My husband loves softball. When I went into labor with our first child, he was pitching a softball game.
I was sitting in a lawn chair writing down the team stats, so I added a column that timed my contractions.
Unlike the stereotypical frantic first-time father - usually portrayed as a panic-stricken, bumbling fool - my husband was as calm as the major league pitcher he thought he was.
The rest of the men on the team were panic-stricken, bumbling fools as they came over to check the stats book. Not hubby!
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"Honey, I'm pitching!" he said. "Didn't they tell us the first baby takes a long time? Think we have time to finish the game?"
He finished the game, and his team won. We made it to the hospital, and the baby was born.
Years passed, the baby grew to adulthood, and my husband played softball in the cities where we moved until he couldn't find a league for his advancing age.
Then we moved to Mooresville.
Our brother-in-law, Dave Villanueva, lives in Huntersville. He moved to North Carolina five years ago and joined the Ralph Lambert Senior Softball League of Lake Norman. His team had won the championship game that year; there's been a swagger to my brother-in-law's walk ever since. Dave invited my husband to join the league.
The league - for the over-50 bunch - was started by Dave White and Ralph Lambert after Ralph moved to the Cornelius area from Pittsburgh. Ralph had experience; he had started a league in Pittsburgh that eventually involved more than 270 players. Ralph died in 2008. His sons, Bob and Bill Lambert, started to play in the league in 2009.
Last fall my husband and brother-in-law were placed on opposite teams. My sister and I sat in the stands and cheered as everyone engaged in good-natured fun and competition. Boys will be boys.
But wait: Women, too, can play in this league. We watched as a woman playing third base stood firm, put her glove out and made an incredible catch when a line drive careened at her. Everyone applauded, even the opposing team.
Lined and wrinkled faces, pot bellies, limps, balding heads, bad knees and aching backs seem to lessen after an evening playing America's favorite sport. With each crack of the bat, you can see the boy or girl of their youth in their smile.
After a good hit by my husband, we screamed for him to run faster. One of the older players in the dugout wryly said, "Harder. Tell him to run harder. We can't run fast anymore."
My husband's team won the league championship game. The photo of the trophy and his team hung proudly, sparkling like an ornament, on our Christmas tree. Somehow I think Ralph Lambert would approve.