A league of their own
It's the 2006 semi-finals and the underdog Snaps are playing the undefeated Creamers. The Snaps, up by one, are trying to hold the Creamers. There are two women on base and two outs, in the bottom of the ninth inning. Slugger Lisa Stewart is up, and she slams one into centerfield.
"I'm out there, and Lisa comes up to bat. I'm saying to myself, 'She's gonna hit it right to me, she's gonna hit it right to me.' I put my glove up, and I knew it was coming, and I grabbed it and held on with dear life," recalls Mary Beth Meehan, Edgartown schoolteacher, and mother of her teammates, twins Jackie and Kurstin.
Ms. Meehan says, "As far as it being a mother-daughter thing - Jackie roped me into it. I feel like I'm sort of the old lady of the bunch. But that's what it's all about. I just enjoy hanging out with all of these girls. I have so much fun."
Many would say having fun is the most important part of playing in the league. The games are a way to let loose after work, to get a bit of exercise, and sometimes, to get a good start to an evening out. The games draw crowds of regular supporters, from friends and boyfriends to husbands and family.
"I like to see the competition, and I really like to see how everybody gets better and how they learn the game," says Marc Lima, who has several friends in the league. "Some of them are just really good ball players, and I like to see good plays, but I mostly go to support my friends who are playing."
Photos by Ralph Stewart
On Tuesday, the Martha's Vineyard Women's Slow Pitch Softball League began its fourth year. Originated in 2005 with six teams, there are now eight teams, all sponsored by Island businesses.
And as far as team names, the girls kept them lighthearted and colorful: There are the Summer Shades' Shady Ladies, Long and Meehan Snaps, Mocha Mott's Creamers, Dairy Queen Swingers, Island Entertainment Late Fees, Edgartown Pizza Toppers, The Wharf Pub Honeys, and a new and yet un-sponsored team. This year, the Creamers are the team to beat, having won the sought-after championship in 2007.
"I feel like we're the Red Sox," says league co-commissioner Veronika Van de Geer, a Tisbury schoolteacher when she's not playing for the Creamers. "We won every single game the first season, and were 13 and 0. In the finals, we lost by one run, to the Honeys. The second year, the Snaps beat us in the semifinals. Last year, we lost a couple games in the regular season. We barely made it through but we won the Championship game."
In contrast to the all-star Creamers, the Toppers, a brand-new team last year, lost every game of the season. Despite their losing record, they maintained positive on the field.
"We went into it with the attitude that it was our first year, and we wanted to create the unity of a team and see how well we would do," says team captain Stacy Barreira, who works at Martha's Vineyard Community Services. "Of course we wanted to win a game. It would probably have boosted our self esteem even more, but we saw ourselves as a team by the end, and we really tried to just have fun and motivate each other."
The variety of participants is a smorgasbord of Island life, from yacht club staff to entrepreneurs, landscapers to bank tellers, and even college students. There are women who grew up playing softball since middle school and women who have never picked up a bat, who range in age from late teens to middle-aged.
"The league itself has a great range of athletes," says Ms. Van de Geer. "There are some who have never played softball before but who have played other sports. Then there are people who are very serious about it. Combined, our league is about a bunch of women who just want to have fun."
Liane Dixon, left fielder on the Snaps, played two division one sports at Northeastern University, a feat not many have accomplished. Then there are the stay-at-home moms whose children hang out along the sidelines, cheering for their moms. And the combinations of skill levels create tough competition.
"There's definitely rivalry," says Ms. Van de Geer. "We've always had a rivalry with the Honeys since the first year. We also have a rivalry with the Snaps because they kicked us out of the championships two years ago. They're the young kids, and that's always nice competition."
But the women use their competitive spirit for motivation. So far, there have not been any quarrels at game's end.
"We don't hold grudges, it's left on the field. I don't recall anything being brought up off the field," says Ms. Van de Geer. "If there's a bad call, it's done. You talk about it later, and it's over with. I think we've all grown as a league over the past couple of years."
The women's softball league plays Tuesdays through August and Fridays through July at Veterans' Field in Vineyard Haven and the West Tisbury School Field, at 6:15 and 7:30 pm.
Eleni Collins, assistant Calendar editor at The Times, plays on the Long and Meehan Snaps.