Greetings from Roxana!
Well, technically I’m writing this from my comfy chair in the air-conditioned Coastal Point Worldwide Headquarters in Ocean View, but the majority of my time this week has been spent in Roxana, sitting on hard bleachers with my head turning a kaleidoscope of colors from an unrelenting sun, while an army of partially-digested hot dogs practiced marching drills in my belly.
And it has been awesome.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that field of dreams in the middle of the corn fields has been overrun again this week by softball players from around the world, as our humble community plays host to both the Senior League and Big League Softball World Series tournaments. If you’ve been fortunate enough to spend any time over there this week, then you know exactly what I mean.
There’s been great softball, enthusiastic players and fans, cheerful volunteers and an atmosphere that lends the casual observer to believe these amazing young athletes are having an experience that will play on in their heads when they are playing catch with their own granddaughters one day.
If you haven’t gotten over there yet, what are you thinking? Parking is free. Admission is free. The concession stand features plenty of food options for cheap prices. And chances are you can meet and greet a local celebrity by the name of Bruce Layton, who not only has a field named after him at the complex, but is also promising to hand-wax anybody’s car who...
Fine. I made up that last part. There aren’t many people in this community, or world, that I admire and respect as much as I do Bruce Layton, and it’s been a blast spending time with him all week at the park.
To be honest with you, it’s no secret around our office that this is annually the busiest week of the year for many of us. We blanket-cover both tournaments for our publication “Homeplate,” which is delivered at the park every year, on top of doing summer-sized papers. Sitting in the office late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning with a bunch of dedicated employees, one couldn’t help but notice the scents of sunscreen, body odor and a few tears.
And that’s when I was all alone.
But it’s fun on our end. We like being able to share these stories with our community, and it’s exciting to play even a small role in what takes place in Roxana. When you find yourself covering a team from Italy or Guam or the Czech Republic or Georgetown, you find yourself double- and triple-checking every word you write. These stories aren’t as much for us or our regular readers or even hardcore softball fans — it’s about chronicling memories for these remarkable athletes that will last a lifetime.
And that’s humbling.
It’s also rewarding. While we are hoping to provide them with memories, they are also giving us our own. I remember covering a game about 10 years ago that saw a delay in the action in a game that was pushing midnight, as weather delays and the ebbs and flows of a softball game kept many of us far past our bedtimes. Trainers were working on one of the players and speculation began running rampant through the crowd as to the nature of an injury that none of us actually saw happen.
At that point, the trainers and player began laughing, as did a couple of the young lady’s teammates who were standing close enough to hear the conversation taking place away from the crowd. Eventually, word got to the crowd that the delay was due to the girl swallowing a bug. Tired, impatient fans then all shared in the laughter, and everyone just enjoyed the rest of the game with smiles on their faces.
This year’s tournament has already produced a few memories for me that I won’t soon forget.
• It was exciting to be sitting in the stands at Layton Field on Tuesday morning for a 10 a.m. Senior League game between the host District III team and the Latin America squad, which is a perennial power at the event, and even more so considering the local team won by a convincing score of 10-0. It was also fun that the field behind me happened to be featuring a Big League game between the two teams, and District III won that one, as well.
• I won’t soon forget covering the end of that game with my 9-month-old daughter sitting on my lap while she took in all the sights and sounds of world-class athletes playing softball only a few feet away from her.
• I wish I could remember what game it happened in, but I heard enough people talking about it over the next few days that I know it stuck in their heads, too. The pitcher for one of the teams saw the ball coming directly back at her head at a rate of speed that had everyone in attendance sharing a collective gasp, and then participating in a group exhale as she snagged the line drive a fraction of a second before it could have caused a serious problem. It seemed to be equal parts self-preservation and remarkable athleticism.
• I never get tired of watching the girls from each team shake hands and share gifts with each other before the game, or seeing players come over to check on injured opponents. Sportsmanship is indeed alive and well in Roxana, and that makes me smile.
• The Senior League District III game against USA Southwest on Monday night was remarkable. Two teams who wouldn’t surrender. It was truly an honor just to watch it unfold, and the fact that the winning run was earned by inches made it a classic.