Virginia Airstream Club hosted a rally in one of my favorite towns, Abingdon, Virginia for three nights. In an agreement with the town, we parked 18 Airstreams on Remsburg Drive, one street down from Lee Highway, or Rt. 11, which is the main street of Abingdon. It is easy walking access to restaurants, shops and the Barter Theater, a great venue.
Arriving Thursday, we went to see a high school softball game where our friend, Amanda Rose’s daughter was playing short stop. Amanda was working and she would be a bit late. We found the field in Bristol, pausing at the top of a hill above the field to try to determine the best spot to sit. We opted for a small bleacher on the third base line that was not quite filled. I am not used to doing sports photography, but I took a 70-200 lens on my Nikon D850. As Mark had told me, I set it to Auto ISO and Auto white balance and put it on shutter priority. I took a few pictures standing up in the bleachers to test my settings. I got a couple of Chad, Amanda’s husband and the assistant coach. Mothers and family were obviously wondering who we were. Martha asked the lady next to her if a young girl behind the bleachers was Ainsley Rose, Amanda’s youngest. She said yes, and Martha told her our story. Well the whole bleacher got the story, and all smiled. Soon we were right in the conversation and felt at home. Well, maybe right at home 60 years ago when all was right with the world.
The players were introduced from each side, and it was readily apparent the opposing team was a lot bigger. We were informed they were high school, but Cadence’s team was an 8th grade team. We were asked to stand for the national anthem. Every person stood, put their hand over their hearts and sang along facing the flag. I couldn’t help looking around. Even the younger kids behind the bleachers were doing the same. Brought a tear to my eye.
A heavy-set grandfather in front of us said the game was five innings, but it was a double-header, or two games. Sheez, I thought. This is going to go past my bedtime! At all breaks, music was played over the loudspeakers, and Cadence danced. Others sang along while they warmed up. As the game started, we could see Cadence was a very good athlete. Short stop is where the best athletes play, and she did a great job. She also seemed to be their best hitter, almost making a home run on her first time up. She hit a taller part of the fence. A couple of yards to the right and it would have been a home run.
The visiting team won handily in the first game. The break gave us a chance to talk with Amanda, who talked about living in Charlottesville for a while, and maybe the kids needed a bigger city. I said, “How can you beat this?! A place where all the kids hug each other and hang on the fence talking to their moms, where they sing the national anthem, and Cadence’s father is assistant coach; where Cadence also plays basketball, where her sister plays with her friends behind the bleachers; where a mother goes into the dugout to give her diabetic daughter something to eat, where the coach comes over to the fence to greet the families. There is no amount of money to replace this!”
The second game was a thriller where the home team jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but lost by a run in the last inning. The competitiveness of these girls was amazing. Sliding into bases, digging up grounders, their pigtails getting dirty. They didn’t care. It was so fun! By the end of the game, I realized Cadence is a gifted athlete with great form, balance, eyes and concentration.
Of course they were all distraught at such a close loss, It was also the last game of the year, so they were all crying and hugging, while Amanda handed out home-made cookies. Partly, they were sad they wouldn’t be together as school would be out. As Amanda said, “They’re girls with hormones. What do you expect?” If it wasn’t four hours, I’d drive down for all the games next year!