(Note: This is part three in a three-part series about giving up softball after nearly 30 years of playing. This should have been published like a month ago, but apparently I didn’t schedule as I had thought …)
I look at the past two summers and last and know I made the right decision.
Something I always worried about was how I would feel that first or second summer that I didn’t play. I felt great. I did some more geocaching. I traveled some. I saw baseball games whenever I wanted. If it rained, I stayed home and didn’t think about if a field was playable or not. I wasn’t trying to call people at the last minute hoping we had enough to play.
Heck, I didn’t even go check out any games either year.
I’ve gone back and forth with this decision, but I know it’s the right one. It’s never easy to walk away from something you love and you’ve done for the majority of your life. But there were times last year (2017) when I would have rather gone to a baseball game instead of playing softball. Or there were times I just wanted to sit at home and put my feet up. Or go out and take photos or go on a geocaching adventure.
This summer, a few guys were playing on another team. One asked me if I wanted to play. The answer “no” rolled off my tongue very easily. My thought was I don’t want to join a team just to play — I have plenty of things I can do. Much of what I loved about having the team was being able to shape it to be one a highly competitive team. There were many aspects besides just playing.
I also once wanted to pitch so I could play well into my 50s. When I realized that wasn’t my second calling, that also helped my decision along. I’ve seen some line drives up the middle do some damage and I don’t think I want to be involved with that.
I’ve had some of the guys talk to me about future years. Put the band back together, so to speak. Some of the “younger” guys are at or quickly approaching 35 and would be eligible to play, they say. The thought is nice and such, but… people have families now. It’s not the same. They might not be able to make as many games and then we’re searching for players all over again. That chapter is over.
Softball treated me well. But there are other things in life awaiting me as well.
I wish I could thank everybody who has played for me over the years, but the names would go on forever and ever. But there are some who have played with me longer than most, and to that — there has to be special thanks.
First and foremost is Leap, who pitched 19 years for me. Amazing. It’s funny to think that he had his own team in Delhi — Leap’s Motley Crue — before playing for us. And then … it’s just continued. And despite being a little more than 60, he still chucks it and hits it well. He’s always been the steady person on the team and for that, I’m forever thankful.
Through softball, I have no doubts, he gained two son-in-laws — Marc and Warren, who have also played with me for many years. Warren took a few years away, but came back for the 35-and-over league. Marc has been a steady person on my teams for more than 20 years. In fact. Leap and Marc are the only two who have been on every championship team. I’m sure there are wiffle ball games in the future, though. I’ve always had fun knowing these two would be part of these teams.
My brother Pat played a few years with me in the Delhi league, after the team he had played on for many years disbanded. He was an important piece in getting Leap to play with us, and he provided a lot. It was even more special in 2001 when we won the league championship. He had won many before it, but it was my first and to share it with my older brother was a special moment. He came out of retirement for one game in Oneonta because one of his players (he coaches high school baseball) played for us. He then proceeded to tweak his hamstring (going out a little too hard …) and decided that retirement was a smarter move. I now see why he doesn’t mind being away from playing.
Then there are people like Riley, who was a “shit, we need players” sort of guy who joined us one year. He played with us ever since, a “dirty dog” sort of guy who you hate playing against, but usually like having on your side. He was part of the Thetford’s era who included so many people that may have come on the team when we were down a bit, but helped build us back up. People like Dean, Mison, Tim, Mikey Mo for a few years when he moved back, Snaker (who, for the record, used to be our bat boy). And despite being away for a few years, Justin joined us for one big run — committing to driving like an hour and a half one way — to play and we ended up winning a championship that year with him scoring the winning run.
The Delhi era had so many great people that have been on the team. Weav — our king of nicknames — and Lampy, Billy Mok and Richard; Higgs, Jahn … Mikey Mo the first time around. I smile thinking of the Shire and Blinkey’s era. I still remember five infielders against us… playing the bunt — and Ben bunting five times in a game for hits each time. This was during our championship year and in one of the games in the finals.
One thing I always believed in, too, was youth. It was a part of the game that was important. If you didn’t get the younger generation involved, then you weren’t going to have a game moving forward. The end of the Delhi run/and then the Thetford’s run featured so many younger guys that became important pieces to our team. Some only started with Thetford’s, but they grew with us. Gid, Sully, Matty O, Dylan … and “The Natural” Luke. My goodness. Playing softball with those guys was so much fun. In the later years we added people like Scheer (it took him long enough), JJ, Austin, and Shawn, which helped us keep up a high level of play.
Softball even shows the more interesting sides, such as how you can totally dislike somebody, then they come on your team and win two championships with you and the guys all merge. Just ask Mikey. Crazy how those things go. And it was fun in the Over 35 to play with a few different people, such as Rich and George and others — who you battled with in the past, but play on the same team and win with.
The memories and people go so deep. There are names I’ll end up leaving out here, but please know that if you played even one inning with me, I appreciate it. Each person has been part of something that I cherish.
The game will go on and I hope that there is eventually a re-surge and more people start playing again — especially modified pitch. It’s the closest thing to baseball with how you play the game and I think it’s the most pure of all softball.
It’s a great sport. I’m sure as time goes on, I’ll miss it. But after getting through these past two summers without a worry, I am sure the time was right.
Thanks for the memories.