Spring Training – Then and Now

Those were the days!

Those were the days!

A younger and much lighter me played numerous positions for a team that began its existence as a group of men and boys representing the Ingram United Presbyterian Church.

For a number of seasons, we were mediocre at best and spent a good part of each game arguing with the appointed umpires. Being a church league, we saw no need to pay ‘professional’ umpires; we could simply select a member of each team to serve the purpose. One person would call the balls and strikes, and the other would handle the bases. Being good Christians, they’d obviously be honest in their calls.

Having been an appointee from time to time, I’d say we all tried to bend over backwards in an attempt to call the game fairly. However, neither our teammates nor the opposition chose to believe that when the call went against them.

Finally, our team voted to move into an industrial league and pay for umpires. We held car washes and other fund raisers to pay for the umpires as well as part of the costs of new uniforms. We also picked up a few players who were not members of our church and changed our team’s name to simply ‘Ingram’.

That’s when we suddenly became a winning team! Over the next several years, we won at least three league championships. And the most amazing thing is how we did it.

Typically, when someone hears that you’re playing men’s slow-pitch  softball, they expect games to end with scores such as 25-22. We averaged less than ten runs per game, but we gave up less than five.

Our defense was tremendous. We had great speed in the outfield and infielders who seldom made errors. As a pitcher who was once credited with a two-hit shut out, I can attest to how much our defense led to our winning records.

At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, I broke an ankle sliding into second base. My career went downhill after that, and I finally gave up the game a couple of years later.

I didn’t realize how much I missed the game unitl three years ago when our church softball team was desperate for warm bodies. After thirty-two years in retirement, I went out and bought a new mitt (I know my old one has to be around someplace, but I couldn’t wait to find it) and joined the team.

Amazingly, I’ve lost very little of my speed – in truth, there wasn’t much to lose. However, the agility is long gone. I do my best to fill in where ever I’m needed, but my best position nowadays is third base… coach. I can still wave a runner home with the best of them!

My new church team

My new church team

One would think that at sixty-four, I’d be the oldest guy on the team. However, it you look closely at the picture, you’ll see two grey beards. I’m the one on the right. L.A. Smith is the one on the left. He has me by about five years. The sad part about that is he gets first dibs on the courtesy runner.

It won’t be long before we begin another year of Spring Training. My mind is definitely ready for another season. All I have to do is convince my body to come along.

By the way, the league that Christ the King plays in is composed completely of church teams, but we have paid umpires. Arguments are few and far between.

Does anyone know why an argument at a baseball game is called a rhubarb?


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