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by Alsace “Scrappy” L’Fuerst

Springtime: When a former future of Hall of Famer’s heart turns to softball.

Softball:

not the high-level fast-pitch version that female athletes play

with much of the same gusto, skill sets and eyes-agog onlookers

as the game better baseball players play,

but the high arc, lob, put it over the plate and jack it game

the take a hack and whack it 

give it a smack and crack!

kiss it goodbye

going going gone 

and the crowd in our head goes wild game

we all play,

have played,

long to play,

is Art,

too.

Most often of the baggy pants, falling down, low comedy variety;

a slapstick, a farce, a knockabout travesty–

despite what the Wednesday night beer league 

and Sunday morning pick up players say,

…most often in retrospect.

But jack-it softball is also 

the Art

of bonhomie 

and camaraderie

of giving shit

good naturedly

between the cheers and jeers

the Art 

of heroics realized:

A wallop, a dinger

A Ruthian blast.

A goner, round-tripper

It’s outta here fast.

A home run by any other name would not sound so sweet.

the Art 

of a craftsman at work:

turning two

a double in the clutch

hitting the cut-off man

just doing his job.

But most of all,

jack-it softball is a gentle man’s pastime

of gaffes and laughs:

the duffs and muffs

ignored and forgotten;

lingering long are

the tries and sighs

contented

and

exasperated.

For win or lose it’s back to the field Wednesday nights

and Sunday mornings

to take another whack 

give it a smack

and crack!

kissed it goodbye

…even though we never left.

 David Unger / Shutterstock.com

Softball Milestones

1887 – Indoor Baseball is invented on Thanksgiving Day at the Farragut Boat Club, Chicago. A boxing glove tied up by its own strings is the ball; a broken-off broom handle is the bat.

1889 – An Indoor Baseball rulebook is issued. The game is promoted as a way for baseball players to stay in shape during the winter.

1895 – Indoor Baseball moves outside, in Minneapolis. The game spreads, mostly in the Midwest, under various names: kitten ball, diamond ball, pumpkin ball, mush ball, cabbage ball. The first women’s team forms at Chicago’s West Division High School.

1910 – The NCAA sanctions the game as a college sport for women.

1926 – The term softball is coined, in Denver, and becomes the sport’s official name a few years later.

1933 – The first national softball tournament is held in conjunction with the Chicago World’s Fair.

1934 – The American Softball Association (ASA) is founded; rules are standardized.

1952 – The International Softball Federation (ISF) is founded.

1965 – The ISF holds its first world championship, in Australia. Women’s teams from five nations compete.

1982 – The NCAA holds the first Women’s College World Series, in Omaha.

1996 – Women’s Fast-Pitch Softball debuts at the Summer Olympics, Atlanta.

2013 – The ISF merges with the International Baseball Federation to form the World Softball Baseball Federation. There are more than 120 member countries in the softball division.

Kenneth William Caleno / Shutterstock.com

The Present – Around 40 million Americans play at least one game of softball each year. There are Men’s, Women’s and Junior’s Fast Pitch Leagues; Men’s and Women’s Modified Leagues; Co-Ed Slow Pitch leagues; plus, charity events and countless pick-up games in playgrounds, parks, and make-shift fields across the country. 

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About The Author
Alsace "Scrappy" L'Fuerst
Alsace "Scrappy" L'Fuerst
Alsace “Scrappy” L’Fuerst is a switch-hitting middle-infielder and noted threat to steal a base. When he is not hawking fly balls, taking BP, or practicing hook slides, he writes non-basebally stuff under the pseudonym Jeffrey B. Fuerst. This selection is from Diamond Dreaming, a collection of baseball poems, monologues, scenes, and essays. For inquiries: [email protected] You can also visit his Facebook Page.
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