Brian Sullivan: Welcome to the girls of summer
t’s a summer sound to be treasured.
On a swath of former pasture, at the corner of Hope Road and Expectation Avenue -- you know them better as Benedict and Crane -- summer dreams are being chased and played out this week for an orchestra of talented teen girls who in younger years desired to do more than simply be taken out to the ol’ ball game.
You can buy them peanuts and Crackerjacks some other day. These kids wanted to play, and some of the best in the nation are on display at the Gerald S. Doyle Sr. Softball Complex, as the city and Berkshire Force team serve as hosts for this year’s Babe Ruth 16-U Softball World Series.
The local team, said Force coach Jim Clary, a 1985 Taconic High graduate and city native, is young, strong of will, focused and ready to go. So, too, are the other 14 teams involved. Clary’s oldest daughter, Shelby, played in the city softball league and is now a member of the Mass. College squad. Youngest daughter, Brianna, plays city ball and is part of the Berkshire Force U-12 program. Mitch, meanwhile, just graduated from Taconic and is taking his baseball talents to Fitchburgh State, where he hopes to play.
It’s a sports family, a close family, and a storyline no doubt on the resume of many of the tournament players. By extension, Clary’s team is also tight.
"We’re also a close group," said Clary about the Force. "The kids stay in touch. Those who have played in the program before and are out truly miss it."
It is no small leap of faith, this decision by a young girl to move from an excited bleacher patron to a responsible participant on the diamond. But it is no small leap of faith when Dad snugly fits a tiny ball cap on the head of his infant daughter and tosses a small fielder’s mitt into the crib for good measure.
That first Red Sox Pedroia jersey she wore, the one that hung down below her knees, was a great measuring stick for growth. The year that same jersey only fell just below her hips was how Dad knew it was time for another glove. The girl was growing.
So, who knows the story of each and every one of these girls in the tournament? I don’t, but it’s safe to say that the route along that softball road tightened that father-daughter bond in many cases. And now a trip to Pittsfield will be etched in the memories of these players and their families for years to come. They arrive from leagues of their own and now are part of a tournament of their own.
There’s no crying in softball, Clary said. "If a kid makes an error, then we just tell them to keep their head up and that a teammate will make a play and pick them up."
No tears, no fears. Those are good life lessons. I think adults refer to it as perspective. Clary added that his team has embraced its roles as host and ambassadors of the game.
"Oh, absolutely," the coach declared.
A team will emerge as champion on Monday. But truly, they are all champions. Sliding hard into second base, hitting the cutoff player correctly, striking out and heading back to the bench with head held high. That’s a champion, and that’s what these kids all bring to the table.
Girls didn’t always have this opportunity. They do know, and it’s a wonderful thing to observe.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.
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