Monday, July 14, 2014

Just Hit the Bat with the Ball

"Give her another strike, guys." 

"Yeah. Pitch her another."

"Let her have another swing." 

The voices from the outfield were sympathetic.

I gripped the bat tightly, and stared at my brother, feeling the sweat run down my neck and over my ribs. 

"Keep your eye on the ball," they would say. What did they think I was doing? Idiots. Where else would I be looking? I knew the routine. Three pitches. Three strikes. I'm out. Why were they changing the rules tonight? 

Strike four. Strike five. Finally, after strike six, it was determined that I had, indeed, struck out. My glistening face, already pink from the early evening sun, reddened a little more as I lay down the bat to grab my glove before trudging to take my place between first and second base. Now that my moment of humiliation was over, I could begin the ordeal of SWATTING GNATS in the outfield. Oh, how I hated this game.

Having to play softball was one of the hazards of having four brothers. I didn't mind shooting hoops or playing touch football, but softball? There are those times in the game when all eyes were fixed on me, waiting to see if I would actually connect the bat with the ball, and it always ended the same. 

I hadn't fallen prey to that stupid "throw like a girl" or "hit like a girl" crap either. I would've given anything to whack that ball like my big sister Kathy. All the guys would ooh and ah, watching her ball sail way out into the pasture, as she rounded the bases heading for home. That girl could hit. THIS girl could not. I just resigned myself to that fact.

Fast forward about three decades. Most of my years in fifth grade, I was the only female on our team of teachers; the other three were male. Coaches. All of them. The big tradition at our school was that the students played against the faculty in a softball game on the last day of school. 

The kids would start talking smack from the first day of school, and the teasing would ensue throughout the year. 

"We're gonna beat you guys this year!"

"This year, the 5th grade is gonna cream the teachers."

Never mind that in the whole history of Monroe Elementary School the teachers always won. We never slaughtered them; we weren't cruel, but the kids never won, ever.

I would smile weakly, realizing that my kids' final memory of their fifth grade teacher would be of her striking out. I dreaded it every single year. UNTIL...

Somewhere after the first few years of watching me strike out on the last day, one of the male teachers in third grade, the high school girls' softball coach pulled me aside, and told me he wanted to help me. He asked me if I could hold the bat still; just hold it out over home plate. That seemed a little condescending, but I assured him I could do that much. "Just hold the bat out there; trust me. I can hit the bat with the ball." I smiled. Would that work?

Word had gotten around; most of the kids knew I was an automatic out. The faculty winced for me every time it was my turn at bat. The crowd of kids would chant my name, encouraging me to try to hit the ball. 

And guess what? Holding the bat still worked. All I had to do was hold the bat out over home plate, and Mr. Johnson would hit the bat with the ball. I never got a home run off of one of those hits, but I almost always got to first base. 

Even though Mr. Johnson had retired years earlier, the teachers who pitched during the later years knew the drill: When I am up at bat, just plan on hitting the bat with the ball, and everything will be just fine. 
Love my fifth grade team.
The year I retired, my team gave me a tiara to wear on the last day of school. I may not have broken any records at our softball game, but I was Queen for a Day in fifth grade. Yep, I played softball with a crown on my head. 

The best part of that last day? I knew I would never have to play softball again. Seriously. It was the only thing I didn't like about being a teacher at Monroe Elementary School. 

Well, you know what they say. Never say never. I am about to become an UN-retired teacher, in second grade this time. One of my first thoughts caused me to groan. I will have to play softball next May. As long as the pitcher does his job, I can do mine. Thank goodness for accurate, compassionate pitchers. Just hit the bat with the ball, please!
They called me Your Royal Highness all day.
They were my loyal subjects. How I love these kids.


  1. I like your strategy!
    Does this mean driver's education is out of the picture or will you do both? Or am I confused? At any rate you'll do great. And May is a long way off.

    1. No driver's ed for this elementary school teacher! I think that must be somebody else! Hugs to you!


Thank you so much for stopping by Randomocity. Like most writers, I enjoy interacting with the wonderful people who read what I have to say, so please, if you would like to leave a "blogment," I would love to hear from you!