From about age 6 to 8, I had the misfortune of being forced to play softball. “Children’s Church” during evening service was made up of nearly all boys. I guess the parents of the girls I’d see Sunday morning weren’t as faithful attenders in the evening as my parents were. Most of the time, the teacher, was either unprepared to give us a lesson or just didn’t have enough backbone to say no to the preacher’s and elders’ sons. So, as long as it was light outside, we played softball.
I hated it with a passion. I was afraid of the ball. I couldn’t see it coming, so I never hit it, even when “Coach” (what we had to call the teacher) tossed it up in the air in front of me. He tried very hard to get me a hit, but it never happened. I’d drop the bat and duck, much to the disgust of my “teammates.” On my lucky days, I swung and missed. To make things worse, I literally threw like a girl, bringing down laughter and ridicule upon myself whenever I made any effort. And no one bothered to explain the rules to me, so I walked even when I struck out.
The parking lot was not the great equalizer. It merely unflavored me, the girl who’d never watched baseball, while favoring the roughhousing boys. Worse, while inside I could keep up with the older kids, singing praise songs, memorizing Bible verses, and playing games, outside I was picked on, even by boys younger than me. I was friendless and absolutely miserable.
Then one evening, we were playing softball. As usual, “Coach” was pitching. One of the older boys who I’d always admired was the catcher. One by one, different boys went up to bat. I recall someone hitting a “homerun” that required awhile for someone to retrieve the ball. It seemed like hours to me.
At some point, I was up to bat. I’d been practicing. I was determined to hit the ball. “Coach” was encouraging me. Everyone was cheering me on, even whoever was the “Manager” who got stuck picking me that day. Everyone was rooting for me! Me, the girl who couldn’t hit the ball to save her life!
The adrenalin was rushing through my body. I was going to hit it!
I stood ready to swing.
“Coach” threw the pitch.
Everything was silent. I remember looking up. I remember the catcher’s horrified face. I remember “Coach” fumbling with words.
I was in shock. HOW COULD HE HAVE HIT ME?!!! I had trusted him so much. For two years, he and all the male hoodlums had chided me for ducking. And now, I had a bruised head.
I didn’t cry. Maybe I was too afraid to.
I was walked.
If I hadn’t been a shy, obedient, intimidated girl, I would’ve screamed all evening. If I’d known what suing was, I would’ve threatened to take them all to court. Thinking back, I’m not sure if “Coach” told my parents about it. (When I’ve mentioned it, they don’t seem to even recall us playing softball, but this was a long time ago.)
I do recall one thing. I was never forced to play softball again.