Alaska’s E-League Softball: A Metaphor and More

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After a 4-run second inning where half of the opposing team walked, I yelled, “If E league has this many rules and this many people willing to walk rather than swing at a ball, show me the way to the F league.

I failed miserably at baseball. I played off and on through junior high and high school. The coach always had me bat first, because I had absolutely no strike zone. I was 5 feet, and when I hunched over at the plate, a starting pitcher would’ve had better luck with the stats girl.

The sign came from the 3rd base coach every time. Walk. Take the pitch. Four balls. Toss the bat, jog to first base.

I did this more times than I can count. Then I’d run from first to second. Occasionally, when the stars aligned, I’d steal third. But I’d always walk to first.

The last good memory I have from baseball is a game we played at the old Willamina ball fields in Oregon.

The guys had been ribbing me for a few weeks about taking a swing in spite of coach’s stern sign-giving from third base.

There was a girl I liked sitting in the bleachers on that warm Saturday. Everything smelled like baseball, which is to say it smelled like leather and baseball uniforms that hadn’t been washed all season. And it smelled a little of clean-cut green grass.

The sun fell on the field like a thick liquid. Dust and pollen particles hung suspended in the air, and I stared down the first base line instead of looking at coach on third. He didn’t care. He just made the sign and expected me to take four quick balls and get this game going.

I took one. The guys were yelling at me to swing away.

I took two.

The coach had his arms crossed and a stern look on his face.

“Do it for Jody!” one of the guys yelled from the dugout. And laughter ensued. I’m sure I turned red.

And then I watched the ball leave the pitcher’s hand. A fastball right down the middle. It seemed so slow as I used muscles I hadn’t used all season to pull the bat around.

And then crack! The bat connected with white leather and red string. I never even saw it, I just heard, “run, Akimoff, run.”

That’s the one and only memory I have of my baseball years.

A single to right field.

But I’ve been in love with baseball for as long as I can remember. I used to call into a talk radio station from my grandparents’ house in Pacifica, California to try and win Giants tickets when I was little.

Going to see the Giants and A’s play with my uncles aresome of my favorite memories. Watching a game on the couch on a lazy Saturday with a cold beer in hand, alone, is one of the true pleasures in life.

And then came softball.

At a time in my life when I desperately needed something to draw my attention away from the stress at work and the work at home after I got home from work, I decided to play Sunday Co-Rec D League softball in Missoula, Montana.

Our lead sports writer at the paper looked me up and down and agreed to take me on, since I had a wife who would play and thus provide the needed quota of females.

Co-rec softball in Missoula has replaced that memory of that single at the Willamina ball fields.

I caught pop flies, I hit doubles. I struck out more times than I can count. I caught a highlight-of-the-week play that bloodied both knees. We drank beer, on the field. We sat around and watched the next two games together. We played Polish horseshoes. Then we went out to eat nachos together after.

There were days when everything slowed down just enough to watch the particles hover in the still air at McCormick Park, and I lived my baseball dreams over all the other memories.

So it was natural to want to play softball in Alaska with the rock stars at Alaska’s News Source, Channel 2 KTUU.

We call ourselves Deuces Wild, and our morning anchor was our pitcher the first summer.

But therein lies the difference. Summer.

The existence of such a rare beast as summer has never been proven in this state. Softball happens just after the snow melts, and you have two good weeks of sunshine before the chill rain starts up and fishing begins in earnest.

I have never seen softballers wear as many layers as I have here in Alaska, in the E league.

That’s right. This is E league softball, baby, where there are more rules than you know what to do with and the refs never know them all.

This is the E league, baby, where players will take three balls for a walk rather than swing away for death or glory.

This is E league, where injured players fall after plays more often than teams playing the University of Oregon Duck football team do.

This is E league, where beer is only allowed in cans, off the field, and where games end on the hour regardless of how many times you got to bat.

If I wanted to go back to that moment in Willamina, I’d write a screen play and make a movie starring Kevin Costner. I just want to hit the ball, run around the bases, catch a few, run after a few, drink a few beers with friends and complain about the other team.

If I can’t have this in the E league, will someone please show me to the F league?

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