Travel Ball in the Early 80’s | Softball is for Girls

Sat around thinking about all the things….all THINGS we as parents do to enable them to play their sports. Travel ball, in nearly every sport is now the ‘norm.’

Where I grew up, there was no such thing as travel ball, unless you counted taking the game to another weed infested field in a neighborhood far enough away that we had to take our bikes. Man, our parents had it easy.

the gift of sooftball

While some places in this country did have bonafide travel leagues, my area didnt. But here is how I imagine it would go.

Coach Steve would show up to practice in some field at the local elementary school, where we didn’t need permission, or have to pay with a bucket of white softballs left over from his beer league. In the other arm, he would have some hybrid metal bat tucked in another bucket with a couple warm cans of Milwaukees Best. Coach Steve did some time back in the day, – at least that’s what we heard, but no one knows about it and no one really cares, because he offered to coach.

black softball sleep pants, cute and SOOFTBALL

Every week, we had to remember from the week before where to be and at what time, because there was no way in hell he was gonna call our home phones to remind us. Truth is, he didnt really care if we showed up or not, he didn’t have our phone numbers and if we couldn’t remember then he figured we had more to worry about than playing a game.

Speaking of our parents, at 4:20, I put on my cut off jean shorts and Tigers t shirt – complete with socks pulled up to my knees and my sneaks – the same ones I wore no matter what I was doing, and told my mom I was going to play softball. “Be back by dinner,” was all she said… Then, it was me and my bike – my gear (which was my dads old glove that was floppy and big) in a basket on my handlebars and I was off.

Coach Steve worked us hard, and our water breaks consisted of him pulling the hose pipe around for us to take sips, while he sipped his beer and had a smoke. If we did something stupid, he told us. If we weren’t listening he sent us home. If we were disrespectful – just once – he kicked us off the team. But if we showed up for practice, we got to play in the games, and if for ANY reason we didn’t, we knew why. The bad part is if we got sat out, and our parents were at the game they knew we messed up, so chances were good we would get grounded at home too.

  • throw like a girl
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  • softball hooded flannel
  • canvas softball pouch
  • play like a girl

On Game Days, we wore our Tigers shirt (we only had one, and it was donated by a small business in the neighborhood), our athletic shorts and our tube socks. We played two games, it was free to come watch. My mom packed me a PBJ for the game, and if I was really lucky a can of soda. She’d be there to get me after her errands.

Game Days – man they were special because we got one of those Big Gatorade coolers filled up by the ice cold hose water. We took turns pouring it into our mouths. Sometimes a few of the parents would bring some Cheese Puffs for a snack, or maybe a box of cookies. After the games, we ate at home because we had chores to do, too.

The umpire was the guy that worked at the gas station. I knew that because every couple days my mom would give me a handwritten permission slip so I could buy her Marlboro’s and he was always at the counter.

We didn’t have dugouts, just a place along the 4 foot fence where we lined up our stuff. The fields weren’t lined and the only kind of home-run was the kind that went over the outfield fence, no matter how far away it was. We played all 7 innings. No run rules. Nobody had a helmet.

Parents were our biggest fans, and pretty much sat wherever they wanted to. The rickety bleachers, the grass, in their cars, on the fence. Not a folding chair or tent in sight and if the weather was too cold, or too wet, or too hot, they brought an umbrella or stayed in their cars – or hell, didn’t come.

If we had something to do with our families on a game day or practice, we just missed practice and games. No point in asking. If our grades sucked, we back talked our parents, or got grounded – we missed ball. If we wanted to be part of the team, we needed to know when, where, why, who and what because Mama sure as hell wasn’t going to make her life nuts to keep us on schedule. If we needed to raise money, we cut grass or tried to earn it somehow someway…. Playing ball was a privilege not a right, and we knew that.

One time, I remember a teammate hit the ball so hard, the endcap came off and tennis balls came flying out. That was funny. Another time Coach Steve got mad and threw his beer at the other coach. They were good times.

When the season ended, we did something else with our time. Tried basketball, joined the swim team, or if there was nothing else going on we played tag, built forts, rode bikes – whatever we found to take up our time. We never knew we were missing out on all the fun of travel ball – but we sure did have a good time.


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