Sound Bites Taught Me Softball
October 3, 2016
I grew up with YES Network on mute and the radio crackling in the background. I can still hear John Sterling proclaiming “… and the 3-2 swung on and missed …” Yes, the radio cracked, but his voice had a certain kind of roughness and enthusiasm to it.
It didn’t matter where my dad and I went. If we were in the house on game day, there was a transistor radio tuned to 66AM. If we were driving upstate in the summer, he would put the antenna up in his ‘69 Buick, fiddle with the push button radio and Sterling’s familiar voice would push through the speakers. I grew up watching the game but learning it from my dad, and from Sterling.
In a household where we wouldn’t miss a game — even if we didn’t watch it — I knew I would find myself on a ballfield soon enough.
And so then in 2002, it seemed sort of inevitable that there I was, a first grader on the field, staring at a tee that was nearly at my eye level. The ball was squishy, there was a “coach” at every single base, my helmet was pink and it had a space in the back for my ponytail. It was textbook teeball.
As elementary school went on, I kept playing softball and my dad co-coached each year, likely in an effort to relive his little league days. Girls would do cartwheels in the outfield during slow innings, and, in the same way I remember Sterling booming over the radio waves, my dad would holler, “Look alive out there!” And like the little league sound bites from my dad, I can clearly hear this, too:
“And that ball is high, it is far, it iiiiiiis gonnnnnnnne!”
Sterling may have never called one of my little league games, or any game I will ever play in, but his voice, which guided the game I grew up with, is one I can forever replay in my mind.
Fast forward past my little league days, past the middle school games where we had the privilege of playing on turf and to my junior year of college where I joined an intramural softball team. It may not be tee ball anymore, but getting up to bat with a regulation 2-2 count feels as if there’s something set up.
And grass? Turf? Forget it. It’s skinned knees on the horizon at William F. Passannante Ballfield — the same concrete “field” where my dad played little league games.
Since then, the uniforms have changed. He would play wearing a pair of “dungarees and white converse,” and I’ve made the elegant transition from the little league uniform of knee high socks and cropped baseball pants to leggings and a team t-shirt.
Seven innings of gameplay each weekend feels quiet without my third-base-coach dad hollering from the bag, but it’s easy for me to hear his voice — and Sterling’s — resonating with every ground ball and at-bat.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 3 print edition. Email Grace Halio at [email protected]