Sunday, February 08, 2009

"Ate Up With Softball"

A few years back, one of our son Gerry’s cousins pronounced him “ate up with softball.” No one argued. What with his own coaching and his three daughters playing on various teams, their family spent much time at the ballpark. Consequently, so did Gerald and I. And also his siblings and their families when time and location allowed them to attend and cheer the three daughters on.

Starting with watching Tara play summer ball at age 7 or 8, then Erin even earlier with a coed team, and finally Geri Ann on the diamond, we often filled our spring, summer, and fall calendars with dates of the various games since school teams were added when the girls reached the age for that.

Their mother Vickie, who had also played softball, coached some of the early teams, but then Geri Ann was born. Vickie became an expert at watching her older daughters and keeping Geri Ann happy at the same time. I remember Gerry saying once when Geri Ann was about two that she had already attended 2000 games or some other hyperbolic number.

By the time Geri Ann was ready to play, the local park teams started at an even earlier age. I know her buddy and teammate Allison was a tiny three-year-old when I first watched her play—so Geri Ann must have started playing at four. They didn’t keep score with these kids, but no one competing for a state championship could have been more determined and competitive than Allison. Home runs were frequent, and balls in the outfield required movement by committee. Daddies were ready to comfort any hurt or disappointed player—whether it was his child or someone else’s. We have photos of these kids playing, but I don’t need them because the mental “photographs” still exist, and they make me smile.

We have a large collection of lawn chairs from those days, and I still wear some clothes I rushed up to the dollar store to add to my original clothing at one spring all-day tourney at Johnston City. (The wind was much colder than I expected.) I have watched ball in winter coats and gloves with a blanket added and also watched with sweat blurring my eyesight. I have frozen on the aluminum bleachers and come home with a sun burn despite sunscreen.

One of the results of Gerry’s family moving from nearby Johnston City to Georgia, where Gerry is assistant softball coach to Lu Harris-Champer of the Georgia Bulldogs, is that our social life has diminished locally. Of course we had already gone to California, Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Iowa, and other away places to watch the granddaughters as they progressed to college ball. And then after her college graduation, Tara began coaching, and we had to see her games when they were close enough and we had the time.

With Erin at Texas A&M last year, we couldn’t go to many of the games, but we discovered we could watch or more accurately listen to game tracker on the computer and sometimes even a video of the game. Thus, Gerald and I found ourselves in his office eating meals and cheering as we watched.

Well, the college softball season started this weekend, and we were at his computer watching again on Friday and Saturday. Texas A&M was hosting a tournament there, and Vickie was in the stands to cheer Erin. Gerry was at a tourney in Cathedral City, CA, with the University of Georgia team. (Geri Ann was in friends as she had a high school basketball game to play.) Gerry's games were not on game tracker that we could find at least. We had to keep up with his team by phone calls or emails from the Georgia website. Both of “our” teams won their two Friday games, and both split yesterday.

I was relieved they did not play today, so we did not have to rush home from church with Gerald getting the game going in his office downstairs while I hurriedly fixed us a bite to eat and carry down. We were having a Valentine potluck after worship at church today, and I am really glad we didn’t miss it.

Shirley Butler had outdone herself making the basement dining room absolutely gorgeous. She has great talent for decorating. (Her daughter’s wedding reception in our outdoor pavilion was the prettiest fairyland I even attended.) Adding to the fun was a beautiful birthday cake for our interim pastor’s wife, also named Shirley, who had driven out to join us. The cake featured bright red roses and a black piano in honor of this Shirley’s talent. (She plays at her church in town, but she frequently manages to come to our six o’clock evening service. When she and Kim Barger play together, I feel as if this must be what the music in Heaven will be like.)

Barbecue and Italian beef sandwiches from Patrick and Tina Barger’s new restaurant in Goreville was our featured main dish. The aroma was wonderful when we went down the stairway, and the sandwiches were as good as they smelled. As always there was a multitude of congregation-brought side dishes and desserts.

I had taken baked beans because at our last gathering our friend Eddy Wiley was there all the way from a not-so-close village hoping I’d brought the baked beans he liked as a teenager. And that I have taken especially for him many times since. I like to send the beans and left-over German chocolate cake home with him. But that day I had not fixed them.

Of course, today when I did fix them, Eddy wasn’t there. (No one had thought to send him word.) So I sent the remaining ones home with someone with kids since Gerald and I can’t eat them. Some of the left-over cake was used on the plates Shirley Butler was fixing for shut-ins, and I left the rest in the car, so we wouldn’t be tempted here at Woodsong. It will be delivered to Katherine’s family tomorrow. But we will be eating a barbecue sandwich tomorrow. Shirley was encouraging everyone to take sandwiches home. I couldn’t resist that. All the food sharing is part of the fun and fellowship in our village.

Also tomorrow we’ll have to get softball game times off the schedules and in our minds for next weekend. Some folks might say that Gerald and I too are “ate up with softball.”

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