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April 1, 2013
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Ford: Rec sports keep adults young at heart

Sunday night, after watching the weakest season finale in television history — “Walking Dead,” I’m talking to you — I turned my attention to more pressing matters.

Monday was Opening Day, and I had yet to prepare.

No, I don’t mean the Major League Baseball Opening Day, which is the most overrated day in sports by the way. Opening Day in the bigs is simply one day that is quickly washed away from memory by the next seven months and 161 games. If you’re not at the ballpark in person, then Opening Day loses its magic.

For me, Sunday night was about preparing for the opening day of the Western Nevada County Slo-Pitch Softball Association.

That may sound pathetic, but for a father of two young children with a full-time job and little free time, it’s what I got.

The long winter months have now passed, spring is upon us, and all I want to hear is “Play ball!”

I want to see my rag-tag team of guys from the office trot hap-haphazardly onto the field wearing mismatching uniforms. I look forward to the infield booting the first couple of sharp grounders, the mis-judgement of a fly ball and a huge whiffing swing at a softly lofted ball that spins a 280-pound man into the ground.

I also look forward to a no-doubter home run coming off a bat and the big bopper that hit it casually walking back to the dugout rather than trot the bases or to see pitchers a mere 40 feet from home plate snag line drives rifled back at them and act as if it was no big thing when the catch is made, and oh, how I long to see a speedy batter turn a bloop single into a thrilling double.

So Sunday, I went to sleep with fly balls soaring into the night sky and close plays at the plate dancing through my head.

But alas, I awoke Monday to darkened clouds with bellies filled with game-threatening rain. The precipitation would not come, but the rains that proceeded it caused the cancellation of Monday’s games — poor field conditions the culprit, according to the WNCSSA hotline.

So another week I must wait. Another week to make sure my gear is just right, my cleats are clean, my glove is oiled and my lucky shirt still fits. Another week of feeling like a Little Leaguer on the precipice of the Opening Day jamboree.

And I’m OK with that because recreational sports never disappoint like “Walking Dead” did. Whether my softball team wins the championship — which we did in the 2012 summer season — or finished at the bottom of the standings — like we did in the 2012 spring season — it always ends with a smile and the thought of next season.

Slo-pitch softball is a weekly reminder that no matter what jobs we hold in this community or what social standing we may have, we are all just kids spending an hour on a ball field.

Softball reminds us all how flawed we are but that we are elevated by team work. It shows us that we are shadows of our former athletic selves but that those shadows are still capable of turning a double play or ripping a double into the gap.

Recreational sports in general, whether it’s basketball, softball or whatever, have been my escape, vacation and weekly reason to stay optimistic. Because no matter how bad a week I may be having, if a game is on the horizon everything will be all right.

Whether it’s softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, pickleball, badminton or bocce ball, recreational sports are good for the individual and the whole family.

It’s goods for kids to see their mom and dads competing and being active. It’s also a great forum to demonstrate acts of good sportsmanship. You can tell young athletes about sportsmanship, but seeing you actualize it on the field will carry more weight.

I encourage everyone to play a recreational sport and in an organized league if possible. The Nevada County Adult Sports Association offers basketball and volleyball multiple times throughout the year, Samba Soccer has indoor soccer, the WNCSSA has multiple softball leagues and multiple seasons and Gold Country Senior Softball Association offers an option for those ballers over 50 looking to continue with America’s favorite pasttime.

For me, softball is my fountain of youth, even though I feel my age plus some after every game. But for the 55 minutes that I’m on the field,I’m 12 years old again, and that’s worth the $30 price of admission.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.


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The Union Updated Apr 1, 2013 11:52PM Published Apr 1, 2013 11:52PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.