Finding God's Winning Spirit

Play Ball

June 8, 2015 | Greg Smith | Sports


I spent most of last week watching the Women's College World Series. For those of you not up on the WCWS it is the women’s college fast-pitch softball national championship held every year in Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I must be honest and say that I'm not a consistent women's fast-pitch fan and only tuned in this year because Auburn University made the trip for the first time in their women's fast-pitch history.

I fully intended to watch the tournament only as long as Auburn was still in it. After Florida eliminated Auburn I had fully intended to be back to watching golf or the NBA playoffs. For some reason I could not get this tournament and these women athletes out of my head – I was hooked. I did not know why, my typical buy in for watching sports is to pull for one team or the other but between Michigan and Florida I had no real favorite. What was the draw?

It took a couple of days but I finally realized what mesmerized me about the WCWS – It was the attitude of all teams and every participant. Without dumbing this down too much it simply looked like everybody was having a blast just playing the game. Players were dancing and singing in the dugout between pitches, wearing crazy rally caps, high-fiving each other after strikeouts or home runs, coaches were smiling at players and calmly talking the umpires when situations dictated. If you did not know the score you certainly would not be able to tell who was winning or losing by the countenance of these players. It just looked fun.

Some people would say well Greg, these are just girls and this is just softball after all. Well hold on here just a second. From a guy who played baseball his whole life and then played fast-pitch softball for the United States Navy, take it from me, fast-pitch softball is the real deal. If you think hitting a baseball thrown from 60 feet away at 90 mph is difficult try hitting a softball traveling at 80 mph from 43 feet away (check out Softball Pitch vs Baseball Pitch on You Tube). No, to quote the PGA, “these girls are good.”

I for the life of me do not know why this sport, with these players, is played with such pure and unadulterated joy but it was infectious. It made me want to dig out the old glove, field a few grounders and take some swings. It was the joy that should be in every game at any level, the way sports was intended to be played.

I read a quote once from Willie Stargell, the famous Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Pirate, who said this about the game he played so well, ''When you watch kids playing sandlot baseball, you see kids having fun and that's basically what I think we should be doing as ballplayers. Whenever people talk about baseball, they don't say, ‘Work ball.' They say, 'Play ball.'   

Thanks for all the teams that showed up in Oklahoma City. You all get it and got it right.

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