Rachel’s dad playing softball on the farm. Contributed photo
Home plate was the bald spot on the lawn, in front of the old wood shed. First base was a rock that should have been taken out before the grass started to grow, second was a vague spot on the gravel driveway. Third was on the hill in front of the machine shed with an old piece of part of a “two-by-four” sporadically moving from one spot to another as a player slid into safety. The shape of the diamond moved with every single play.
Softball games on the farm were anything but ordinary… and generally ended with one of us kids mad, depending on who we thought dad favored in his calls as an umpire and coach.
The rules varied, depending on how many played. Since dad was generally the only in-fielder, he could call an out by throwing the fielded ball between the runner and the base. In other words, he would “cross us out” and he never, I repeat, he never, made it easy. He would field the ball and throw us out and teach us to roll with the punches. Games never lasted long. I think somewhere along the line we did learn how to be a good loser.
Batting practice included how to field a ball. We had to take our turn out in the field, which of course, wasn’t as fun as batting. We’d learn how to field flies and grounders with the game 500. Dad taught us basic softball techniques, sportsmanship AND we learned arithmetic, all at the same time. Mom was just glad to have the house to herself for an hour after supper, but generally one of her daughters would come into the house in tears, and it wasn’t Louise.
In the game 500, a caught fly ball was worth 100 points, one bounce was 50 and a grounder totaled 25. Someone always got mad. Either we claimed dad hit the all the flies to someone else, or, when my brother got up to bat, he would hit THE ONE ball we owned past the driveway, toward the pig-pen and into the tall grass. LOST BALL. End of game. The rest of the night was spent looking for that darn ball. Everyone looked for it, except my brother.
We practiced pitching and catching, and graduated from one glove to another as they were passed from one kid to the next. As a left-hander, my best birthday ever was the year I got my first left-handed glove. Frankly, it didn’t help my game all that much, but we sure had fun playing ball on the farm, regardless of the sibling rivalry.
Yup, softball on the farm was a unique game with rules of its own. When siblings and cousins and neighborhood kids gathered, a game of softball took up a Sunday afternoon. I remember one gathering at one of the neighborhood farms. We picked teams after the picnic and play ensued. Of course, we went “out in the field” when the other team was up to bat. Everyone pretty much just picked a spot to stand on the lawn when the other team was up to bat, but one guy took fielding the ball literally. No one missed him until about the third inning when my cousin Stephen said it was Richard’s turn to bat. We found Richard…in the corn field behind the barn.