Summer’s Ladies

baseTo the Women of the Dorval Women’s Softball League,

I’ve been trying to write this for the last month or so.  And for some reason the words aren’t coming to me easily.  I wonder if that has more to do with the fact that I’m rusty when it comes to writing or whether it’s more about feeling shy about how incredibly emotional I feel about all of this.  All of you.  I’ve been stumbling over various drafts – trying to understand why this season of softball has meant so much to me.  The following are my rambling thoughts about softball, adulthood, and friendship.

It’s been a while since I last played softball.  With courage I counted that “a while” actually means 17 years.  It’s been 17 years since I last played on a softball team.  I feel old when I say it that way.  Which is strange, because, aside from the not-quite-gentle warning that my body is no longer that of a lithe 18-year-old’s, playing ball with all of you this summer reminded me what it feels like to play and have fun and be young again.   I got the taste of competition back on my tongue and remembered what it feels like to be part of a team. And I met so many amazing women.

I’m not sure how to write about my former softball life, the teenage softball life, because I feel like it deserves its own special tribute. I wouldn’t be lying to say that in the midst of some confusing teenage years, softball, and the awesome people I came to know through softball, may have saved my sanity to some degree. It was a special sort of haven where I met all new friends, and the long summers of my youth fell into a gentle rhythm of practice, games, and tournaments.  My teammates seemed to like me – and no matter what mess I was embroiled in elsewhere, I knew I could come to baseball and be welcomed into their circle.  This impressed me so much when I was young that I thought I’d play forever.  I thought I’d be one of the old girls, playing year after year, alongside Alison and Melissa and Tina and Amanda…even after I went away to university, I was sure I would return to play in Belleville.  That was the plan.

All the best laid schemes of mice and men….more schooling and a permanent move to Montreal, marriage, children, and a career came tumbling down on me.  And my adult life became full of so many good things.  But baseball wasn’t one of them.  Until that day I came home from work to find that Greg had researched it all for me – he’d even printed the registration form.  And so later that week I made the trip into Dorval where I met the beautiful Fabiola whose smile tugged at my heart right away.  I wasn’t sure I’d actually be able to throw or hit or catch a softball after all these years but I managed to convince myself that I had nothing to lose.  That was when they dropped the bomb about the orientation/try-out/ranking….Nothing like jumping into your angst head-on!  It was a chilly (okay, damn cold) evening in April when we all gathered on the turf to strut our stuff.  I was right – it didn’t feel the same – I couldn’t throw as hard or as far, I found the change in pitching speed hard to read, and I’ll blame a new glove for any ball that I dropped.  Even though I was achy and squeaky, I felt an old rhythm stirring inside me.  It felt so good to be playing softball.  It felt good to be surrounded by these women.

I soon learned that I had landed on Big Blue.  That was a good place to land – the captains themselves were relatively new to the league and by the time the season was in full swing, I was no longer the lonely rookie on the team.  My teammates were kind and welcoming and encouraging.  But it goes further than that.  And this is where I start to question my emotional stability.  Because thinking about these women and those I’ve met on the other teams, I very nearly choke up with tears every time.  I had forgotten what it’s like to be on a team.  I had forgotten what it’s like to forge friendships with so many awesome women.  I had forgotten what fun can be had on the baseball field.  What happened when I was a teenager has happened again in the DWSL. I came into a tight knit community where rather than being known for every teenage screw up or every piano recital success or every date I ever sabotaged, I was welcomed to the league just as I am.  No one asked what my political affiliations are or what my occupation is or what religion I practice.  What seems to matter most in a league like this is how you show up on the diamond. This doesn’t mean that you have to be the most skilled player out there. It has far more to do with enthusiasm and effort and humour and encouragement.  As evidenced by the fact that I’ve been transitioned into an outfielder without much grace!

Thank you, ladies (yes, that’s the term used – back off academics!) of the Dorval Women’s Softball League.  A special shout-out to Big Blue and to the tournament teams I played on (and managed) over the course of the summer.  I’ve learned so much from you – and I thank you for bringing fun and friendships and oh so much laughter into my adult life!

Let the playoffs begin!