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“There’s No Crying In Baseball”

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

I know, no matter what a lot of men say, that before I was born, my father was looking forward to a boy. It’s okay…I don’t hold it against him, lol. Once he shook it off he embraced having a daughter. I grew up in a bit more of a gender stereotypical world…where there were boy clothes and girl toys (not to say there still aren’t, but there are definitely more gender neutral alternatives than ever before). My mother was really hoping for lace canopy bed kinda girl, with Laura Ashley print wallpaper and frilly dresses and all. That wasn’t quite me.

While I did enjoy dressing up from time to time, and I had some dolls (though I much preferred the Bionic Woman over Barbie) I took to more of the “boy” stuff available at the time…building blocks and Matchbox cars, LEGO, and Tinker Toys. A lot of my friends were boys even from kindergarten…so many of the girls were so cliquey and judgmental…even back then.

My dad got the benefit of a girl who liked boy things. He taught me how to throw a baseball (and now, in this enlightened era I cringe at myself a bit when I see someone who doesn’t know how and the phrase “throw like a girl” almost pops out of my lips). We’d spend many a late afternoon tossing the ball…he’d throw the ball all sorts of ways…down low, fast and straight at my head, the lobs that felt like they’d never come back down. Though it did become a softball when he decided to coach the girls softball team starting in 4th grade. He and a handful of other dads, most of whom did not have boys either or had younger ones, took on the sizeable team.

Our first game went terribly wrong and we lost by a landslide. We weren’t happy. Dads weren’t happy. Again…this is a while ago, and one could say the dads didn’t hold back…throughout the game there were some escalated voices and finger pointing and yes…Tom Hanks’ character from A League of their Own would have been besides himself because there were tears. Lots of them. But I guess, it’s softball, so allowed. And we were 10.

But we never lost again. At the end of the third year we played that same team who raked us over the coals as fourth graders. This was the championship and we were in sixth grade now…the “seniors” of the elementary school. And we were gloriously victorious.

Not to say there weren’t more tears along the way to the championship. I don’t think coaches could get away with the technique nowadays. The dads never said any bad words…but they were young guys (most married relatively young) and they were…loud…gentle parenting wasn’t as prevalent as it is today. I was among the girls who got emotional at practice. I wasn’t treated any differently. If I missed a catch (I was at first base) whhhhoooo wheeee I’d hear the loud disappointment and see my father put his head in his hands, sending his energy down to the earth with some stomping in an effort to curb his reaction. Tears would get mixed with the dust from the field, and we’d tuck our hair back up under our hats and behind our ears and resume our stances to ready for the next batter. I can still hear, “Positions!!!!” hollered across the field, in either practice or in games.

And I was a hitter. I could belt that ball with the best of them. But I was slow. Terribly slow with the running. While I could pivot and stretch playing the field, running the bases felt like an eternity. It almost felt like the earth kept being pulled away as I ran, and I’d never catch up. I could feel the mounting frustration from the team, not to mention myself, as I willed my body to move faster but it just wouldn’t cooperate. I was lucky I could hit the ball so far.

Funny that I don’t remember the wins in between. There were a lot of them, indeed. I’m sure we had pizza and ice cream and all the spoils expected for the victors. But I do remember the progression. How the team learned to work together…whether because of the joy of the sport or the fear of disappointing our dads…maybe a little of both…was an exercise in development.

And I know recalling a memory with such a mixed bag of emotions isn’t your typical Father’s Day message. But it was real and it was visceral and it was indelible. From that experience I learned to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. I think a lot of us did…even the girls who were more natural atheletes…most of whom went on to play school sports in high school. While I wasn’t one of them I applied that gumption in other areas of my life and eventually found my niches.

Instead of sportsball, my dad came to musicals and concerts and cabarets and I’m pretty sure got as much joy seeing me take a bow in the spotlight as much as he did when I’d round the bases or tag out the runner.

But I still like to toss a ball once in a while. I have his old mitt and mine. My kids didn’t take to it so much…maybe it’s the Florida heat. But if he asked me…I’d certainly play.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, my Big Ace. Tons of love to you always, your Little Ace.

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