Feeling the Juice
Today is the first softball game of the season. I can feel the juices flowing and we still have 5 or 6 hours to go before the ump hollers “PLAY BALL”. This is my 46th straight year of taking the field as a pitcher. It’s my 44th straight year playing with Aspen Hill Christian Church. I swore on all that was holy that last season was my last but spring arrived and with it the juice.
I have a lot of great memories from playing over the years. I remember a time or two when the ump and I got into a dispute over something and I usually just smiled and said “OK, you’re the up”. Um, maybe that’s not the way it really happened. I do remember getting tossed in more than one game. Earl Weaver was always my hero for his “negotiating skills” and distinct style of “talking things over with the ump”. The time he was tossed and left the field but not before kicking up dirt over the umps shoes was classic. I do remember one game against a very, very top caliber team (Columbia Electric or something like that) with Jack Hanson running over to me while I was jaw boning with one of their players and shouting, “Bob why do you have to start a fight with the biggest player on the other team?”. It was a fair question, I believe I know the answer but I don’t want to talk about it…at least not today. It’s true…I have no friends on the other team playing against us.
Mostly, what I remember is all the great guys who have played with us over the years. Once we were young and fleet of foot (not me, I was never “fleet of foot”). Once we had guys who could cover half the outfield all on their own. Once we had guys who could “park the ball” on a regular basis. I was never a home run hitter or even a doubles hitter but I used to be a solid line drive base hit kind of guy. Now I just swat at it. Once we were young and fast and then we were old and slow and now we just might be young and fast again but we’ve always been a team. We played together, we argued together, we cried together. Did you know that one year we won the whole County End of Season Tournament? It’s true, little old Aspen Hill Christian Church won it all! It’s the people who have made my years of playing softball as special as they are to me.
In spite of not having practiced, being out of shape, slow, old, eyesight failing, and not being all good (if I ever was except in my own mind) I’m still feeling the juice and that’s worth a lot. Maybe not as much of the juice and maybe not as hot as it used to be but I can’t wait for tonight to get here. Isn’t that what sports is supposed to be all about…having fun, experiencing comradeship, bonding together to get the win, to defeat the foe and maybe have a little life learning along the way? I’m not the big fan of sports I once was. Too many parents are making it much too serious for too many little people. I’m afraid today’s kids won’t “feel the juice” at 26 let alone at 69 like I feel it now. I always try to remind young parents to let their kids have fun, don’t make such a big deal out of it and that one religion is enough and while I love sports, sports isn’t my religion.
I wish people enjoyed church as much as they enjoy sports or music or art or whatever other pursuits bring them joy in life. I wish people would “feel the juice” on Sundays when they are getting ready for church or thinking about whether they are going to come to church that particular day or not. I wish we could all understand how much joy and life and meaning being a part of the church adds to our life. Wouldn’t it be something if people lined up at the door of the church to get in just like they do at a ball game or the theater or any other place they enjoy going to in their life? Feeling the Juice…that’s what I hope church is like for all of us. Comradeship, bonding together, living for common joys and meaning. Church is meant to be a joy not a drudge. Play Ball!