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The many faces of co-ed softball

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By Brandon Mattingly

This past weekend, I had the privilege of playing in a co-ed softball tournament in Lebanon; I remember because I still can’t walk without soreness bolting through both legs.

The tournament was a fundraiser for John Stuart and Ann-Caitlin Mattingly’s daughter, Emma. I went to high school with both of Emma’s parents and I can say that they’re more than deserving of the tremendous support shown to their family on Saturday.

I haven’t been able to take part in many of these tournaments, but that’s something I’m going to have to change going forward.

Though I haven’t been a regular at local tournaments, I’ve been around enough to see that the same characters turn up almost every time. That’s not to say the same players are in each tourney, but that you can count on the same types of players making an appearance. Let me explain.

First, you have those who are simply there for a good time or to support a good cause. They may have little knowledge of softball concepts or possess little by way of athletic ability, but that’s not what the day is about. They’re going to have a good time, win or lose, and they could not care less whether they get run-ruled in the fourth inning. This is the smart group of teams; the ones who get two — maybe three — games in, pack everything up and head home for dinner by 7 p.m. It’s a good strategy and one that certainly has my full respect.

At the other extreme are the folks who take it maybe a little too seriously. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being competitive, though, and these are your teams still fighting until they’re kindly asked to leave around 4 a.m. In a way, these over-zealous, clinging-to-their-prime athletes represent what these events stand for; never stop fighting and never stop believing in the cause.

Then there’s the third group: the inbetweeners.

This is where I’ve found my home. The has-been/never-was high school athletes who don’t get nearly enough exercise these days but are huge fans of the game; oh, this is definitely where I belong.

My group of out-of-shape brethren are what holds the competitive balance together. There needs to be a buffer between the first and second groups I talked about or else there wouldn’t be a reason to play the game past the second inning; we proudly serve as that buffer.

We’ll knock off a couple of teams from the first group, but not in such dominant fashion that the games don’t hold your attention. Then we’ll do the same thing against the serious crowd — except, you know, on the losing end this time.

This held particularly true for my “Emma’s Fighters” team on Saturday, winning the first two games fairly easily, before being dispatched over the next two games, again, somewhat easily.

With the tournament not starting until 2 p.m. — the Color Run 5K led to a later-than-usual start time — it was around 2 a.m. when we exited the tourney in the semifinal of the losers’ bracket. Yes, we were more than ready for our beds by the time I grounded into a double play to end our final game — I always go out with a bang, by the way — but not one of us was willing to leave had our night lasted just a little longer.

All in all, it was a fun day that I’m going to take all week recovering from. I had a blast and saw some old faces that I hadn’t seen in quite some time, but most importantly, I saw how much the tri-county area cares about a family who needs a shot in the arm. I tip my hat to all 15 teams who took part in Saturday’s tournament. Let’s do it again soon.