Monday, July 23, 2012

It sure tastes sweet! Celebrating a softball championship

The final game of the Chester County Co-Ed Western division championship ended with a 14-3 victory for the APSCUF Rams. The Rams got hot at the right time, winning their last eight in a row and plowing through two rounds of playoff games undefeated.

After last Thursday's come from behind, extra-inning victory, 20-19, the game on Sunday evening felt like an anti-climax. Kevin Flynn, the team's pitcher and most valuable player, missed that seesaw tilt but was back at the pitching rubber for the championship and in command the entire game.

Eighteen players showed up, so the biggest decision was how to get so many players into the game and still stay competitive. Team captain, Kuhio Walters, and I decided to honor the men and women who had been on the team since the beginning. Eight starters played deep into the game before we went to the bench. Their energy turned a relatively tight 8-3 game into a last inning blow-out.

Fittingly, Flynn caught the final out, a pop-up to the mound. I asked every team member to play to sign the ball and gave it to Flynn for his mantle. Fifteen or 16 of us ended the evening hooking five tables together in the Square Bar and enjoying the rest of the evening with pitchers of Yuengling.

It's not hyperbole to say the season has been one of the best experiences of my life. I wish I could play like I did in my 30s, when I started a softball team at the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. The friendships I made on that team are among the strongest of my adult life. Eight of us still meet at least once or twice a year for brews, golf, cards and camaraderie.

Luke, my son, was only a two years old when I started that team. We called ourselves the Typoz. I remember stashing Luke's baby stroller in the dugout with us, Luke strapped into it, watching the action intently, soaking up the cheers and the atmosphere, relishing the whole experience. My teammates rustled his thick, brown hair for good luck on their way to home plate. More times than not, this small superstitious gesture brought it to them. And it brought luck to Luke, too. That was the making of a baseball fan and player. 

For me, this entire championship season was the most fun I've ever had on a team -- because Luke shared the experience with me. It made me proud to watch him play. He's a good player and I knew when we added him to the roster he'd help us win. He plays with reckless abandon, the way the best players play. To see him stretch routine singles into doubles and to run down and catch fly balls in the outfield was a joy to witness. 

I started the championship game as one of the team's designated hitters. It was my only plate appearance in five playoff games. I hit a hard ground ball to the Baptist second baseman who turned it into a force out at second base. The next time around the line-up, Luke hit for me and then he finished the game in the outfield.

When he scored the winning run in our improbable win last week, yelling and screaming and wearing a grin as big as the sky, my heart flew into my mouth. I almost hurts to be that damn happy. 

Last night, I got to taste the sweetest drink of all...the taste of champagne after a championship, my arm wrapped around Luke, members of the same team. This is why we still play a kid's game. 

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