Switch Hitter

Before swinging a bat in a lesbian softball league, pick a side. Gay or straight? Or something else?

Apart from the fright of the occasional injury, every Sunday of softball feels the same. The other teams use our sad collection of stumblebum fielders for batting practice. We sulk in silence. Lucy tries to cheer everyone up with bawdy jokes and construction-worker comments like Look at those titties! or Did you see that ass? The comments are usually reserved for any moderately attractive chick walking by, but no one is immune. One afternoon between games of a double-header, she eyes Lee's hairy legs and asks whether the petite carpenter shaves anything besides her head. The answer: negative. The girls squeal in disgust.

"Listen," Lucy announces, "you've gotta shave your drawers before I pan down on you!"

At 53, Lucy is the same age as my mother, but she has zero matronly inhibitions. And she loves her softball. Lucy played fast-pitch at the University of Miami, and she plans to play the game until her dying day. "I was born with a mitt in my hand," she says. "I don't think there's a single thing I don't love about softball. Not even the heat or the dirt. I love to straddle my ass in the dirt."

Young-Min Yoon
Mirna and Theresa were the only couple on the team; they invited the author to pile her glove on top of theirs inside the dugout during the Law Dawgs' short-lived stints at bat.
Michael McElroy
Mirna and Theresa were the only couple on the team; they invited the author to pile her glove on top of theirs inside the dugout during the Law Dawgs' short-lived stints at bat.

I felt guilty playing on Mother's Day. But not Lucy. She told her son that, if he wanted to see her, he'd have to come to the softball field.

Lucy says that, compared with some of the other teams in the league, the sex talk among the Law Dawgs is utterly demure, though in my opinion, Lucy and others set the raunchiness bar pretty high. My favorite Lucy comment comes just before our last game. She had just seen the Sex in the City movie. "Man, that Kim Cattrall is hot," she mutters. "She can sit on my face anytime." Then Lee chimes in: "I've got a seat for her too."

When I recount this exchange to my mother, she shrieks: "See! That's why I didn't want you girls playing softball! I didn't want that life for you."

My mother's first memory of lesbians was a sight she saw at an Atlanta ballpark in her youth. Walking toward one of her own softball games, she remembers looking into the treetops and spotting husky women holding hands. She was spooked.

When my parents met, my father was totally stoked to discover that my mother had played softball. He wanted to mate with an athlete. Dad envisioned having a son who would play professional baseball. Or football. Or any sport, really. Instead, he got two little girls.


Little girls like to please their daddies. And nothing seemed to make my father happier than seeing his daughters excel at sports — traditional gender roles be damned. He'd half-heartedly suggest that we take on pursuits with lucrative long-term potential, such as tennis or golf. But the push to play softball was always there. Never mind that there were no seven-figure contracts awaiting serious female ballplayers.

Like many men of his generation, my father grew up in a baseball-crazed family. His grandfathers played on opposing teams, and they'd argue heatedly about specific plays and games well into their retirement years. One thought his skills were superior to the other's because he had shared the field with Honus Wagner, the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame shortstop.

Alas, my father wasn't a great baseball player. Maybe he lacked confidence. Maybe the ball was pitched too fast for him. He didn't get much support from his dad either. He remembers hitting a home run in one of the few games his father bothered to attend; afterward, my grandfather doused his excitement, saying the ball "barely made it over the fence."

My dad vowed to be a better father than his curmudgeon of an old man. He told us girls that we could do anything. And he meant it. I remember attending a minor-league game with him when I was still in preschool. All the men in the stands were peeling off their shirts because it was mercilessly hot out. I was miserable. He took one look at my pageboy haircut and decided that I could pass as a little boy. So I got to go shirtless too. That was empowering.

I'm not entirely sure when I learned how to throw a softball. It was probably around the same time I learned to talk. Upon moving to Florida, my father discovered that he was a heck of a softball player. He dedicated much of his free time to the sport, playing in a men's league and coaching my mother and her sisters. He built dugouts and manicured ball fields at local schools, free of charge. He volunteered to coach high school teams. As soon as my sister and I were ready, he signed us up to play ball too.

I started out in coed tee ball at age 5. There was one other little girl on the team, a dainty, blue-eyed beauty named Krista. I knew Krista well. Her father, Jack, played night games with mine. She was my partner in crime on the ballpark swings. We both had an intense passion for Barbie dolls, and neither of us had brothers.

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