Strolling up the stairs into the Hawker International Softball Centre, Kimberly Lennard describes the introduction to her new sport – softball.
I heard the recognisable clang of metal hitting the ball, the familiar scent of grass and dirt, and the new sight of caps, gloves and people in dugouts. It all seemed to shout ‘welcome to softball’ and I felt a jolt of excitement.
I have a family history of softball players – my mum, sister, aunty and cousins – but I didn’t think it was for me. My favoured sport was soccer and I’ve been addicted for 22 years. I never strayed far from that, but one day in August last year (and at the age of 31) the idea randomly popped into my head that I should try something different and softball seemed like a great choice.
I googled ‘Softball Tuggeranong’ and the Canberra Classics club caught my interest (a club for women over 30). Funnily enough, I soon found out all the ACT clubs and teams were primarily based at Hawker, so I didn’t actually need to select a team based on location. After an email to Classics secretary Diana Kropp, I was all signed up.
The day finally arrived in October 2019 for my first ever softball match and I was hoping my family genes would kick in because I had no idea what I was doing. Walking up to our field there was a great sense of community with a variety of people from different clubs and teams saying hello and cheering each other on. There were men, women and children all playing in their various competitions. It seemed like there was something for everyone.
During my game, I was enjoying watching from the bench until I was unexpectedly called up to bat and turned into a bundle of nerves. I quickly picked my bat based on colour and whatever felt lucky in my hands.
My team made me feel immediately welcome and shouted encouragement as I worked out how to position myself at the plate.
I watched the first pitch fly past, then I swung at the second and again at the third … I was out! My heart was rattling my rib cage but I was happy to be out there giving it a go. I hoped my newness wasn’t too obvious as I dropped a catch in fielding and swung out again my next turn at bat.
As someone who’d never played softball before, the first thing I noticed was how much more time you had to think about the game. I found it very relaxing standing in the outfield until the ball came near me and I went into action.
The second thing I noticed was how much a team of strangers and the softball community made me feel so welcome, encouraged and included from my first day. Throughout the season this support continued and everyone was happy to answer this newbie’s questions, gave me tips and coach me through.
I also learned I was pretty good with the bat, but my fielding still needs some work. The other interesting thing was the opposition. Yes, they were competitive, but they were also friendly and helped make a fun atmosphere. One time I was standing in the wrong position playing second base. I was supposed to be in between bases – not actually on the base.
The other team were patient while I got into the correct position and their coach noted “we all got to learn sometime”.
The third thing I noticed was the canteen actually had a great selection of food. They had the classics – hot chips, sausage rolls – but also burgers, wraps and snacks. There was also a shop in the clubhouse to buy bats, gloves and other softball accessories.
My first season was sadly cut short due to COVID-19, but I still thought to myself: can I call myself a softballer now? I think so!
My advice for anyone looking to start softball is to just give it a go, make mistakes, learn and ask plenty of questions. Anyone can turn into a softballer, you just gotta get out there and play ball!
The new ACT softball season starts on 17 October. Get in touch with Softball ACT now for help finding a team, or phone 02 6278 3000.