Stuck in the bleachers

By Kristina Jackson

When the Mercury staff started putting together a team for the city co-rec softball league, everyone was on board… except for me.

I try to get to “Angry Alpacas” games as a spectator, but there was no way I was going out on that diamond.

I’m not an athletic person at all. Instead of playing sports in high school, I joined the marching band. The choir. The newspaper. Quiz bowl. Just about everything except a sports team.

Some of my apprehension about sports has to do with my terrible hand-eye coordination. The rest of it probably lies in my long history as a bleacher bum.

My time hanging out in the bleachers started when I was barely out of my toddler years.

My dad was in a softball league in my hometown, and my mom packed up my younger brother and me for just about every game. My dad played with the same guys every year, and most of them had kids right around our age. In fact, we’re still in touch with most of those families, even though the kids are all in college or older now.

In the beginning, we didn’t spend much time in the bleachers. We were chasing each other, playing in the dirt and begging for quarters for a lollipop from the concession stand.

But I got comfortable climbing the metal bleachers to find my mom at a very young age.

By the time my brother started Little League, I preferred to sit with my mom watching the game rather than running around the entire complex, although I did usually find time to play with his teammates’ sisters.

My dad coached my brother’s teams, so it was a family affair. My mom and I were cheering from the crowd while my dad and brother were in the dugout. My grandparents live in my hometown and joined in as well.

The Little League period was my longest as a bleacher bum.

I spent six years riding with my mom to the same complex to sit and watch elementary and middle school boys play baseball. By the time my brother reached high school, I didn’t know any other way to spend a summer.

Watching my brother play high school and American Legion baseball was probably the most exciting time for me in the bleachers.

The boys really knew what they were doing by then, and the games were fun to watch. Even though I was a high school and then college student during his four years on these teams, I still tried to make it to his games.

I was more in tune with my “band family,” but I was kind of part of the “baseball family,” too. The boys play together for four years, and you see these people at games several times a week.

I was one of the only player siblings who showed up to most of the games, but the parents all knew each other well and started to get to know me.

When I got to college, it got harder to get to games. I found that I missed sitting in the stands with my family and keeping track of how my brother was doing. I actually missed his first home run because I was away at school.

I felt bad that I couldn’t go to more, but I was there every chance I got. Because that’s what I do. Struggle through the long hours in the cold, then the heat, in the bleachers.

At the time, I resented that baseball took over my summers. We couldn’t go on family vacations because my brother had games. We had to eat dinner at 10 p.m. because he had a double-header. Everyone else was in a bad mood because the team lost.

But after being out of the bleachers for a couple years, I started to have withdrawal. I spent every summer for most of my life in the bleachers, and something was missing.

I started saying that I wanted to go to a Royals game just so I could be a bleacher bum again. I really did think those days were over, and then came the Angry Alpacas.

It’s been fun to watch my co-workers play every week. I’ve met some of their families, my fellow bleacher bums this year.

I’m back in the bleachers. I’ve accepted that it’s just part of my life now.

As a bleacher bum, I get to support my friends and family without having to pretend to be an athlete.

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