Maddie Lee: Little League bonds can't be broken
The photograph is blurry. The wedding guest we asked to take it had evidently had a few drinks. The seven of us are not on the same page either — smiling or straight faced? The others are an even split, while my grimace is a reaction to the popping seams in the back of my bridesmaid dress, which did not take kindly to me lowering onto one knee.
Objectively, it’s a bad picture. I love that picture.
In it are six members of the 2003 Hurricanes and their coach. We went undefeated that Little League Baseball season, our last in the minors. At Cora McManus’s wedding three years ago, we recreated our team photo. Reid Furubayashi, Cole Story and I kneeling in the front. Cora, Adrian Brandon, Nick Richardson and Coach Dave Richardson standing in the back. All with our hands clasped behind us.
Athletes throw the term, “family” around all the time. It’s a cliche, but that’s probably the closest you can get to describing the bond between teammates. That was true of my college teammates — I played Division III softball at Lewis & Clark College. But it was just as true in Little League. Of all the things I love about sports, that unique connection may be my favorite.
I didn’t join the Hurricanes until a couple years into my Little League career. I originally was supposed to play softball. But when not enough girls signed up to field a league, they put those of us who did onto baseball teams. By the time I joined the Hurricanes, Cora and I were two of the few girls remaining.
She was strong, confident and a head taller than any of the boys. I was the opposite.
If life was a coming-of-age movie, I would have been type-cast as the bullied kid. I was asthmatic, round and painfully shy. But instead, my summers with the Hurricanes were filled with fond memories.
If not a well-oiled machine, we were about as close as you could hope for in a city where it rains 150 days out of the year. And when we weren’t battling Seattle’s best, we were staging home run derbies or playing HORSE in someone’s driveway.
After two more years in majors with the Hurricanes, I made the switch to softball. I was playing in travel ball tournaments, on teams that rented out indoor practice space in the winter. The Hurricanes moved over to Pony League Baseball. So, as soon as I got the chance, I went to see one of their games.
It was the first and last time I watched my former team from the stands. For the whole drive home, my dad patiently listened to me rant.
I’d left baseball before we could lead off bases, and now I’d never get the chance. Why’d we have to wear those stupid masks on our helmets in softball? I could hit a baseball further than a softball; I should never have switched.
Really, I just missed my teammates.
Some of those guys I haven't seen since Cora’s wedding. (Coincidentally, one of her wedding colors was maroon, the same color we wore during our undefeated season.) But I have two pieces of Adrian’s art hanging in my apartment. At the next wedding, or high school reunion, or whatever it may be, we’ll all pick up right where we left off.
The last time I was in Seattle, Cole and I ran into each other three quarters of the way up a mountain hike. The coincidence shook us both, and our reunion was practically a scene out of a buddy comedy.
To the group he was with, Cole introduced me as “Madeline.” Very few people still call me that. Just those I consider family.
Why do you love sports?
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