A Pitch For Softball

Published 2:43 pm Thursday, May 23, 2013

With great anticipation and a touch of anxiety I gazed through the chain link fence at a Fluvanna ballfield. There was a nervous breath (well, I assume that I was breathing, anyway) as number seven stepped into the batter's box.

My twelve-year-old daughter and some of her friends weeks before this sunshiny day had cooked up the idea of playing fast-pitch softball. Up until this expressed interest in the game, we didn't even have a ball or glove in the house.

Had never really played catch.

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Or heard the pinging music of an aluminum bat in the backyard.

If you've never witnessed it in person, fast-pitch softball is a wonderfully exciting game.

The windmill action of the pitcher.

A rise ball.

A drop pitch.

The slow moving change-up.
It has a beauty of its own unique even to its kissing cousin, baseball. And we haven't even touched on the art of hitting all those pitches.

Some years ago, at the suggestion of the sports writer, I took to following the Cumberland Dukes high school varsity softball team. As a Cumberland graduate, I have a connection to the school and it was rather a joy to watch as this particular cast of teammates and some dedicated coaches put something really special on the field. Collectively they produced scores of wins and some unforgettable match-ups against the perennially great Powhatan Indians squad- and even, one year, brought home the state championship to Cumberland (which, incidentally has more local state championship banners than any other school in the area).

So the love of the sport, though dormant for several years was there. It was reignited in a different, if more personal way at that diamond in Fluvanna. A lot of hard work had gone into this moment by all of the young girls-several of whom were playing for the first time.

You could see them grow literally in front of your eyes.

A family friend had helped my daughter work on her batting stance. There were now no fewer than five gloves in the house with two of them getting a steady diet of regular workouts on the front lawn, and the team had “enjoyed” a stream of practices around the wet spring.

But there's nothing quite like the first time a youngster steps into the batter's box for real, digs in their cleats, gazes into the eyes of a pitcher, and swings away.

I'm not quite sure this Dad could describe all of the facets of the moment. It all happened rather so quickly-too quickly-and then it was over.

After one pitch.

Having been plunked on the leg, the umpire directed her to take her base.

All that preparation. All that wait-only to get plunked. I don't think I even turned red from holding my breath.

The good news is that it didn't particularly hurt her. The better news is that over the course of several weeks since then she finds that she enjoys the game.

The wife (knowing that I have a passion for sports) has since asked me why we didn't introduce her to softball sooner and my reply was that they have to have some interest, or it's just not fun.

In retrospect, maybe I should have at least bought some gloves a couple of years back. As old as I am, I'm still learning, too.

Fast-forward a few weeks to a crisp Monday evening in May (it was crisp, too-freezing coat-wearing crisp), pacing about at a field at Gene Dixon Sr. Memorial Park then seeing the smiles on the faces of the youngsters having worked together as a team to win their first game…

Yes, I like this sport.

And so does the wife, who sometimes still refers to runs as points.