What a difference a year makes.
The softball team I run is out to a 6-0 start, despite not always having 10 players on the field. I’m not sure what’s different between this year and last, but things are clicking a little bit better.
And I’m all for it.
We’ve scored a lot of runs, too. Everybody seems to be hitting, we’re playing decent defense and it appears the fun factor is back in the game. We’re still not without flaws, though, as we’ve yet to field consistent team and lineup. We have our core players who make every game, but outside of that, we’re filling in spots as we go along.
As the guy putting the lineup in the book, that can be maddening!
One thing I’ve realized in recent years is how softball — at least at the modified fast pitch level — in our area is really a dying sport. When I started playing softball more than 20 years ago, this area was a hotbed. There were no fewer than five solid leagues within a 50-mile radius or so. They were all pretty solid, too.
The local league was a consistent 10-12 teams. The one up the road had two divisions that held probably 10-12 teams in each, as well as a solid women’s league. The league I’m in now was also large and the others were solid in their own right.
Back then, we didn’t even need to wear helmets!
In my “prime,” I played in three leagues. Basically, I played every night of the week — sometimes two games. It was so much fun and something I’m glad I had the chance to do.
Weekends were often filled with tournaments. That pretty much meant from May to late August, softball was life. And it was worth it.
During my top year or two, I approached the 100-game mark. I know some guys in our area still do that, but it’s with slow pitch and such. We did all modified pitch, which is as close to baseball as any other softball in my mind. It’s pitching, defense, hitting and strategy. Run and gun, bunt or bomb long homers.
Each year, we’d go to states or nationals, too. Talk about a heap of fun — it was at those tournaments.
Things have certainly changed.
People don’t, as often, bring their families and play softball. There’s golf leagues, and other things to do. Softball continues to die out. Though there are still some hardcore players (and it’s a shame they didn’t play in the earlier years when I did — they’d have loved it), there aren’t as many.
The game is changing, that’s for sure.
I still love playing. I go on game nights and want to win. I give it what I can for a couple of hours, grab a bite to eat and maybe a cold one and call it a night.
I once thought I’d play softball until I was well into my 50s and 60s. Now I’m not sure how far I’ll be playing once I hit my 40s. It might not be by choice, either.
Until all of that happens, I’ll continue this year. Hopefully we can keep playing well and maybe make a run in the playoffs when the time comes.
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