I love the game of baseball. I would’ve taken a sandlot Saturday over anything else as a kid. I’ve stood in the crowd at the World Series and marveled at the roar of 50,000 fans. I quote Field of Dreams and Bob Ueker almost every day. There is nothing like the slick hands of a shortstop and the painted corner of a sinking fastball. I am enthralled by a 1-1 extra innings game and all the things the teams did right to keep the score that low, but also jumping out of my chair for 11-10 explosions. I love the US history wrapped up in the game’s past and the international influence that defines it now.
And I actually love that not everyone loves it, because I know those are people that just don’t know it the way I do. Until you understand it, immerse yourself in it, and hold your breath on each pitch, you just can’t love it this much. There is no sport on earth like it. At least, that’s what I thought.
Let me take a second to explain. You see, as my playing days came to an end, I spent a number of years redirecting my passion to schooling, to travel, to adult league softball, and eventually to family. The thought of transitioning from playing baseball to coaching baseball brought a new excitement for me. But God had different plans. He gave me daughters. As the younger years were filled with gymnastics and dance class, the light of my last chance to stay on the baseball field faded. In one last ditch effort, I pitched an idea to my daughters. Here’s how the conversation went.
“Do you want to play teeball?”
“Do you want to play teeball if I am the coach?”
“Do you want to play teeball if it’s an all-girls team?”
“Do you want to play teeball if it’s an all-girls team, your best friend will play and you get pink uniforms?”
And with that the Pink Angels was born. But right from the start something was off. Something was different. Something about this didn’t feel like normal tee-ball. All the bats were purple. All the backpacks were pink. There were no dogpiles of kids on ground balls. They didn’t spin circles when they swung the bat. There was no picking grass in the outfield. They faced forward when they were in the field. Looked at you when talked to them. They were….listening. They were disciplined. They were good. Really good.
The Pink Angels had a heck of a ride. The team made it through multiple levels of little league. They competed with the boys for years, this prideful unit of girls proving to the whole league that they weren’t just girls, that they were ballplayers. Requests poured in every year to be on that team. The support from the league and fans was amazing. The girls and the coaches were so proud to don the hot pink. But as life so cruelly does, the players began to realize there was a difference. Somewhere around 2nd grade, it started to register with the girls that they were different, not worse or better, and in no way unwelcomed, just that this maybe wasn’t a sport they could call their own.
Washoe Little League Softball
And with that, Washoe Little League Softball became more than an idea. On the tiny little backs of those girls, the inspiration for a new league grew. It happened quickly, an overwhelming response to summer softball clinics fueled the trial of a Fall softball league. It was an instant success, and the rest is history. The girls had a place they could call their own. It was a place where new players, girls that had been intimidated to try a new sport, came and grew.
As wonderful as it was to see the league providing opportunity for new and younger players, for me personally, there was more. I had still held inside me, the love for the individual plays and situations of the game. And these girls did not disappoint. Fielding, throwing, hitting, backing up plays, blocking pitches, going first to third on ground balls to right field. Our first game of the season was an 8-7 walk off loss…softball. The cheers of the fans and the elation of the team (albeit the other team) was amazing to see and hear. We felt the heartbreak of that walk off loss, the frustration of a blowout defeat, and the agony of being on the wrong side of close calls that cost us a game…softball.
But, we also got to watch girls battle under the lights through 39 degree weather and play a nearly flawless game for our first win in front of blanket wrapped, hot chocolate drinking set of fans…softball. I watched my daughters first double, and her pitch for the first time…softball. We had our first “don’t rub it” moment when a girl took a fastball in the ribs, and walked it off to first base…softball. And the season did bring us, in the true beautiful parity of the sport, a walk off win. The girls mobbing the game winning player on field was in slow motion to us coaches…softball. It was 5 years, in the making.
Becoming a Softball Coach
And with that I had become a softball coach. When I became a baseball coach of an all-girls team, there were things I was not ready for. I was not ready to have a wrist full of hair ties to fix pony tails mid inning. Nor was I ready to have a pocket full of jewelry that the players forgot to take off before the game. I was not ready for hairbows, printed socks, and the difficulty it is to match shades of turquoise. And the cheers…I was not ready for the cheers. I was not aware that learning the perfect cheers needed to be a formal part of practices.
But longer than the list of things I was not ready for, is the list of things I was not expecting. I was not expecting this level of team pride. To have a team mean more than the other players you are trying to win a game with. To have team mean that each player feels the joy and defeat of every other player. That’s what softball does. I was not expecting to see this level of sportsmanship. To see both teams run the bases together to celebrate the victors. To see true compassion by all during an injury. That’s what softball does. I was not prepared for the toughness, the grit of these girls. The dirty faces, the skinned knees, the rub some dirt on it mentality. That’s what softball does.
Above all else, I was not prepared for what it would look like to watch these girls thrive given the opportunity to be themselves. That’s what softball does. It gives girls the chance to be tough, to be fierce, to be athletes, but without compromising what it means to be a girl.
And with that, my love of softball had equaled my love of baseball.
Introducing Washoe Little League Softball
Washoe Little League is proud to host our first ever Spring Softball season for girls in 2022. Keep an eye out for registration opening in early January and please spread the word! Both our baseball and softball programs at Washoe Little League are governed by Little League International. As of this moment, games will be played in South Reno, either at the South Valleys Regional Sports Complex or a field near us.