By Linda Koehler
When flicking through the channels on TV, if I come across movies like "The Sand Lot," "The Natural," "Field of Dreams" or the old black and whites like "Angels in the Outfield," the flicking stops. I've seen them all several times, but I'm always a sucker for a good ballgame story.
Growing up in Kunkletown, backyard baseball and intense ballgames at recess were a big part of our lives. What was great about them was the boys let us girls play. That was a big deal in the 50s and 60s.
We girls never thought we could have played on the Little League teams. I contented myself to watching from the sidelines. The same was true of our church's softball team. The closest I got to the field was to help place the bases and make the hot dogs in the stand. There's no doubt in my mind that if Pleasant Valley would have had a girls' softball team back in '64-'68, I would have been on it.
It was always a dream of mine that if I had a son, he would have played baseball.
While I have never regretted having a daughter, (Love you dearly, Becky!) she never showed any interest in playing the game.
My sister gifted us with three children. Jennie Rose had no interest in the game whatsoever but was a heck of a soccer player (and still is). When Zach arrived, for his first Christmas, I bought him the teeniest, tiniest baseball glove I could find. I was convinced, here at last was my baseball player.
Zach did indeed play Little League and even some Babe Ruth. But soccer was, and still is, his true love. I contented myself to watching them kick balls within the confines of a field instead of hitting balls out of the park.
Then along came Abby. Sure enough, she followed her older sister and brother's cleats into soccer.
But one day, I heard those precious words from her lips, "I'm going to play softball."
Abby is 13 and plays on Palmerton's team of the Parkland Softball league as a third baseman. Or is that basewoman?
She had such a good game on Monday night! In one inning, she made all three outs. In another inning, she made the catch of the night when a ball was hit so hard it was literally flying. Toward Abby. Some reflex of hers (I'd like to believe it is her innate natural ability) had her raise her arm with her glove. (There might have even been a little hop up, but without the benefit of instant replay, that remains undetermined.) The ball landed right into the tip of her glove. And stayed. I don't know who was more surprised ... Abby, the ball or any of us onlookers! But the crowd went wild as we laughed at her expression.
I love watching her get in her stance when at bat. And when she connects, it's a thing of beauty. She has even been picked to play in the All Stars game. Way to go, Abby!
Each gal that is on the team brings their own special talents to the game and they are all a joy to watch.
But I've got to admit, one player on Monday night definitely had my attention. She was a cute blonde gal on the opposing team from Hokendauqua. At first I didn't really notice anything different about her when she was up to bat. She connected a couple of times but they were foul balls. I turned to Harry and said, "Look how she only swings with her one arm." To which he replied, "That's because she has only one hand."
Sure enough. On a closer look, the girl was missing her left hand from her wrist down. But there she was. P laying softball. It gave me goose bumps.
When the inning ended she headed toward the outfield. She took the position between first and second base. She placed her glove on her right hand. As they warmed up, I watched in amazement as she fielded some balls. Catching the softball in her glove, she removed the glove by placing it under her arm, pulling it off so she could throw the ball to first. She repeated this move several times throughout the night, responsible for more outs than we would have liked to see.
I couldn't help but reflect about the difference between the girls of my generation and today. As in the words of an old 1970s ad "You've come a long way, baby" which symbolizes women's freedom, emancipation, and empowerment. Girls and women have definitely broken all barriers.
While softball isn't exactly baseball, it's pretty darn close, with the exception of a few weird rules that confound me. I have to wonder, even when the feminist movement first began, would a girl with only one hand been allowed to play?
Though Abby's team lost Monday, it was a thrilling night for a couple of reasons. Abby is fulfilling one of my dreams, and doing it probably better than I ever could have, while never realizing what a big deal it is for her to be out there on that field. The other was watching a young girl overcome what might be considered a disadvantage, to be a part of a great game and doing it well. I wonder if she's even aware of what an inspiration she is?
"Baseball? It's just a game - as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It's a sport, business - and sometimes even religion. ~Ernie Harwell, "The Game for All America," 1955.
It's a ballgame that always has a great story to tell.