For the love of the game

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Since becoming  a  member of the North Carolina Senior Games women’s softball team three years ago, not only has my general health and well-being  improved, but I’ve made a lot of new young-at-heart friends who share the love of the sport that has been my passion since I was a teenager.  
Last weekend,   the Clovers which represent Rowan-Salisbury but draw players from Stanly County and as far away as Chapel Hill,  met for a showdown with senior women’s softball players from surrounding areas.
We drew curious stares from passers-by as we dug grocery bags and totes containing our equipment from the back of cars and vans when we arrived at the sports complex.
It seems that our age 55 and older games were being showcased alongside fields where an age 16 and under tournament was being conducted.
The differences between the ponytail league and Senior Games softball became immediately apparent. Our black shorts with gray T-shirts emblazoned with the name of a local retirement center contrasted sharply with the splashy designer uniforms with matching cleats, socks and hairbows worn by the youngsters.
Did I tell you that the parents of the players also had coordinating attire that identified them as a part of the Spirit or Lightning or Flash teams?  
Not only that, but each family apparently had their very own fat-tired garden wagon tagging along that contained refreshments, snacks, first aid,  chairs and extra equipment for the team followers. The long line of wagons circled up to protect the camp of their daughters’ team. On the adjacent field, toddlers could be heard yelling, “hit it Nana.”   
Besides the obvious differences in the bags carried by the respective teams, what came out of the bags was notable.
Bubble gum was a necessity for the girls, but real women produced Tums, Aleve and muscle rub.
But the differences we observed are not what’s really important. Whether you play fast pitch and steal bases, or you play slow pitch and can’t buy a hit as you limp your way to the double bases by first base and home plate (so no one gets hurt), the really important  thing is the love of the game and the enthusiasm with which teams of all ages play the game.
Ask any of the ladies out on the dusty red dirt fields and you’ll sense the excitement as they tell you, “If you didn’t get dirty, you didn’t play.”