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September 8, 2005

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Obviously Iím around sports quite a bit. For one thing, I love them, so I love to be around them. Of course my work takes me to plenty of games, and then there is always coaching, umpiring or other tasks that I seem to often get myself talked into.

When one takes in a hundred or so games a year, you get to see plenty of things, some good, some bad.

This summer when I was umpiring a softball game I witnessed one of the most disfunctional ball clubs you could ever imagine. This team (I wonít mention where they were from) had all the talent in the world. But the girls bickered nonstop and never complimented one another for a good play. I probably was even more biased as they whined all night about the officiating as well.

Unfortunately bad moments like this stick out. Sure there are plenty of highlights. Lots of times, it doesnít even hit you until later what you witnessed.

That was the case Saturday afternoon as I was taking pictures during the Knox County softball tournament.

The photographerís box was strategically placed down the third base line, behind the coaches box up against the fence near the dugout. While it wasnít really conducive to Nobel Prize winning photographs, I did get an up-close look at how our team handles itself off the field.

It just so happens that I was standing there during the decisive moment of the game. Marion County exploded for four runs in one at bat to basically put the game away. SCR-I had a few fielding miscues and overall simply struggled through a bad inning.

I watched as the players came off the field. A few were hanging their heads because of errors or mistakes but for the most part it was like any other trip to and from the dugout. Once the girls got to the bench I was amazed to overhear their comments. It was like a family, as the big sisters went to the younger players who had miscues and gave them pep talks or just put an arm around a shoulder to let them know everything would be all right.

Despite trailing 6-1 on the scoreboard, there was some laughing, some joking and a little bit of fun. Thatís not saying the girls werenít ready to take care of business. When the hitter stepped to the plate, all eyes were on her. Girls on the bench were discussing the pitch selection and when the hurler normally threw her change up. Another was pointing out the big gap between the outfielders (of course she finished it off by saying that even one of her slower running teammates could score on a ball hit there).

The first hitter up, Kirsten Johnston, wrapped a triple to the deepest part of the ballpark, despite being hit by the previous pitch (it was ruled a foul ball as she had squared to bunt). Her teammates knew that she was smarting after taking the ball off her leg, but that didnít stop them from having a bit of fun at her expense.

The mini-rally fell short and SCR-I ultimately lost the game. Still the girls stuck together, played as a team and truly seemed to enjoy playing the game. Thatís the key word here Ė game. After all, it is just a game. Sure we want our kids to win. But as a faithful Tigers fan, Iíd much rather witness what I saw Saturday afternoon, even as a loss, than trade it for a season with nothing but wins, if it meant taking all the fun and camaraderie away from the players. I hope the girls keep playing hard, and keep having fun.


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