Nail biters and grand slams mark women’s softball opening night

Julie "Mambo" Perry bashed a grand slam for the Creamers in a six-run sixth. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Tom Hanks had it right in “A League of Their Own”.Not only is there “no crying in baseball,” there’s no crying in women’s softball on this Island.

Not only were tears absent at the Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Softball League (MVWSL) season openers Tuesday night at War Veterans Memorial Park in Vineyard Haven, but there was lots of laughing, gritty play, athleticism, dogs, husbands, kids, boyfriends and two games, each won by a single run in late innings.

In fact, Mama’s Girls, the league newbie in 2013, pushed the wily, veteran defending champion Wharf Honeys before falling 8-7 in the dusk of eight innings. Across the field under the lights, Mocha Mott’s Creamers caffeinated for six runs in the top of the sixth inning, featuring a ‘salami’ (grand slam home run) from Julie “Mambo” Perry before Long and Meehan’s Snaps exploded for eight in the bottom half to win, 12-11. Chrissy McCarthy belted a bases-clearing triple to key the Snaps comeback.

The final game of the evening, held under the lights between the fun-loving McDonald’s Rugs and Carpets Rug Sox (last year’s runners-up) and the Shady Ladies, Lizzie Andrews crushed a grand slam to lead the Sox to an 11-1 mercy-shortened five-inning win. We can also report that the Shadys have traded in their traditional red and black unis for blue and white garb from their new sponsor, Vineyard Complementary Medicine.

The six-team league is starting its ninth season, sadly minus charter members the Late Fees. It includes women who are BFFs (best friends forever) but play on different teams, though several who have played together since third grade. It also includes at least two mother-daughter teammates (Alleyne and Taylor Hughes of the Creamers and Mary Beth and Kurstin Meehan of the Snaps), two troikas of sisters (the Willistons of Mama’s Girls in the same outfield and the Clarks of the Rug Sox) and an array of baseball fashion statements expressed through tie dye, neon and patterned baseball socks.

They play the game for real: diving stops, sliding into home, skidding outfield catches (Creamers’ left fielder Veronika Buckley had the web gem of the night) — clear evidence that these women know how to play the game. And why wouldn’t they play hard before a roaring — well, murmuring — opening night crowd that included 30 adults, a variety of toddlers, and at least seven dogs.

MVWSL teams seem not to have coaches or managers. “Who would want to coach women,” observed one player during pre-game drills. Good point. Bill Belcher, former softball coach at Martha’ Vineyard Regional High School and Mike Delis coach first and third base respectively. “Do we coach the players? Well, they listen to what we say. They just do it the way they want anyway,” Mr. Delis chuckled.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, the “Mama” in Mama’s Girls is Mike Magaraci, PE teacher at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, who recruited the team he sort of manages.

Summer Clements is the Snaps captain, sort of, and her pre-game prediction of “get the bats going and good outfield play, we’ll be OK,” turned out about right as the Snaps’ bats woke up just in time.

Then there is the game inside the game. Matt Rodenbaugh expertly fielded an overthrow of first base during infield warm-ups and deflected a “good hands” compliment. “Nah, I’m used to it. I always stand here so I can talk to my fiancée, Julie Perry (the Creamers’ grand slammer), so I’m used to it,” Mr. Rodenbaugh said. The couple will wed October 19 on the Island.

“Ah, no, video of the softball season will not be part of the wedding celebration,” said Mr. Rodenbaugh, a computer technician at MV Tech in Vineyard Haven.

MVWSL players seem to have revived a seemingly forgotten aspect of competitive sports — playing for the love of the game rather than its outcome. It makes veteran umpire Rich “Ripper” Roy’s job more pleasant. “I’ve umpired men’s league for 29 years and women’s for four or five years. I like the women’s game. They don’t complain,” he said.