John F. Russell: Sure signs softball season is back

The softball season officially will begin Tuesday night at Howelsen Hill.

But if you walked around the fields last week, you could already hear the sounds of the game.

Last Wednesday night, teams were out in force swinging bats and fielding grounders and fly balls in preparation for another softball season.

Soon, you might notice co-workers limping around the office with pulled muscles, road rash, sore arms and assorted other injuries. Please be kind.

There is a certain amount of pain that goes along with the start of any recreational season, and only the dedicated adult softball players will escape the first week unscathed.

Unlike many of the other sports I cover, it seems that some softball players don't always feel the need to get into top shape before they take the field -- especially in the popular co-ed leagues. While some of the players work out and practice before the start of the season, there are always some who just show up.

For years, I've watched players, young and old, show up for a few practices where they play at about 80 percent and leave thinking they are ready.

The first night of the season, these players step onto the field and realize that they forgot to remind their bodies how old and sometimes fragile they are.

Often, everything is wonderful while they are playing, but shortly after the final 9:15 p.m. game, the truth -- not to mention the pain -- sets in.

I know the feeling of pulling myself out of bed on a Wednesday morning after a night playing softball. In the 10-plus years I played the game, I rarely looked forward to the morning after -- it was never a pretty sight.

This year, I will be a spectator. After a decade of chasing fly balls, tearing up my legs sliding into second and overthrowing first base more than once, I've decided to leave summer softball to the younger guys.

I'm going to miss the good times with friends, the feeling of hitting a softball square and the competitive spirit of playing the game.

But I'm not going to miss those Tuesday afternoon thunderstorms that turn into rainouts. I won't miss watching from the dugout while some other player who hasn't learned the value of a leash lets a dog interrupt the game by running though the outfield. And I will not miss Wednesday mornings.

But don't be surprised if you find me in the stands once or twice a week just watching the game. Softball is cool because it's one of the activities adults can enjoy on a summer night and recapture a part of their youth.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboat

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