Play ball!

Jimmie Batchelor


In several prior columns, I’ve suggested revisiting a past activity for fun. As the years go by, I realize some of my activities and, I assume some of yours, were a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be revisited. Recently, with the World Series games in the limelight, I was reminded of such an experience of mine that will not, cannot be repeated, but I have certainly enjoyed the visual memory.

It was in the mid ‘70’s and I was 25, living in Memphis, Tenn., with two children at that time and employed in downtown Memphis at Memphis Furniture. I still have fond memories of my co-workers and I still communicate with some to this day.

Through the years, I have had more opportunities handed to me, some shoved, than I have chosen for myself. The one I am writing about now was one of the latter! One lovely spring day I returned to my work desk to discover a pretty, royal blue baseball jersey with “00” numbered on its back and “Memphis Furniture” across the front, neatly folded with a brand new ball cap laid at the neckline. I’ve always remained fairly open to new experiences given to me, always wanting to search out a reason, which sometimes remains unknown!

One of the young, nice salesmen decided he should sign me up for the softball team. I had not played ball since grammar school playground days! This turned out to be quite an experience. We barely had enough females to gather a team with one of our salesmen coaching. We looked more along the lines of “a motley crew” than an actual ball team and definitely not professional. Our first practice was on a Sunday afternoon and come Monday morning, we players appeared at work, trying our best not to expose our muscle pain, but with eau de Ben Gay as our new fragrance it was a dead giveaway!

Most of the teams we played appeared and played mighty tough. My husband took on my playing ball very seriously. Every day we’d be seen on our apartment lawn where he would throw the ball up in the air as high as he could, yelling, “Get under it, catch that ball.” Another memorable ball wisdom he threw at me was, “When a ball comes at you, I don’t care if you have to throw your whole body in front of it, you stop that ball!” I will say, all his efforts did work. I toughened up, lost my fear of a flying ball, and just might have learned to run faster, maybe.

The evening I will never forget brought my ball career to a screeching halt. I’d hit the ball good enough to make it to first base. I thought if I could sneak off first and get a head start to second, I’d be on my way. Inching my way toward second, all of a sudden, the opposing pitcher started pointing and yelling at me, “She’s off the base.” I turned and slowly inched back to first. Everyone was yelling at me. This softball was beginning not to be fun. The umpire then did his hand signal and yelled, “You’re out!” My gut reaction kicked in and I stomped my foot and hollered back, “why?” Then our coach got involved and yells for me to come in, signaling me in with his arms. I was told that you could not step off first base. But, I said, “I see it on TV all the time.” I learned that rules are different in baseball than in softball. I did tell him he needed to teach us more of the rules. My husband and children attended that game, the children knew nothing of what had transpired, but I think he didn’t want to be identified as my husband at that moment.

That was my one and only athletic endeavor. I was happy to participate; glad I had the experience, but decided that balls and rules were just not my game. I can look back on the memory and say I gave it a try! We did have fun and we each received a team picture to remember the experience. I think I didn’t need the picture to remember that experience, in detail!

Jimmie retired from Henry County Senior Services in Stockbridge, where she managed Hidden Valley Senior Center and resided for 38 years. She uses her newfound time writing (for The Times) and enjoying life!