Summer commitment, long nights and small-town fun

Roll out the pizza dough and throw it in the air. Add the marinara sauce and sprinkle shredded cheese. Toss on a few pepperonis, slide it in a hot oven and smell the delicious victory of Papa Murphy’s coed team. Call it summer commitment, long nights and small-town fun, but call it a celebration.

It was the last game of the season and Papa Murphy rolled out a win. They played three games back to back to back and won them all. This was a sight to see. The players were parents and grandparents, over-the-hill, white-haired and seasoned veterans. They took a deep breath and limped onto the field. Too tired to bend over and too pooped to chase the ball, but they surprised everyone.

Balls and Dolls, the young strong talented hometown kids, fought to defend their 2016 championship title and gave Papa’s team a run for their dough. Papa grabbed the last run to win the 2017 coed league championship softball game.

The faithful fans watched from the sidelines. Bleachers were filled and lawn chairs were lined up and rocking like rockers in an old-folks’ home. The fans tasted the win, and sweat it out with the players. It was a nail-biting experience as one team, then the other team, came up to bat, only to return to the outfield.

Papa Murphys’ long-enduring team added a couple new players this year, which definitely added the extra toppings to win.

Families with young children made a commitment to show up night after night. They came to watch their spouses, parents and friends. They expose their young boys and girls to the need for softball and small-town activities.

There was one moment during one of the games that was the highlight of the season for our family. We will not forget the little 3-year-old boy who entertained us for over an hour.

We watched him in front of the wire gate while his father played with his team. The young boy played the game with an old bat and a pretend ball. We, his fans, cheered him on. His mother sat on the bleachers and watched her husband play on the field. She gave her son an occasional nod or two.

The boy watched the batters and runners and mimicked their every move. With his bat, he stood ready to hit a pretend ball, dropped it and ran to a patch of grass. He waited, ran back to the gate as fast as his little legs could carry him. He slid into his pretend base, feet first, and kicked up a lot of dust.

He did it again and again. The next time, he picked up the bat, rubbed it with dirt, cleared his throat and spit on the ground. He dug his toes into the dirt and leveled out a place to stand. He faced his pretend home plate. He became the whole team; batter, pitcher, catcher and runner.

He swung his bat, looked up in the air and his gaze followed the ball across the park. He threw down the bat and ran the bases and slid into home base headfirst. His clothing was covered with dirt from head to toe. He knocked off the dust with his bat and kept playing.

I said to my daughters, “He already believes he is a baseball player. He’s been watching all the players and he knows how to play the game.”

After another slide through the brown dirt, he noticed all the dirt on him and yelled, “I’m not taking no baf.”

She didn’t bat an eye. “Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not.” Then he went back in his game.

One day, his mother will say, “Who taught you to spit? Stop it. That’s not the way a gentleman acts.”

Then he’ll say, “That’s what ballplayers do.”

When his dad’s team finished his game, his father stepped outside the gate and picked up his son and carried him in his arms.

There was definitely the smell of victory for the Papa Murphy’s team. And it all happened in July on Pagosa’s softball field. They became 2017 champions.

Final brushstroke: It takes a lot of time and commitment for these families to show up night after night. One of the grandmothers, playing first base, said, “I’m too old to play three games back to back after working all day.” But she did, and they won. They are leaving a legacy for their families. They are showing their kids the love of softball and how to be young at 50 and 60.

This story was posted on August 10, 2017.