In honor of Throwback Thursday, I’m throwing it waaay back to my high school days. One of the best experiences I had during my years there was being the manager of the varsity baseball team. I knew in my junior year that the team was getting new coaches, so on a whim, I reached out to the head coach (who I will refer to as “Coach”) and said I was interested in being the manager – if he needed one. Without knowing who I was or what I was capable of, he gave me the job. Boy I didn’t know what I was in for – in a good way.
When I first met with Coach during Pitchers and Catchers, he asked me three things: if I had ever managed before (no), if I was academically eligible (I was), and if I was dating anyone on the team (nope). Never did he ask me if I knew how to keep book, but luckily I did. Not only would I keep book, but I became the den mother for the team, meaning I was the keeper of items and supplied snacks.
During my junior year, I knew a handful of the guys on the team, mostly from having gone to elementary school with them or through friends. It was awkward at first, which I expected: I mean, you’re putting a quiet girl in a dusty and loud dugout with a group of teenagers. Over time, we would become a family (at least that’s how I looked at it), and I wouldn’t have spent my afternoons any other way.
When I went to the first scrimmage, this is how Coach introduced me: “Guys, this is Becky. Be nice to her or else she’ll give you an error if it’s between a hit or an error.”
Well, at least it was true.
They had a rough start to the season, but halfway through, something sparked and I was able to become part of school history when the 2011 baseball team brought home a banner for the first time in 40 years.
They quickly became my team of misfits, and I enjoyed every moment. I found a new appreciation for long bus rides, covered dugouts, and being bombarded with questions (a few of the guys would purposely ask me a million questions to try to throw me off, but I never missed a beat). Each player had his own personality, and I was always laughing at their shenanigans.
I made the website as the Spotlight Player for the final regular season game, which was cool to see and be recognized for my work during the season. I made them all big cookies for the end of the season, which were basically gone in seconds.
That season, the team made it to States. We won the first game, and our second game was at home and was the same day as the tornado that hit Springfield, a short 10 miles away from where we were. The game went into a lightning delay, and I remember my mom calling me to ask what we were doing. I said we were in a delay and sitting on Ben’s cart (Ben was our athletic trainer for the school, and he always hung out in the dugout with us and ate the snacks I brought, claiming he had to taste them to make sure they were okay). She then told me there was a tornado in Springfield, which never happens. It made sense, though, because the sky to the north was a weird yellow/green color that a sky should never be. We ended up losing that game, but it certainly made for a good story (and I couldn’t wait to get home!)
I was excited to go back for another season, and Coach gladly let me come back for my senior year. We had lost a lot of seniors from the year before, but surprisingly, the 2012 team did pretty well.
This banner lived in my car for about 3 months, and I was responsible for putting it up at home games.
Our second game of the season was against our town rival, and it was quite a dramatic game as we won in a walk off. It was a great feeling to watch the boys all tackle each other on the field.
During this season, I learned that no one was going to do pitch count for me with the clicker, pizza Goldfish were the best, and the boys were going to continue to ask me a million questions while Coach continued to be vague with his (“What do we have?” could literally mean anything).
The most memorable game from this season was the 16+ inning game against Rocky Hill. We had the lead by the end of the game, but Rocky Hill came back to tie it at 5-5. Extra innings, here we come. Our starter went 7 and another guy was brought in for relief… for 9 innings. The book only goes to 12 innings on a page, so by the 13th inning, I had to start a new page, and by this time, there were so many subs I was pretty much making stuff up when Coach asked me questions. And since high school games go to 7 innings, we played a little more than 2 games in about 5 hours.
The boys were getting restless in the dugout, so I encouraged their rally cap ideas.
The game was called for darkness around 8:00pm, and we didn’t get back to school until before 9:00pm. It was the longest game I had ever scored, and when we were pulling into the school yard, Coach said to the guys, “Guys, thank Becky for doing the book!” and they all yelled “Thank you!” and cheered. When Rocky Hill came to us, we finished up the end of the 16 inning game with a win in the 17th.
Senior Night was bittersweet because it was the first time I’d ever had a Senior Night (since I don’t play any sports, obviously).
The game was called in 5 innings since Bloomfield ran out of players, and we were winning by a lot (18-0). Afterwards, Coach gave little speeches for each of us. One thing I remembered from mine was, “She asked me last year about becoming a part of the team, and I wasn’t sure, but she knows all of the rules, and this year she’s telling me what to do, just like my wife.”
I made them all cookies again and got them seeds, so I like to think I was their favorite. We made it to States that season, too, but lost in our first game.
The banquet was a few weeks later (and this time it was in the cafe unlike the year before when the school lost power and we had to have a make-shift one in the lobby). It was nice to have the time with the guys, and in typical fashion, we were picking on each other.
Coach gave speeches again: “She was very persistent, and I thought she’d go away. But she didn’t… I can see that she grew up since last year. During her junior year, whenever I’d ask her a question, she’d be like, yes coach. But now… I get the eye rolling and it’s just like my wife. She’s not doing what she used to before I married her.”
I gave a little speech at the end about my experience and how grateful I was for the team.
Most of us parted ways after graduation. Two seniors from my junior year ended up at WNE, so I saw friendly faces on campus, which was nice. I see a few of them at work during the summer, and when I saw one of “my freshman” from when I was a senior and heard he was starting college in the fall, I felt so old.
The thing that surprised me the most was how accepting the boys were of me. None of them disrespected me, and I think after a while, I was just considered one of the guys – and I was totally okay with that. I looked forward to games, and we got to the point where we could harass each other during the games.
The running joke was that I didn’t have a job description, and it was true. Sure my main job was to keep score of the games, but I did so much more than that. I sat through too many games in the freezing cold. I had random sunburns, and I learned that my forehead burns very easily. I made awkward small talk with the umpires. I ran errands for the umpires. I laced a cleat in the rain. I stood through innings of having sunflower seeds spit at me. I did minor first aid in the dugout. I was responsible for holding onto phones and iPods at away games. I dealt with rapid-fire questions: “What’s the score?” “What’s the inning?” “How many outs?” “What’s the pitch count?” “Who’s up next?” and the ever favorite one: “Becky, do you have any food?” It was amazing how much food a group of boys can consume, especially bags of Goldfish.
I really did love those boys, and I told them that. We were a dysfunctional family, and those two seasons were the best parts of my high school career. I still wear my Fermi baseball hoodie and jacket and sweatpants and t-shirts because it was such a large part of my life. It allowed me to embrace my love for baseball with others who love the sport just as much as I do. I saw a different side of baseball: behind-the-scenes. I saw how these boys were so hard on themselves because they wanted to be better, and when they were successful, it was like watching little kids celebrate on the field.
I’m always going to be a part of the Fermi baseball family, and although the high school won’t be in existence by this fall, we all know the history we made and what we were able to accomplish.
Long live the walls we crashed through
How the kingdom lights shined just for me and you
I was screaming long live all the magic we made
And bring on all the pretenders
One day, we will be remembered
I said remember this feeling
I pass the pictures around
Of all the years that we stood there
On the side-lines wishing for right now
We are the Kings and the Queens
You traded your baseball cap for a crown
When they gave us our trophies
And we held them up for our town
“Long Live” by Taylor Swift