The last summer I played softball, I met my husband Adam. We had met years before, but I barely remembered him and barely paid him any attention. I had my own friends on the team and a fierce competitive spirit. I played softball for some twelve years before that summer, ever since I was a Little Leaguer who could barely throw the ball across the diamond.
My childhood summers were spent at the ballpark. My brother Brent played baseball and I played softball, and our family learned the not-so-simple choreography of weekend games and weekday practices. As we got older, more of our springs and summers were consumed with the game. School teams, rec teams, all-star teams: somehow we did it all, and gained a little brother, Alex, who learned to love the game as much as we did.
It seems fitting that I would meet the man I’d spend my life with on a softball field. Even now, my younger brother plays for his varsity baseball team and my parents are at the baseball field more often than not. That’s how it had always been with us. Spring and summer meant bleachers, sunflower seeds, and eye black. I would recite softball cheers; my brothers would play catch in the backyard.
Adam, however, played softball simply to have something to do. I could out-hit him; he could outrun me. After our games, our team headed to a nearby bar that sponsored our team to drink beer and throw darts. It was there that we had our first conversations. We spent one late Friday night after a game walking around the city and talking. And that was that. We’ve been together ever since.
We got married and moved down south, and softball became a thing of the past. But I have baseball in my blood, and there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a Saturday afternoon spent at the ball field. As my younger brother, Alex, climbed the ranks of school ball, I got more and more homesick for a baseball game. But our trips back north never coincided with baseball season.
A few weeks ago, Adam and I moved our family back to our hometown, back where we met and fell in love on a softball field, and I knew the first thing I wanted to do was watch Alex’s varsity baseball team play. We went to one game, then another, and suddenly we were back to an old familiar rhythm, the liturgy of the ball field. Take a lawn chair and iced tea (preferably obtained at a gas station on the way to the game), have a chat with one eye on the field, scream wildly at good plays and bad, and take the game personally.
When the varsity team made it to the sectional championship, they got to play at the field where our city’s minor league team plays, at night under the lights. I sat beside my mom, huddled in multiple sweatshirts and under blankets, and we performed all the rituals of a good game. And it was a good game. The boys were nervous and played sloppier than usual, but in the end, in the bottom of the seventh, they turned a tied game into a win. We stood and cheered and yelled. Students from Alex’s school ran out onto the field to join the team in celebration.
And it was good. Being with my family was good; being at the ball park was good. What it felt like was home, which was very good after living a thousand miles away for six years. Now we have the summer. Adam and I won’t be playing softball this year, but maybe next year. This summer we’ll be at the ball park, cheering Alex on and doing all the good ball park things I’ve come to know. Then we’ll teach them to our daughter Lily, who will no doubt learn to throw a ball and swing a bat and love the game as much as we do.
Lindsay Crandall spends her days writing, photographing, and (mostly) chasing after her toddler daughter, Lily. She, Lily, and her husband, Adam, recently returned to upstate New York after living in the Deep South for several years, and are very happy to be back "home." Lindsay blogs at A Condition of the Heart and frequently posts her photographs on Flickr.