Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lions, Tigers, and Baseball...Oh My!

     Every now and then a day comes along that is just perfect.  If you could run it on a continuous loop over and over you would do it in a second.  I like to believe that those days happen often, but truly great days are few.  When I was a younger man things like special days and how wonderful they are did not occur to me.  Sure, I knew if the day was fun or exciting or whatever, but no attention was given to the days that were awesome beyond measure.  I had one of these days recently, and as most of my most precious moments in "my next 40 years" they revolve around my family.  And Baseball.  Softball too, but they are the same game in my opinion with only subtle differences.  The softball is larger.  Girls play softball.  Boys play baseball, although I know a few girls who could take a fast ball downtown.  This day began with the world famous Lime Lions, and ended with the equally famous Birmingham Baseball Academy.  Sit back and relax, and enjoy this retelling of a great day.  I'm sure you'll agree.

     The Lime Lions.  Who are they?  Only the greatest softball team ever.  That's right.  Ever.  You've probably heard of them, they're right up there with Alabama Football and the Green Bay Packers.  I just so happen to be the head softball coach of those fine bunch of young ladies, and we had our final game of the season on my "best day ever" (I'm a Historian and here I would give a footnote to Spongebob Squarepants.  I cite all my sources/quotes.)  I have coached quite a few teams over the years, but these girls are as exciting as it gets.  If the league charged a cover to come watch these games everyone would get their money's worth.  Trust me when I say that.  They can play, and we have faced some fine competition.  However, we've come out on top more times than not.  Really only lost one, and that one was a bottom of the fifth thriller that we were leading til the bitter end!  All of what follows is true.

     The day was nice and warm, beautiful weather for a softball game.  It was comfortable, but Mother Nature only lulled the combatants into a false sense of security and comfort.   A battle would be waged on this day, and not since brave King Leonidas and his band of 300 Spartan soldiers fell at Thermopylae has a conflict of comparable stature occurred.  On this occasion the warriors wore bright colors.  The Lime Lions vs. The Pink Polka Dots....nothing would ever be the same again.  The Polka Dots were on a mission to avenge a mid season loss to these same Lime Lions.  The Lions were battle tested, and coming off a heart breaking one run loss in the de facto league championship game that will likely go down as the greatest single athletic contest ever played in the history of the world. (Side note, the Lime Lions split the season series (1-1) with the Orange Tigers, and they shared the best record in the league.  Just to get that straight.  :))

     The Polka Dots started fast, scoring four quick runs, but the Lions started faster scoring five of their own.  It was a seesaw battle with at least one hundred lead changes throughout the contest.  Pluck and grit were shown by all those fine young ladies, and when the Lions came up to bat in the bottom of the 5th inning the score stood Polka Dots 14, Lions 12.  It was time to dig deep, and those fantastic Lime Lions were ready to give it all they had one more time!  However, a ground out to first started the inning.  Were the Lions finished?  Had they given it all in a losing effort?  Was this the end?  Not by a long shot.  Hit after hit.  Run and after run.  Excitement that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up!  When the dust settled and all the runs had been calculated, once again those Lions were victorious 15-14!  In his post game press conference, Coach Chris Perry broke down in tears when recounting the unbelievable character and will to win that this team had shown all year long.  The Coach's contract is up for renewal and he has been contacted by many other teams about taking the helm of their organizations.  When asked about this Perry responded, "I'm a Lion.  I'll always be a Lion.  I love the socks."  Truth be told.  I love those girls.  They're awesome.

     Ballpark perfect day, part deux.  Jesse Perry and the Birmingham Baseball 13 year olds.  This is serious baseball, but these guys are fun to watch too.  This is especially true, because I have not been able to attend many of Jesse's games of late.  I missed the entire NJMS Blue Devil season, and quite a few tournaments of Birmingham Baseball travel ball dating back to last fall.  This is a by product of my life as a 44 year old graduate student/soon to be History Instructor-Professor and other factors that have prevented my attendance.  Most recently, it was my honor to be the coach of the Lime Lions, but you already know about them.  They're still awesome.  On this particularly fantastic late Spring Alabama evening I was back at the ballpark to watch my sole male heir and his extraordinary teammates!

     There's just something special about being at a ballpark.  The intoxicating smell of fried food, the ping of the bat, the pop of a fine leather glove, and hollering at blue because he made a bad call.  It's even more special when you're watching such a fine group of young men who you've seen grow as ballplayers and young adults.  It was plain euphoric to lean on the back of those aluminum bleachers and spit a few sunflower seeds.  To quote one of the coolest cats in recorded history, Dean Martin, "Memories are made of this."  Yep, Deano, they sure are.

     The BBA 13s played extremely well and won both pool games, and it was a glorious day and night.  The next day they would go all the way to the championship game of the tournament, and lose to a bunch of light bat swinging 13 year olds.  This is an area of contention for me, but I will leave it alone.  Suffice to say that bats are weighted heavier for Middle school/High School players for a reason and even if it is technically legal in a particular tournament to swing a lighter bat it still doesn't make it right.  The boys of Birmingham Baseball feel the same way.  Look below for proof.

They're not happy

     My perfect day was just that perfect.  Life goes by pretty fast, and to risk sounding like Ferris Bueller, a person truly does need to slow down and enjoy it a bit.  I did that on this day, and it was good.  Really good.  I was grinning so much that my cheeks hurt.  True story.  Although, I have smile lines like nobody's business.  I know there are quite a few people out there that try to diminish those lines, but I for one love my lines.  Every line, every crack, every crevice on my face tells a story.  Some good, some bad, but they tell the story of a life lived the best way I know how.  I smile a lot.  Thank you Lime Lions, assistant coaches, team mom, parents, Upward league, all the other teams, and players.  It was a fantastic year!  I'm also really looking forward to seeing the BBA 13s play the next few tournaments.  One is even at the beach.  Orange Beach, Alabama to be exact.  My wife and I plan on retiring there one day.  I may just stay down there and open up one of those beach chair businesses.  I could be Chris Perry, head softball coach/History mercenary/beach bum/all around cool dude.  Or not.  It was truly 'The Best Day Ever."  Well, pretty close.  Go Lime Lions!  Go BBA!  I'm out.