Saturday, September 20, 2008

Playing Softball with the Saints

I played softball for a lot of years in the city church league with the Albuquerque Saints, a team formed by Pat Wallace and Tony Collyer that consisted over the years almost entirely of LDS church members. I came to love playing softball -- I can honestly say that until I had acute cerebral flatulence in 1993 and had radial keratotomy done on my eyes, which severely impaired my ability to see a ball under lights (or to tell how fast the ball was coming at me, day or night), I would almost rather play softball than eat. Slow-pitch softball is a hitter's game, but my favorite part was playing in the outfield and chasing down fly balls, and the frustration and humiliation of not being able to see the ball finally made me give up the game in, I think, 1997.

We were a pretty good team and won our league most of the years I played, although we always had it handed to us when we went to big out-of-town tournaments (e.g., in Show Low, AZ and Dallas, TX). Pat still has a Saints team, although I'm not sure how many of the original guys (most of whom are now in their early-to-mid fifties) still play. I played a few games with them several years ago -- I could still hit the ball well, but I had to play catcher and watch all the younger guys on the team run circles around me.

This photo was taken in my first year with the team in 1984. I remember I had a bad hitting year that season -- slow-pitch softball is all about feeling comfortable and confident at the plate and in the field, and I hadn't yet developed that kind of confidence in my playing -- but, thankfully, Pat and Tony kept me on the team. I hit my peak in 1990, when the team voted me their MVP, something I still consider an honor. It was sad that I had to give up softball a number of years before my time, but there was a positive outcome in that I turned to less-competitive forms of recreation that drew me closer to nature.

My First Car - 1978 Fiat Strada

In the summer of 1982, my sister Kristen took a roll of photos of me; the intent was for me to have pictures to send to people I'd known in Chile, but I ended up keeping a few of the prints, including this one. It shows me in front of my parents' house with my first car, a 1978 Fiat Strada that my parents helped me buy in August 1981 from Tracy Carroll's dad Bill, a car wholesaler. My Strada, which I drove until 1989 (at which time Dorine and I replaced it with a used Mercury Topaz), was an interesting, if temperamental car that simply did not like to run in cold weather. It had a surprising amount of interior room for a small car, and it was fun and economical to drive (well, most of the time). I had more than a few epic experiences in it, but two stand out in my mind. The first was the time I broke down late at night in Lybrook, NM on the way home from BYU for Christmas in 1981 (and had to call my mother and brother Roger to come tow me home in a snowstorm). The second was the time Jeff Jolley and I drove up to Sanford, CO to play with the Albuquerque 11th Ward team in
the regional softball tournament in August 1983. Timewise, we were cutting things close anyway, leaving Albuquerque late, but what made things worse was that neither of us knew the route from EspaƱola, NM to the San Luis Valley, and we were well on the way to Taos before we realized we were on the wrong road. We didn't have time to backtrack, so we drove across the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, and fifteen miles of dirt roads, to get back on U.S. 285. By that time, we were so far behind schedule that we had to drive 90 mph the rest of the way -- looking back, I'm surprised my car would even go that fast -- and we pulled up to the field just a few seconds before our team would have had to forfeit. (Ironically, that first game was against the Albuquerque 6th Ward, my home ward, of which my father was still bishop at the time.)

BYU - Living at Deseret Towers

This photo, taken by my friend and fellow "KNOB" Galen Kekauoha, shows me sometime in the fall of 1977, playing my Gibson SG electric guitar in the dorm room I shared with Bob Maes in BYU's Deseret Towers dorm complex. I had worked that spring in Albuquerque, bagging groceries in a food store, to get the money to buy a nice electric guitar; I wanted a Gibson Les Paul, but in the end I wasn't quite able to save enough money -- hence my buying the SG instead. Deseret Towers has now been razed, or is in the process of being razed, which points up the growing unpopularity of on-campus housing in Provo. I kept the SG until 1984, when I sold it to buy the diamond for Dorine's engagement ring. I wish I still had it, especially since it would be worth some serious coin now. (I sold it for $225 in the days when every kid wanted to have big hair and play a fluorescent-pink Jackson Soloist. It would be worth perhaps seven or eight times that much now)

Seeing this picture now brings back a lot of memories. I was in my 4%-body fat days. We lived on the south side of the top floor of "T" Hall, which is/was situated between two other halls; thus, we had no clear view of anything besides "U" Hall to the south. I was seriously homesick most of the fall semester, but fortunately friends like Bob and Galen helped me stick things out.

I still have the leather guitar strap with my name on it (a very 70s sort of fetish), which a fellow student from my high school named Joe Lifke made for me right about the time I bought the SG (and for which he only charged me $8.00, as I remember). It still looks and functions like new, although with the extra girth that my body has acquired over time, my guitar rides quite a bit higher than it used to--and my name appears on my shoulder, almost!