide someone in centre or right outfield who is crap at quick fielding, I was in the infield from pretty early on.

I never wanted the cream jobs - I have never been one to say "pick me, pick me" for the plum roles, and so I found my niche at second base.

Just quietly, second base is as glamourous as shortstop without the hurrah; as integral as first when first has let you down; and not at all "the one who hides behind the pitcher to be slugged if she ducks the straight drive" - you can catch those suckers with your leather shield!

Despite my shocking eyesight, I also had a great deal of fun at bat. My sister was one of our two gun pitchers, and so to help her practice I got to spend a lot of time swinging and getting my eye in every afternoon.

And if you were on our team, you swung. I didn't even know the concept of bunting until a former classmate made the big time in high school and came back to coach us.

Actually, I still scoff at the concept of bunting. The "B" school competition was not about strategy or using the back foot - you swung and you cracked or struck out - there was no in between!

In fact, the only strategy that I can recall ever used in the "B" school competition was used against us (and against me in particular) (because memory works like that - it focuses on the "me" bit) was to walk the slugger - and I was the slugger.

My hitting zone therefore became anything that hadn't actually bounced before the plate or that I could reach in a stride - and I loved punishing that strategy!!

As I said, gracious winners.

My glory days ended when I entered high school and discovered those girls who got to play in the "A" competition had to deal with pitchers who had other strategies I hadn't even considered - who knew there was anything other than "the good ball" or "the walk ball".

I still cracked them, but my compadres and I got a lot of practice at the concept of gracious losers - until such time as the grief outweighed the delights and I was forced to chose between rowing and softball and softball lost. I only had to rely on 4 others in a boat and we occasionally won...

(As an aside - my darling V cut his teeth on baseball, and was a second baseman himself. We talk the zen that is second base often. He bailed when his inability to deal with the bullshit of corporate America disagreement over team selection criteria (you know, the "let the coach's girlfriend's son play in your spot for the school because you have attitude boy" criteria?) and chose Ice Hockey.)

Therefore, we have been waiting patiently for an opportunity for 'Salina to join a team for a while now. She wasn't overly interested in the concept of T-ball (which I can understand) and we weren't interested enough in 8.30am Saturday morning fixtures in a sport she wasn't interested in to push her.

So our efforts have been confined to the back yard (well, except when the ball is hit over the fence) and we have worked on her excellent arm and hitting skills. She is still an absolute wuss at catching, but getting there.

But this weekend - its the big time. I get to bring out my inner softball mum and dust off the barracking voice.


Crazed Nitwit said...

Who knew you were such a jock(american for sporty types. I married a jock and raised 2 others). My oldest was an awesome 2nd baseman for 12 years. He'll be 20 on the 24th so yes he started playing at 6. My other one's a lefty and is great at first. No pushy parents. It tends to blow up if one gets pushy.
Good luck to your girl this weekend!!!

Anonymous said...

Jeanie, you sound as excited as I am at the softball thing. Our season just recently ended and won't start up until next summer but I'm sure we'll have lots to talk about then. I look forward to bringing out my inner softball mom with you when the time comes.

Have fun, and I hope that Salina enjoys it as much as you did and creates the fond memories that you did as well.

Debby said...

I went to a school that was big enough to choose it's sports teams. I was one of those graceless schmucks chosen last.

It is exciting to watch the kids participate, and cheer them on. Mine are all grown up and moved away. So allow me to say "HIT THAT SUCKER RIGHT OUT OF THE FIELD, SALINA!"

jeanie said...

Crazed Mom - okay, the rowing bit does sort of scream "jock" but honestly, that is the closest I sailed that canoe!! Softball (and footy) are more ingrained childhood cultural markers. Oh, and I can assure you, I will use no blatant push tactics (I have finely honed guerilla skills).

Kari - that is what I hope for - that she can get the joy that I remember. I didn't realise your girl was a softballer! Kewl.

Debby - even with a small school there is the "picking the team" ritual that goes on in playground activities. Given my land speed record, I can totally understand you. I can almost hear you right beside me, too!

Mrs. Paradox said...

You took me back to my childhood- softball was my thing also. My sister was the slugger but 2nd base was my home.
Sadly my girls are more the "girly" sort and I doubt I will be able to live through them.

MissyBoo said...

Oooh my memories of softball suck! The mere mention of the word makes me cringe inwardly. I was always chosen close to last even when my two best friends were the team captains...

Jeanie, just remember don't let that inner softball mum turn into the ugly parent lol

mommamia said...

Oh I hope she has a great time and makes some new freinds along the way.

Anonymous said...

Jeanie, she decided after softball season started that she wanted to do it so we have to wait until next season. I can't wait!! I'm so excited about all the opportunities for her including the socialization so she learns how to socialize a bit more. Her and I are different I was outgoing and boistrous, she is quite shy and reserved.