John F. Russell: Lifelong love of the game

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

— Nothing has changed.

If you look inside the dugout, you will find the same type of players wearing the same dusty uniforms they always have. If you take a seat in the nearby stands, you just might hear the same sounds rolling across the infield that have been rolling for years. And if you close your eyes and picture the game, it will look the same as it always has. Sure, the faces will change, but the game will not.

I grew up playing Little League baseball, and as I got older, I spent my fair share of time attempting to hold on to the glory days in adult softball leagues. I know what the game looks like.

In that time, nothing really has changed.

The rules might vary, but the idea behind the game is basically the same as when Abner Doubleday first came up with the idea, or at least since the early 1900s when Albert Spalding decided to give the Civil War hero credit for inventing the game — which, apparently, he did not.

So maybe Doubleday didn’t invent the game of baseball, but he is part of the lore that has made the game a great part of American history. So is every player who ever has swung a bat, thrown a ball or sat in the dugout in a dirt-stained uniform.

It’s a game I’ve enjoyed playing for as long as I could throw a ball.

As I grew older I shifted to softball, and a few years ago, I decided to leave the game completely. But I never lost my love for the game. I can’t seem to escape the dust of the infield or the crack of a bat. This summer, for the first time in several years, I hope to get back on the field and take a swing or two at the game I fell in love with as a child.

But while the game is the same, I am not under the delusion that I’m still the same player I was when I started playing.

I understand that I’m slower, and I wasn’t sure I still could hit a ball out of the infield last week during our team practice. The scary thing is, I’m still not sure.

Softball isn’t exactly the same as baseball, but the idea of 10 defensive players on the field and one at the plate trying to find a hole in that large green pasture they call the outfield comes from the same fiber. The basic idea of getting more runners around the bases than the team in the opposing dugout is pretty much the same.

I used to make fun of my dad, who played fast-pitch softball when I was a child. I can’t even begin to tell you what I thought about slow-pitch. But that was then, and this is now. There are not a lot of options for a guy my age.

So I’m thankful for the chance to step back on the field, and I hope that the experience will not change my love of a game that has not changed in my lifetime. Most of the players are a little younger than me these days, but my love of the game remains.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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