Shortly before noon, our granddaughter Erin showed up at Woodsong, and we headed over to Henderson, Kentucky, where the Southern Force 16-and-under softball team was playing today n the Amateur Softball Association nationals.
Erin is helping her older sister Tara, the Force coach , but Erin has been driving back and forth because motel rooms are few and far between in this area. With 140 teams competing, this is one of the biggest national ASA tourneys ever. Erin thought she would sleep better at home than in Tara’s room with her beloved nephew Aidan.
After lunch in Harrisburg, we traveled on to the Shawneetown bridge across the Ohio River and into the beautiful hills of Kentucky. Next as we drove between fertile fields of corn and soybeans, Gerald was reminiscing about his frequent trips to Owensboro to the soybean processing plant in our old hog-raising days when our little children sometimes rode along. He declared these were the best crops he has ever seen in that region.
The tourney hosted by Owensboro, Kentucky, has games spread out at different fields and towns, so Henderson was a little closer trip than Gerald made on Monday when he drove over to see the first game in pool play. Southern Force won that and also yesterday’s pool play game. Unfortunately, playing the Arizona Hotshots today, we lost our first round of bracket play 3-0 when a great Hotshots hitter did us in with a home room that brought in two other runners after five scoreless innings.
We had five hits and once also had two runners on base—but we did not bring them in, so the most dreaded thing happened. Southern Force is now in the losers’ bracket, and it will take 17 wins to bring them back to play in the championship game against the winner of the winners’ bracket. (Tara’s team did this very thing last year at the nationals in North Dakota and won second in the tourney. But that is a very difficult and usually impossible way to get to the championship.)
It was very hot when we arrived in mid-afternoon. We immediately met our daughter-in-law Vickie, who was headed to the truck to get a bucket and shovel for Aidan to play in the huge sand pile by picnic shelter. She pointed the way to the shelter, where Marie Miller was watching Aidan for her. It was in the perfect location to watch Southern Force play.
Since we had forgotten to throw our lawn chairs in the trunk, I was very grateful to be in the shade with a breeze there instead of on the bleachers under the blazing sun. Gerald was tough enough to stand with Gerry or others most of the time, but I had the extra pleasure of watching two-year-old Aidan.
Seeing him get dirtier and dirtier as the afternoon wore on, we had to remember that it seemed only yesterday that we were watching Tara and Erin play ball while Geri Ann carried her sand bucket around with dirty face and feet. Vickie would bring her to the ball park sparkling clean with shiny face and neat hair, but Geri Ann threw herself into the sand pile play as hard as she does on the ball field now. (She was DH today and got two hits, but not the homerun that put the Hotshots ahead.)
Marie Miller co-cared and co-fed Aidan along with Vickie. She helped Aidan start playing in the sand pile by showing him how to dig holes and shovel sand. She willingly put his shoes and socks back on when he tired. Then when he wanted another session—but with company—she placed her lawn chair and sun umbrella on top of the sand pile to keep Aidan company even as she watched Danielle play. (Danielle got one of our hits.)
Of course, when K.J. and Jett showed up (big kids!), Aidan had all the company he needed as he followed them around in the fenced-in grassy area on the other side of the shelter as well as on the sand pile. Marie kept him hydrated with a bottle of cold tea and Gma Vickie offered a icy snow cone that he loved digging into. Both were pulling snacks out of their bags.
Beyond the fenced-in area and way way over on a hill was an attractive play ground with equipment. Aidan was very outspoken about wanting to go there. Vickie had to show and explain the locked gate on the fence that made it impossible. He kept asking Vickie for a key to that lock, but finally accepted that she had no key.
We were all a little startled when our peace was broken because three boys showed up running from the playground and crawled over the five-foot gate. They saw our worried expressions and hastily explained that they had tickets to the ball game in their pockets and just did not want to go way way around to get in. We were concerned that Aidan would be trying to climb that fence too. He didn’t, but he had a great time with K.J. and Jett trying to figure out how to pick that lock.
Since going into the losers’ bracket meant that Southern Force would be playing at 9 o’clock in the morning instead of sleeping in, Erin needed to stay over and didn’t come back with us. (We weren’t sure we could get her wherever they play by 8 in the morning.) We had a pleasant trip home stopping at Subway for supper.
Lightning flashes and darkening sky with the promise of a welcome rain made it even more pleasant after we came into Illinois. We arrived at our garage just as the first sprinkles began, and it has been raining ever since. We are going to bed with visions of Brian’s corn lapping up the moisture and growing bigger and better ears while we sleep.
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