John Russell: A bag full of memories
June 11, 2005
Steamboat Springs — The memories of past softball seasons came flooding back to me earlier this spring when I came across my old bat bag while cleaning out the garage.
The sides of the bag were still caked with red infield mud and it still carried the smell of dust and chalk that could only come from a softball field.
The bag was so stuffed with dirty balls, broken-in gloves and years of memories that the zipper seemed to struggle just to keep everything inside.
The bag has been sitting in the corner of my garage for more than a year, since our Rabbit Ears Motel team decided to call it quits.
My fondest memories of sports were formed as a child. But it’s hard to dismiss the years that I played softball as an adult. I learned a lot of things about the game and the people who play it in Steamboat Springs.
The game taught me that some players take to the field for fun, others do it to inflate their egos and more than a few do it to keep from growing old.
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Playing a child’s game has a funny way of erasing wrinkles around the eyes, gray hair and years of birthdays.
That is, until you pull your first muscle running to first or blow out a ligament in your knee trying to catch up with a fly ball.
Eventually, time takes its toll and most adult softball players — with the exception of Jim Fader who should request to be buried under the mound on Klumker the day he stops playing — eventually will decide to stop playing.
In some cases, athletes retire because they can’t play at the same high level they have come to expect.
But that wasn’t my case, especially because I never really played at that high of a level.
No, I fall into the group that discovered it was more important to spend time playing basketball with my kids in the driveway, or hanging out on the sidelines of a U-8 soccer game watching my son kick a ball on a hot summer night.
Since I stopped playing, I also have more time to complete the seemingly endless number of tasks on my wife’s “honey-do” list.
I hate to admit it, but after a year away from softball, I don’t miss the game that much.
I miss the friendships and the feeling that comes from smacking a ball with a double-walled bat — but not enough to go back.
I’ve learned that people come out and play softball for a variety of reasons, but those who keep coming back do it because it’s fun.
This week another softball season stepped to the plate in Steamboat Springs.
The cheers, an occasional scream and the other muffled sounds of the game that can be heard in downtown remind me that I’m not playing the game. But at least I have those sounds, and a mud-caked bag, to remind me of the game I loved.