How to Play Softball This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

September 19, 2013
Idolize your father. Try to spend every second with him after work. Drive with him to the store, with the Sox game on the radio. Come home and watch the game with him. Your brothers will complain that baseball is too slow, there’s no tackling, that guy is so fat, it’s so easy, you don’t have to be athletic at all. After they get bored, sit in silence with your father. Only break the silence to ask what a “balk” is. Fall asleep in his arms during the commercials, and have him carry you up to bed, the scent of faded cologne on his chest.

Wake up, go to school. Don’t pay any attention to how other girls idolize their mothers, their sisters, their babysitters. Look forward to the game tonight. Try to talk baseball with the boys, even though they assume you won’t have anything interesting to contribute.

Play softball, because girls are not allowed to play baseball. For the first time feel somewhat oppressed. Feel better when you realize that other girls also idolize their fathers and ask for leather and aluminum for Christmas.

Grow older. Improve your skills. Have girls who idolize their mothers, sisters, and former babysitters call you a lesbian. Have the boys who you tried to talk baseball with look utterly disgusted by your “boyish” interests and muscular build.

You have your comrades – your teammates – with you for a few years, but then they begin to drop out. They try not to say the word “butch” in front of your coach, with her softball hall-of-fame status, boyish hair cut, and Bermuda shorts. Sometimes they accidentally say it anyway, and then burst out laughing, drawing even more attention to themselves.

Lose yourself in the ground balls. They become your only friend. Find that you would really prefer playing catch with your father than being around those girls who don’t even know who plays second base for the Red Sox.

Find that for a team sport, softball can be very lonely. Play anyway. Get offended by the baseball players who hit on the girls who whisper “butch” and call the ones like you “gross and manly.” Play anyway.

You are not trying to be masculine. You are not trying to be your father. You are just doing something he appreciates because you want him to be even more proud of you than he already is, because he is cool. He’ll be there every night on the couch, 7 p.m., beer in hand, the name “Ortiz” printed across his back, waiting for you.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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