This is a painful story to read about bullying – especially in light of headlines that we see far too often in the news today. Yolanda Adele describes a storybook outcome to a game, but concluding events are still sad. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns.
By Yolanda Adele
I was 12 years old and in primary school. Students in my class were being picked for baseball teams. I was the last one standing. The team captains argued about who’d have to take me. They assessed that my doughy body wouldn’t be able to run fast nor throw a ball with any amount of accuracy, let alone be capable of catching it. I pretended not to care, stating loudly, “Girls shouldn’t play baseball anyway!”
Mrs. Grant, my P.E coach, stepped in and told the captains, it was a requirement, everyone had to participate. Most of the kids began to whine. Then Mrs. Grant said she’d flip a coin in the air for the captains to call to see who would be stuck with me. Oh, she didn’t really say it in that way, but everyone knew that’s what she meant.
At our first game my teammates groaned when I took my place alongside them. I stood tall with my chin up, shoulders squared back, and tummy held in so tight I felt it quiver.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see some of the kids sneering at me. I wondered if they could hear my heart beating as loudly as I did. My pulse sounded like percussion in my ears. Beads of sweat raced down my body. My anxiety was evident to everyone. And the ball game had not even started yet!
My team played the field first. And as predicted I fumbled and dropped the ball when it was thrown to me. Then I tripped over the base while running backwards and getting in the way of the second baseman. This error allowed the runner to get away from being tagged out. As if that were not enough I missed a “sure fly ball”, that someone yelled out his grandmother could have caught.
When it was our turn at bat my captain said to me, “Your next, just relax.”
I walked up to the plate slowly. My knees felt like they were doing the hula. When I picked up the bat, my teammates started “booing.” Soon the spectators and rival team joined in. I gripped the bat hard. It was difficult to see the pitcher through the tears that welled in my eyes.
“Strike One!” I heard the umpire say. Though he was right in back of me, his voice sounded far away as if he were yelling from a tunnel.
After the cascade of tears streamed down my face, I could see the ball coming. I held the bat past my right shoulder and when the ball reached me I quickly pivoted on my right foot, twisting hard at the waist, at the same time swinging the bat around with all the pent up anger and frustration percolating within me.
Then I heard the bat crack as it made contact with the ball. People began to cheer. They shouted, “Run! Run! What are you waiting for?” I stood watching the ball go over the fence, until it was out of sight. I turned and glared at my teammates before I began to walk the bases. I guess it could be said, that I walked my “Home Run”.
A lot of the kids said they’d never seen anybody else at our school hit the ball out of the park. I didn’t care. I wanted out! After we won the game, I told Mrs. Grant I didn’t want to play baseball ever again!
Mrs. Grant stated the consequences: I would have to take an “F” in Physical Education and sit in the principal’s office during P.E for the rest of the semester.
“Now, what’s it going to be young lady?” She demanded to know.
I quickly responded, “Take me out of the ball game - please!”
The lesson I learned on that day is that stubbornness can win a game or keep you out of it.
I’m good with that.