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home : opinions : columns   August 27, 2015

6/10/2014 9:39:00 AM
Column: Wanna play catch?

Shannon Crawley-Serpette
Putnam-Marshall Bureau Chief

I never played softball when I was a kid. My small school didn’t have a girls softball team — boys played baseball or basketball and girls were cheerleaders. Once in a while, you’d have a girl insist on playing ball and that was usually the talk of the school.

When I got to high school, I figured I was so woefully behind on skills — the girls from the bigger school we consolidated with had been playing softball — that I didn’t even consider trying out. I did have some decent Wiffle ball skills thanks to it being a favorite pastime of my extremely large family. But catching a Wiffle ball is very different than trying to borrow your brother’s glove to catch a hard ball, especially when you are a lefty and your brother uses his right hand.

Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t really know what I was missing. I sat through my children’s t-ball games, happy to see them playing, but really bored by the games. It wasn’t until my oldest started playing baseball that I began to see what I had been missing all these years.

Suddenly, baseball, with all its competition, was interesting to me. There was a steep learning curve for me because I had a lifetime of catching up to do. Since then I’ve tried my hand at pitching, been nailed with balls I couldn’t dodge when my son was at bat and finally learned how to catch balls with a glove. Now I love playing and I’ve learned I’m a pretty decent hitter.

I’m not ready to go out and join any softball leagues, but at least I’ve tried. My son and daughter, who is in her first year of softball, recognize the fact that I’m not the best player in the world, but that I’m not afraid to look foolish if it is for their benefit.

My husband has coached two teams so far because no one else has volunteered their time to do so. Life gets a little hectic with both of us working and both our kids playing ball, but we make it work because it is important. I’ve tried to help him with some smaller tasks in the coaching department because running a team is a big, big job, I’ve learned.

Another thing I’ve learned in the past three years is that yes, some kids have natural talent. But I’ve seen kids who don’t possess that natural talent become really good baseball players, even better than those with natural talents sometimes. What’s their secret? Coaches have been saying it forever — practice, practice, practice.

When parents have approached my husband asking him to let their child play a particular position or move up in the batting order, he tells them all the same thing: Work with your child.

If you want your child to bat higher up in the order, then practice hitting.

If you want your child to play first base, practice with him or her.

Some parents have listened and their children have excelled. Others have made excuses as to why they can’t. Their children rarely move in the direction their parents would like.

At my house, we follow our own advice. And believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.

My daughter doesn’t like to play quite as much as my son. So for her, we do short practices. My son, on the other hand, could spend hours just practicing catching pop flies. It’s always been his favorite thing to do. It’s not a coincidence that catching pop flies is now one of his strengths. All that practice has paid off.

There are days when we are simply too busy to practice. But every chance we get, we all head to a vacant field together, gloves in hand. In addition to honing their skills, it also creates a lot of family memories for us.

The other day when I was talking to a woman about how busy we were trying to pack a weekend-long tournament, a practice and two games into one week, along with the other obligations in our schedules, she looked at me and said, “I remember those days. I know you are so, so busy, but enjoy it. It goes by so fast and you’ll miss it when it’s done.”

And she’s right. I will. I miss it during the winter, so I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when they play their final game in high school. When it’s over, I hope they’ll have as fond of memories of our days playing together as I will.

Shannon Crawley-Serpette may be reached at (309) 364-2268 or

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