Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Most Popular Sport

 It seems the three big subjects of interest in our country today are politics, sports, and weather. Since I no longer understand politics, and have no intention of spending another minute wondering what tomorrow’s forecast is, let me talk about sports. It’s a huge subject.

   Just consider all the options you have throughout the year in St. Louis. The big three, of course, are The Cards, The Rams, The Blues. But those are the pro's, probably not your line of work and certainly not mine. We’re spectators. So let's consider all those other sports that you can participate in. Chances are at least one of them is on your weekly "to do" schedule. Golf, tennis, handball, racquet ball, bike riding (as in Trek), bike riding (as in Harley), Bocce ball (if you live on The Hill), darts, rugby, swimming, soccer.... well, you get the idea.

   However there is one sport I didn't mention, and it possibly boasts more participants than any other in America. It's softball. Believe it or not, over forty million (that’s 40,000,000) men, women and children play softball, in one form or another. It really is the All-American sport. There are thousands of leagues, tens of thousands of teams, in every state in the Union. You can play no matter your age, from grade school into your 80's or as long as you can stand and hold a bat. Seriously. 

   I play senior slow pitch softball in Kirkwood. We play three mornings a week. Also there are leagues 3 nights a week. And that's just for us old guys. Several of them are in their 80's, a few fought in Korea, lots of them have brand new knees or hips... and they still run around the bases. Slowly.

    If you drive through Forest Park, or past school yards or walk in one of the many parks in this area, chances are you've seen a softball game in progress. Boys, girls, men, women, middle aged, seniors. There are softball tournaments across the country for just about every age group, for both men and women. 
   This is interesting. The International Senior Softball Association (ISSA) has just announced it will be holding the 2014 ISSA Midwest Championships this year at Independence, MO on July 25-27. This marks the first time in the twenty years they’ve been sponsoring tournaments that it will be held west of the Mississippi. Here’s a link the ISSA website.

   Softball is such a big sport these days that ESPN carries college games, the tournaments, men and women's games.

You won't believe how fast these lady pitchers fire the ball at the plate. An article in Sports Illustrated earlier this year described an experiment the magazine ran. They had professional baseball players try to hit a woman fast-pitch pitcher. Results: the guys seldom hit the ball. One of those pro's was Albert Pujols.
He said there was no way to anticipate where the pitch was going, no "tell" signs, no reaction time to adjust his swing. He couldn't touch 'em.

   One thing to remember about playing softball: there are plenty of games where you don’t have to be good. You just want to have a good time, get together with interesting people, get a kick out of the sound of your bat connecting with the ball and the slap of the ball in your glove, the high five or bumped fists when you get a hit. Or maybe even win. Even if you don’t play, you can watch. Maybe get inspired to find that old glove somewhere in the basement.

(This article originally appeared in County Living Magazine, Summer, 2014.
The magazine contains valuable information on products, services and destinations. Check it out. County Living Magazine)