A farewell to bats

Are you sad at all?

That’s the first question my friend asked me when we met at the bar after our games on Monday night.

No. Not even a little bit.

And that must mean I’ve made the right decision.

If you’ve been following along, I’ve decided to hang up my cleats. Actually, I will probably be throwing them out, given each one has a big hole on the instep.

My dad first put a bat in my hands when I was five or six. He carefully wrapped his arms around me and helped me hold the bat while Shane pitched the ball to me.

Our parents — mostly my mom — painstakingly built a little baseball diamond for me and my three brothers in our backyard. They took two big tree branches from the pasture behind our house and a couple of old fishing nets from our neighbours … lo and behold, we had  a backstop.

The grass was dug out of four spots and those were our home plate and bases.

It was magnificent.

We had our very own baseball diamond … oh and the field in my grandfather’s backyard next door was our soccer pitch.

We didn’t have much when we were kids but our parents made sure we had what we needed.

And what kid doesn’t need a baseball diamond in her own backyard?

We were all pretty active kids. We played soccer and competed in track and field in the summer time. The boys played hockey and I figure skated in the winter.

I was even the first girl to play Little League baseball in Antigonish, much to Kevin’s chagrin because I always ended up on his team.

I remember trying out for our junior high softball team and staking my claim on first base. I had brief dreams of playing for the Kell’s Angels, the rep junior girls fastpitch team in town.

By the time I reached age, I’d long given up on that dream and stopped caring about sports a little bit … at least as much as I wasn’t playing but thinking about boys playing sports.

When I moved to Newfoundland, I immediately connected with a new hairdresser — because what girl doesn’t need a good hairdresser?

As I sat in her chair and she clipped away at my tresses, she interrogated me … you’re new in town? who are you? what do you do? oh, you’re the new sports reporter? do you play sports? can you play softball? will you play for my team?

Uh, sure … what better way would there be to start to get to know people in my new town?

Um … FYI … when you’re a young female sports reporter in a fairly old-fashioned and pretty small town in the middle of nowhere, you don’t have any problem getting to know people. Especially the guys.

In any case, for the next four years, I played with the same team and represented my new home town on the all-star team at provincials.

Softball has always been a way for me to get to know people in my new home towns. It was the same gig in Kamloops and again in Calgary.

I’ve met some of the very best people. And I’ve met some of the very worst people.

I’ve seen the very best of myself. And I’ve seen the very worst of myself.

The game has provided lesson after lesson about me, about other people and about life.

Most importantly, I’ve had to learn how to figure out the differences between those best people and those worst people.

I’ve had to learn how to figure out how to be the better me and stop being the worse me.

Coincidentally, my last games on the ball diamond were against my old team, a roster of friends and of people who resent me for drama which caused my departure from the team.

I hugged each one of those people I call friends and walked away.

But not from those friends. Those are people I want to keep in my life, just not on the ball diamond.

I’ll want to see them in real life and, if I don’t, it means it’s time we grew away from each other anyway.

Because life’s funny like that. It’s OK to grow away from things and people.

Just as it’s time — after three decades and more — for me to grow away from softball and move onto other things.

No more buying the newest, best bat on the market, no more slide rashes, no more broken hands or torn rotator cuffs, no more sinuses clogged with ballpark dust …

When I Tweeted my retirement, one friend replied ‘As one door closes, another opens.’

And it’s true. I’m throwing open the door to other opportunities, whatever they may be.

Another friend wrote on my Facebook page, ‘So what do I say to you when I see you at the ball fields next year?’

I didn’t answer her.

I will now.

You can ask me ‘where’s your gear?’

And I’ll pull a different kind of bag off my back this time and show you all my lenses.

I wish all my softball-playing friends the best of luck and health and sunshine in the seasons to come.

But for me, it’s just time to go.

Moving on … my Olympic dream, part II

Every once in a while, I’ll Google my own name.

Until I blasted my name all over social media networks, my results were populated by bylines from the Calgary Sun.

But as my former newspaper started to archive stories off the web, my results list started to dwindle, my bylines were disappearing.

I started to feel forgotten, a lingering effect of the pain I felt … nay, feel … over that day almost four years ago when I was told my services were no longer required.

I was a number. A negative effect to the bottom line for Quebecor Media. My $38,000 per year was hurting the company and I became one of 120 cross-country victims to the streamlining.

So many people have asked me if I miss it.

“Some days, with every breath I take,” I respond.

Slightly more than two weeks ago, I wrote My Olympic Dream, bemoaning my absence from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics as a sports writer.

I should have been there. I’ll always believe I could have been there, had it not been for a suffering journalism industry.

Tonight, I was looking for files to support work I’d done on a recent fundraiser.

I searched my name, remembered the Archives section of Google News results and clicked.

Kaboom … Google has been busy indexing past stories from the Sun. Not just any stories … my stories.

There they were, byline after byline after byline … words composed by me.

Instead of heaving the same sigh as I breathed while writing through streams of tears two weeks ago, I smiled, excited to remember the interviews with athletes who now are Olympic gold-, silver- and bronze medallists … John Morris, Kevin Martin, Cheryl Bernard, Joannie Rochette, Shannon Szabados, Clara Hughes …

And the others who are no less accomplished or fascinating … Randy Ferbey, Devan Dubnyk, the WHLers, curlers, baseball and softball players, the Newfoundlanders, the British Columbians …

After downloading those stories and memories tonight, I consider it a career well served, telling the stories of those who committed their lives to feats of athletic prowess, vicariously sharing in their victories and mourning their defeats.

A career on which I now can close the books and focus on activities that make me happy … nights and weekends to pursue my own athletic interests (yay, slopitch!), explore my adopted home of Alberta, breathe fresh mountain air, walk with my dog and enjoy time with great friends.

But if it’s all right with you, I’ll continue to love sports and follow the careers of those athletes … as a fan now.

Sharing them with you here, on Twitter or by clinking glasses at the bar, jumping up to high-five you when the thrill of victory descends upon us.

See you there.