Did I tell you how much I love baseball… part deux

I began playing organized baseball (softball, technically… it’s not my fault they wouldn’t let girls play ball with the boys) when I was in the seventh grade.  My sister Patricia and I were attending Prince of Wales Public School in Barrie, Ontario.  It was the spring of 1980 and we decided we wanted to play on the school’s girls’ softball team.

Our parents had been apart for more than two years by now and dad had married his second ex-wife.  He had also move as far away from us as possible and still remain in the same country; he had accepted a five-year posting to CFB Esquimalt on Vancouver Island early in the year.  I had just turned 12 when he left for the west, and I wouldn’t see him again until the summer I turned 16 – but that is an adventure blog for a different day.

Baseball was easy for Patricia, she was a natural athlete (still is today).  I, however, was and likely always will be, a klutz.  For weeks and weeks we practiced on the large football field adjacent to our school.  We learned the fundamentals: throwing, catching, hitting, picking up grounders, running the bases, making plays (never quite got the hang of turning a double), and sliding.  I don’t think there was a girl on the team who had ever played baseball before, but we all learned that spring.  Early in June, not long before the end of the school year, there was a city-wide tournament scheduled.  If memory serves, we had matching team shirts and that was about it.  We were a rag-tag group for sure.  We had no idea if we were any good but we were excited to find out.  The night before the tournament it started raining, and kept raining well into the next day.  They cancelled the tournament.  I was perturbed to say the least.

At the end of that school year, my mom moved us to Sudbury and I went to a new school that fall – the eighth of ten schools that I would ultimately attend to complete my public school education.  They did not have a girls’ softball team.   My next opportunity to play softball was in grade nine, but I was too terrified to try out for any of the school teams.  In grade 10 I tried out for the girls’ varsity team and I made it.  Well, since there was only 12 of us trying out, we all made it.  Once again there were weeks of practice and re-learning the fundamentals, which was to culminate in a one-day, city-wide tournament… that was rained out.  I was beginning to think I was never going to play ball.

The following spring I signed up for one of the city softball teams.  I was 17 years old and should have been playing in my second year at the Midget level.  Sadly, there were only about 10 of us at that age group so they split us up and scattered us amongst the Bantam teams.  I felt like a giant.  You see, at 16 I had reached my peak height; I was 5 feet 8½ inches tall.  No one else on the team came close.  I played one season of girls’ softball and then there was nothing else – No Juniors because there weren’t enough of us to make one team, let alone a league.

For a few years I played as an alternate, or sub, on my mom’s Blooperball team (think slo-pitch, but slower) with fake ID (it was a 21+ league).  Once I turned 21 I joined a women’s team and played every season until I moved to Toronto in 1991.

I missed the ’91 season because of the move but the next year I started playing in the Ultimate Slo-Pitch League out of Carleton Park in Unionville.  We (my then husband and I) played there for 12 years, despite moving a few times).  When we got married in 1992 we made sure to plan our wedding for the Friday of a long weekend so we wouldn’t miss a game for our honeymoon (it was a Sunday night beer league – no games on long weekends).  How’s that for dedication?

Honourable Son #1 - 1st baseball uni

Honourable Son #1 – 1st baseball uni

Our oldest son attended his first game as a fan at the ripe old age of three months… he didn’t really get it.  We won a few league championships over the years, kissed our sisters lots, played in an unbelievable number of tournaments (summer and winter) and I even won Captain of the Year once.  Our second son, born in 1996 in the middle of a weekend tournament (not actually at the tournament, I did have enough sense to go to a hospital), attended his first game when he was a mere 8 days old.  He slept through most of it but I’m pretty sure at one point he called the umpire a bum.

For years we dragged our boys to weekly games and weekend tournaments.  They would spend their time creating elaborate race car tracks in the dirt and driving/crashing their Hot Wheels and MatchBox cars all over the place, and at the end of every game, they’d run the bases.

A few years later the boys started playing house league sports; I tried to push them toward baseball but they insisted on soccer… ugh.  It nearly broke my heart; but, I told myself the important thing was they were playing team sports and not becoming hoodlums – they were seven and five respectively when they started paying sports.  Our youngest, wanted to do everything his big brother did.

Honourable Son #2 - Atom Select Team

Honourable Son #2 – Atom Select Team

Eventually, the boys found their way to baseball – a mother’s dream 🙂 Brampton Minor Baseball has some great player development programs.  The house league program is coached by parents – I got to be one of those coaches for a few years.  The older of our two boys only played for a few years; two seasons each at Peewee and Bantam and one year at Midget.

The younger lad however, has developed a great love of this sport.  He was selected for the house league All-Star team two years in a row in Squirt.  In Atom he made the Select team the second year but missed the cut in his first year of Mosquito.  From his second year in Mosquito through two years in Peewee he became a regular player on the Select team.  In his Bantam year he was selected as an alternate player for the AA rep team, but didn’t see the field for the first half of the season (his big brother was an assistant coach that season); he didn’t pitch one game that season even after proving himself on the infield.  In his second year of Bantam he became the starting third baseman, eventually moving to short stop and relief pitcher.  In the off-season and whenever he wasn’t playing or practicing with his team, he would take his glove and a ball and go to the school behind our house.  He’d draw a chalk target on the wall and throw pitch after pitch after pitch.

Both of my boys - Coaching and playing together

Both of my boys – Coaching and playing together

All his hard work and determination has paid off because for the past two seasons he has not only been one of the starting pitchers (probably the best in my incredibly biased opinion), but he’s the only kid on his team in the last two seasons to throw complete games for the win on multiple occasions.

2013 Brantford Tournament - Player of the Game - Complete Game (W 8 - 1)

2013 Brantford Tournament – Player of the Game – Complete Game (W 8 – 1)

The coup de gras for his 2013 season was not only being selected for the COBA1 All-Star Team (representing Central Ontario Baseball at the annual Canon Cup Tournament in Oakville), but the COBA1 team won all the marbles (Tournament Results).  That weekend was some of the best amateur baseball I have ever seen.

2014 will be my baby boy’s last season of BMBI baseball before he goes off to college, and I hope it will be his grandest season of them all.

2013 Kingston Tournament - Pitchin' in the Rain

2013 Kingston Tournament – Pitchin’ in the Rain

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Did I tell you how much I love baseball?


My love affair with baseball started with these guys; the 1978 Toronto Blue Jays

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I didn’t know much about baseball in 1978.  I was an 11 year old girl, and while I participated in the required physical education classes in school (remember Participaction?), organized sports for girls was not a common thing.  My exposure to baseball prior to July 28, 1978 was pick-up games and playing 500 in the field behind our house (not even on a real baseball diamond).  The entire neighbourhood would come out to play.  It was really quite awesome.

I grew up on military bases; my father was a heavy equipment operator in the Canadian Air Force.  From 1975 to 1978, we lived at CFB Borden.  Early in 1978 my parents separated and because custody was given to our mother, the five of us (mum, three sisters and me) had to leave the base at the end of the school year.  We moved to nearby Barrie and began our new lives as a civilian family, sans dad.

To help transition herself from married life to single parenthood, mum joined the well-known organization Parents Without Partners.  It was because of this group that I got to see my very first professional baseball game.  On Saturday, July 28, 1978 the group boarded a school bus and made the 90 minute journey from Barrie to downtown Toronto.  I was very excited; we all got authentic Toronto Blue Jays baseball hats… think trucker hat with the plastic mesh – Classic!.  We were in the nosebleed seats at Exhibition Stadium, more affectionately referred to as the “Mistake by the Lake” (epic bird shit in case you were wondering why that particular moniker).  We were so far away from the field and I was so ignorant about baseball, that it took me three innings to figure out which team was which.  July 28 was the first of a three-game home stand against the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Jays won only 7 of 14 home games that July, and I got to see one of them.  We beat the Brewers 3 – 2.  From that day forward, I was hooked.

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1978 was a losing season for the Jays who finished at a dismal .366 (59-102); however, this was a five game improvement over their 1977 inaugural season.  The Jays finished dead last in the American League East that season.  The only team in major league baseball to finish worse than the Jays in 1978 was the Seattle Mariners (also a 1977 expansion team) who finished at .350… yay Mariners!  Being an expansion team, the Jays were built from unprotected players picked from the other 24 teams and draft picks.   A few notable 1978 draft picks were Lloyd Moseby and Dave Stieb.  In 1976 Ernie Whitt, an unprotected player in his sophomore MLB season, was plucked from the Boston Red Sox (they had Carlton Fisk) and spent the next 12 years with the Blue Jays organization – he was the last remaining player from the original 1977 roster when he left the organization in 1989.  That was a sad day for me.

My beloved Blue Jays struggled through their first five seasons and then finally in 1983, they broke through that .500 barrier and finished with a winning season; and followed that up two years later with a division champship.  By 1985 I had graduated high school and had started working for a living whilst I decided on what I wanted to study in college.  I often found myself in a struggle during baseball playoffs and the start of the NHL season.  What’s a girl to do?  To whom should I give my undying love and support?  Well, like any true multi-sport fan who can’t afford a wall of television screens, I struck a compromise.  I would listen to the hockey games on CBC radio and watch the ball games (without sound) on television.  What more could a girl ask for?

From Wikipedia:

“From 1985–1993, the Blue Jays were an AL East powerhouse, winning five division championships in nine seasons, including three consecutive from 1991–93. During their run of three straight division championships, the team also became back-to-back World Series champions from 1992–93, led by a core group of award-winning All-Star players, including Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, John Olerud, and Devon White. They became the first (and to date, only) team outside the U.S. to appear in and win a World Series, and the fastest AL expansion team to do so, winning in their 16th year.”

Sadly, my boys in blue and white and their ever changing logo, have not made the playoffs since 1993. This makes sad, and though I will rant and rave and curse and whine and complain about them all season long, I will also stand by them and support them until my dying day.  Since 1978 I estimate that I have attended roughly 100 live Blue Jay Games and watch hunderds more on television.  These are not epic numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but live games get expensive when you’re a family of four.

I’ve been in the stadium when it’s been sold out and packed to the rafters (vs. either the Yankees or BoSox) and I’ve been there when there were barely any fans in the seats (vs. KC or Seattle).  The energy in a jam-packed stadium is unbelievable – even if you hated the game you couldn’t help but get caught up in the fan frenzy.  I’ve only ever been to one Opening Day – those tickets are damn hard to come by if you’re not a season ticket holder – and it was FREAKING AWESOME!!!!  For the 2013 season I desperately wanted to attend opening day.  The day tickets went on sale to the public I took the day off work so that I could spend my morning trying to acquire tickets.  After two hours of simultaneously trying to get through to the ticket web site and through to the box office via telephone I finally connected (on the phone), only to be told that opening day had been sold out for weeks… before they ever went on sale to the general public!  I was so thoroughly disappointed.

I will try again this year… what was that definition of insanity?

I love everything about baseball: the smell of a well-seasoned leather glove, the feel of the stitches as you roll the ball in your hand, the sound of the bat crack as you make perfect contact, the snap of the catcher’s mitt as he snags that 98 mph fastball, the calls from the ump, the shouts from your team mates, the roars from the stands.  I love the smells from the concession stands; the hot dogs and popcorn and fresh roasted peanuts.  I love the taste of a cold beer on a hot summer day, sitting in the stands at Skydome (yes, I know they renamed the stadium, but I’m stubborn) as the sun beats down from a clear blue sky.  I get a tremendous kick out of seeing the exuberant faces of a bunch of grown men after they’ve won a game of baseball, or better yet, bested those dastardly Yankees in four-game series 😉  It really is the greatest game on earth.

Who needs heaven when you’ve got baseball?

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