Since 2009 I have gathered with a group of other “Strangway Seniors” on Thursdays mornings to play, like the youth of our memories, some sandlot slo-pitch.
Softball diamonds are in much better shape these days. No more lawnmower cuts for base lines, towels for bases and a piece of wood for home plate. But back then, it didn’t seem to matter when neighbourhood challenged neighbourhood and empty fields became our dream fields.
For most of us, those days were 50 to 70 years ago, and sometimes more. It’s called slo-pitch now, but it was just ‘ball’ back then, played with a wooden bat and whatever ball you could get your hands on.
As Strangway Seniors we enjoy some of the perks of being senior citizens. The ravages of time on our bodies we try desperately to ignore, or work around, and make changes to the rules to allow runners whenever needed.
A few ibuprofens in advance delays the aches and pains, but it’s part of playing the game we love, and we fiercely do anything to keep our memories alive. The injuries of yesteryear keep showing up, reminding us of what we once were.
Sometimes, all it takes to attract followers is to arrange a weekly gathering of seasoned veterans who still want to exchange a “Field of Dreams” for a “Field of Memories.” Twenty to 25 of us gather at Clearwater Diamond 2, where two teams are chosen quickly. We try to make them fair because winning is still important but losing fades quickly.
What follows is seven innings of truly inspiring ball filled with super plays, as well as others that elicit only silence (or the odd howl). All this excitement is played at a speed that allows the spectators to miss nothing, with no need for slow-motion replays.
A gathering at a local watering hole afterward has replaced sitting on the grass, when we would discuss the game in all its details because the boy who owned the bat and ball had to go home for dinner.
Clearwater 2 is a field of memories of “plays” gone by, and of past dreams that may or may not have come true. It doesn’t matter really.
A bunch of old guys who, for a couple of hours each week, are young again. The handshakes at the end of the game are a reminder of how the game should be played, a reminder that an opponent today may be a teammate next week.
Winning is better; losing stings, but just playing is best of all. Playing is a field of memories, as it should be. Now, if we could just remember what happened last week!
It still feels good!
Paul Jackson is a coach, manager, organizer and cheerleader in Sarnia.