Softball it’s a family affair
July 28, 2007
Soccer moms may have the most established reputation for zealously taking part in their kids’ athletics, but parents at the Triple Crown Fastpitch Softball Tournament would argue that softball fanaticism is just as strong, though not as cutthroat.
"It’s definitely a subculture," said Keith Mitchell, whose daughter plays in the 16-and-under division for the Fraser Valley Fusion of Vancouver, Canada. "It’s a lifestyle of parents dedicating summer, fall and winter to the sport, and not having much of a life other than that. Families take vacations around these tournaments."
Mitchell traveled 1,700 miles to the Triple Crown not an uncommon stretch for many on his team, he says.
"We spend about 16 weekends [throughout the season] away from home," he noted. But, he added, the intensity is paired with fun, and in most cases, the competition is cordial.
"You’ll always have some people that make it more intense than it needs to be, but it’s overall friendly," he says.
Lori Pearce, whose daughter plays for the San Diego Chaos in the 16-and-under division, says the intensity can depend on the team.
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"My daughter has played for three different teams with three very different experiences," she said. "You have some parents who are all about their own kids, and some who are out there cheering for everyone."
But more are supportive than not, Mitchell said.
"A lot of parents are hard-working people who just want the best for the girls on the team," he said. "We help each other out."
He added that the inclusive nature of softball creates diverse economic backgrounds among teams, which further encourages cooperation among parents.
"One of the great things about softball is that it’s accessible to everyone and it’s a very mixed bag when it comes to class. Look around [at the Triple Crown] and you’ll see people from very wealthy areas to really struggling neighborhoods. And we’re all here to play the same game."
Pearce agrees that the relatively inexpensive nature of softball allows players of many backgrounds to participate.
"I started my kids in swimming," she said, "but after swim-club fees on top of team fees, it got to be too expensive. Softball is very manageable, though. You see a lot of single moms at games."
Travel is a financial challenge for some, she admitted, but parents try to ensure that no player is left behind.
"You know if there’s a family in need," she said. "We watch out for each other, whether it be through fund raising or offering to buy meals for some of the kids on the road. We’re like one big family."
The familial nature of tournaments often extends to players’ siblings, who form another aspect of the softball culture.
"The smaller kids have their own world going on," Pearce said. "You’ll find kids [ages] 2 to 12 who befriend each other kind of out of necessity, but they become close."
Softball fans embrace their die-hard lifestyle for the most part, but they also admit they can seem crazy at times.
"We’ve been here in the rain for hours some days, and we just kind of laugh and wait it out. What can you do, right? But it is kind of nuts," said Eddie Guzman, a dad from Los Angeles.
Still, most parents say the joy of watching their daughters play is worth the sacrifice.
"We wouldn’t be out here if we didn’t love it," Guzman said.