Tim Combs column: On the 8th day

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 6, 2019

I have always read that the banana is the perfect food and swimming is the perfect sport. I also believe that on the 8th day after the heavens and earth were created, the concept of a perfect recreational activity was born.

Slow-pitch softball fills that void. How can a 300-pound man with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a two-pack a day habit be revered as a god? The reason is that he can hit a softball 300 or more feet.

Slow-pitch softball is sociological experiment that is gender neutral. Women’s slow-pitch softball teams seem to be rare these days but years ago they were just as competitive as the men’s teams.

Some of my most enjoyable moments as a teacher and coach at West Forsyth High School involved coaching the girls’ JV slow-pitch softball team from 1993 to 1996. West Forsyth started playing fast-pitch softball in 1997 which was a fun game to watch.

Kudos to Kevin Baity and the legendary Mike Lambros for keeping the 4-A state titles local in 2016 and 2017 at West Forsyth and North Davidson. Slow-pitch softball is played mostly by adults and encompasses people from all walks of life.

I have played with and against doctors, lawyers, financial consultants, construction workers as well as a host of other colorful characters. Sometimes tempers flare because Americans like to win.

I have seen some of these colorful characters mule-kick police cars, hurl bats and chase umpires into the darkest corners of the parking lot. Some confuse vocation with recreation.

My fellow coaches and I put together a spring softball team my first year at West Forsyth in 1993. This year marks our 27th team. The earliest teams were all composed of West Forsyth coaches but unfortunately too many of us have aged out and opted for slower, less painful activities.

I played full-time until 2017. Our team has enjoyed many sponsors. Lately the Full Moon Oyster Bar has been our sponsor.

Randy — you are the man! I had to quit playing against guys 20 and 30 years younger than me because a sharply hit ball slicing between short and third no longer guarantees me safe passage to first base. When you start recording your 40-meter time with a sundial, bad things can happen.

One of these things is getting thrown out at first base from left field. I am going to Joanie Moser Park and beg for a tryout with guys my own age. The only way I get into a game now is if someone falls in a deep hole or has a nervous breakdown.

I occasionally will fill in if we don’t have enough players. I will admit to being slow afoot but I am also superstitious. Big trucks rolling onto the parking lot signal long-ball hitters. If you see a giant truck pulling into the parking lot with a wheelbarrow turned upside down in the bed pulling a trailer with 10 pieces of lawn mowing equipment, watch out!

These guys like to go yard and you better have your outfielders stand at the warning track.

I usually drive a 1991 Mitsubishi pickup to the ball field which classifies me as a single hitter. A 4-cylinder vehicle does not invoke fear into the hearts of many. Besides giant trucks that resemble transformers, be on the lookout for souped up Hummers or other SUVs that look like something Green Berets drive around in.

In closing I don’t know how many trips to the ballpark I have left as a player. We know we can’t do something forever or go back in time.

There are many things I will miss about playing softball in the men’s open leagues in and around Winston-Salem.

I will miss Coach Key’s (Denny Sr.) slow-pitch curve ball and playing softball for many years on Monday nights with St. John’s Lutheran Church. I will miss hitting the occasional double because not enough outfielders are going to fall down for that to be a successful venture.

I will miss throwing a ball overhanded for more than 50 feet and taking three rounds of batting practice. I will certainly miss playing and watching softball at Lewisville Elementary School.

I think people played softball there for more than 50 years up until ’09.

I also put on many “outlaw” softball tournaments (my summer job for 11 years) at that historic Lewisville ball field. Every inch of Lewisville School and the property it is located on is hallowed ground.

I have many fond memories while attending Lewisville Elementary School in the mid-’60s. One of my fondest memories is watching folks build the water tower from my mother’s classroom window. I thought that feat ranked up there with building the Hoover Dam and the Great Wall of China.

My testimonial is about over and I would like to end on a positive note. We live in a world in which horrific events become our daily news stories. I prefer reading stories about sporting events.

Many of us who have been involved in coaching will miss Mason Linker. He covered high school sports for more than  two decades while working for the Winston-Salem Journal. In addition to being a good sports writer, Mason was a good softball player. He played a few games with our Wednesday night coaches’ team. I believe Mason could write about a slow-pitch softball game and make it sound interesting.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the worst thing that happened on a given day was that a couple of softball teams lost? St. John’s Lutheran beat First Presbyterian 40 to 39 on a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh by a dude from the Midwest. The defense was not stellar but everyone seemed to have a good time.

Another story might read: The Deacon Dive beat a group of guys from Ebert Financial 15 to 13. The win captured the Omar Smith League Championship. The players shook hands and looked very thirsty walking back to parking lot.

God Bless America and slow-pitch softball, RIP M.L.

Tim Combs is retired teacher and coach at West Forsyth High School.