John F. Russell: Learning the joy of softball

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— Some people take a serious approach to the game of softball.

They can run out and dump $200 on an Easton softball bat or $90 or more for a fielding glove, and a good pair of cleats can be priceless when it comes to running the bases on the diamond.

But the great thing about softball is that you don’t have to be that serious about the game to have a good time. There are people out there who spent less than $50 on their bat. Others shop the local garage sales in the summer, hoping to find a glove for next season. And I’ve seen more than a few players running the bases in something other than cleats. A few years ago, I played with a girl who was wearing hiking boots.

But the really cool thing about softball is that it appeals to all types of people and players of all abilities.

On the field, you will find players still trying to fulfill their childhood dream of playing major league baseball and others who show up for a cooler full of beer.

They all come out to play a game that means little in the big picture but can brighten up a boring weekday evening.

Lets face it: There is something fun about the game, and many times it doesn’t depend on how well you play or even if you win or lose. For some teams, the most important thing is showing up each week with a smile on your face.

This weekend, a team of players from Routt and Moffat counties will head to Lakewood to play in the Mile High Classic Special Olympics softball tournament.

The Pirates Special Olympics softball team has spent the past eight weeks training. This weekend, members will discover what they have learned when they go head-to-head against four other teams from across the state.

The final score of these games means nothing. At the end of each of the games, one of the teams will walk off the field victorious, but both teams will walk off the field as winners.

This tournament isn’t about crowning champions — it’s about hitting the ball, running the bases and realizing the enjoyment a game like softball can bring in the span of a few innings. Isn’t that enjoyment the reason most people play the game?

I’m thrilled to see that a team from Steamboat Springs will venture down to Lakewood to play in this tournament. I’m also glad to see that coaches like Greg Bjorgum and Michael Turner are giving their time to share the joy of softball with the players on the Pirates roster.

The joy is something anybody who has ever played the game of softball — it doesn’t matter if they are in men’s “A” league, the coed “D” league or playing at the Special Olympics — can grasp, even without one of those expensive gloves.

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