That is my husband, Neil. He coaches the Joppatowne Mariners High School varsity baseball team. I’m so very proud of him. He is passionate and positive and knows his stuff. Every day he impresses me with his commitment and attitude. Every single day he inspires me and many others by doing what he was born to do: coach.
It also helps that I’m a baseball girl at heart! And I’m not separating baseball from softball here because most of my playing career which ran roughly from five to seventeen years, was in softball. When I say playing career- I’m using that term loosely. Yes I played on a team, but as I recall, I don’t ever really think our team was any competition for the others.
But that didn’t stop us from loving it any less! Back then it wasn’t about winning or losing. We were kids just growing up who couldn’t get enough. My best friend, Becky and I would work harder after the game was over. We’d play way past dusk unable to see and were forced to quit because the ball would get lost in the air and the next thing you know, someone was nursing a shiner.
I got my first official start in the Whirlpool Little League. Like a lot of girls back then I started out with the boys because there was never enough girls. Then at a certain age, they split us up. Too dangerous, they said.
But that didn’t stop me from playing 21 with my brother Jimmy and his friends in my Gram’s backyard. Talk about danger! The way I remember it, I never got to bat, that was just the politics of the older versus younger sibling. I was forever the outfield runner, snagging balls in the outfield- well, trying to anyway. It made no difference to me, I was just glad to play.
The goal of 21 is to be the first outfielder to get twenty-one points. A fly ball was worth seven, a grounder with three hops or less was five and a roller was three. At least that is the point system I remember. To this day, I love that game!
My playing career eventually opened me up to baseball fandom. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an Orioles fan. I don’t know why since I grew up in upstate New York. We didn’t have a major league team nearby but most people chose to be Yankee fans. Not me. Maybe it was that old cartoon oriole bird that did it for me. He was fierce and had so much character. Maybe it was the orange. Who knows? It was coincidence that I ended up moving to Baltimore where my love for baseball and the Orioles continued to grow.
Another reason I love this game was because my Dad would often take all of us kids to Sal Maglie Stadium to watch the Niagara Falls Pirates of the New York Penn League in action. Those were the days! The night always concluded at De-Dee’s with an ice cream in those adorable mini baseball caps- I would always choose the Orioles cap.
I share this today because it is Opening Day in Major League Baseball. For the first time in twenty some years I did not ask Neil if we could get tickets. The Mariners have a game today! There was a time when we’d take off work and do whatever we could to get to that game. It was the hottest ticket in town and would never disappoint. Often, we would celebrate our son, Cal’s birthday during Opening Day at Camden Yards.
Oh, so many memories with this game!
As I reflect, I see how much the times have changed. But baseball, now that is something that has remained pretty consistent in our ever-changing world. Baseball has pretty much stayed the same. We can count on the game to be there for us whenever we can make it out to the park. Sure the names and rosters are different. A rule, arguably, may have been tweaked or refined.
But this game is still just as pure as it ever was. And there is so much more to it than nine innings and a win or loss. So many memories, such nostalgia. It carves out a place in your heart and romances you; you can’t help but be taken. Especially on days like today where these moments from the past rekindle that feeling of hope and excitement, of family and fun. Bliss.
It makes you feel like a kid again when you were dying for that first pitch, at the edge of your seat waiting for the ump to yell, play ball!
Not a care in the world. Just love.