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?
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.
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.
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.
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.