For the love of their game



I’ve been playing softball since I was 10 years old, and for a long time I had the best fan anyone could ask for: my grandpa.

He was a full-blown Sicilian man who didn’t know one single thing about softball (or any American sport, for that matter).

But my grandpa, until the day he passed, attended every single game of mine, standing behind the backstop in Ascot cap in the cool, windy fall and in his outdated, large snapback hat in the hot summer.

Throughout the game, he would yell, “Come on, Maddy.”

His thick Italian accent made it almost impossible for others to understand his words. But I knew.

His most famous and favorite line of all was, “Come on blue, what are you looking at? That’s not a strike!”

Even when the ball would sail perfectly down the middle, he’d admonish the umpire for calling a strike on me.

My favorite sports memory of my grandpa takes me back a few years.

I was 13 or 14 and we were battling against one of our rivals, the Bat Busters.

If you have some knowledge about softball, you know that bunting is a common occurrence if a runner is on first with no outs.

My grandpa knew this but would conveniently forget. (He didn’t like this strategy because it wasn’t as exciting as hitting a double or a homerun.)

Nevertheless, during one game it just so happened that three out of my four at bats required that I bunt. This made my grandpa irritable.

When I was next up, the situation again called for yet another bunt.

I walked up to the plate, received the sign from my coach to bunt, stepped into the batter’s box acting as if I was going to hit a homerun to win the game but then pulled my bat to the front of the plate to bunt.

Seeing that the ball was going to sail high above my eyes, I quickly pulled back my bat.

Before the catcher had time to return the ball to the pitcher, my grandpa stood up tall and screamed at my coach.

“Come on! Let her hit the ball!”

He paused for dramatic effect and then yelled again.

“Come on, Maddy. No more of this bunting crap!”

The coaches, players and fans just started laughing at the shear bluntness of my grandpa.

I looked at my coach. He chuckled and clapped, indicating to swing away.

Even though my grandpa didn’t necessarily understand the game, he was still there to be with me.

He didn’t care what the score was or who was playing.

All he wanted was to cheer me on and make sure I, and everyone else around him, knew he was there to support me.

That’s the deeper meaning behind sports.

You don’t need to love the game itself to have a “love for the game.”