The Girls of Summer

The Final Days Of A Not-Quite-Championship Season.

By Tom Danehy

NOTES FROM A Lost Weekend: Friday, July 18, 5:20 p.m.: The caravan is set to leave. The Northwest Bobby Sox American Girls (AG) All-Star team is heading across town for the annual tournament to decide which local team will represent the region in the national playoffs.

The tournament will be held at Lincoln Park, which is either in far southeast Tucson or northwest Benson, depending on the direction from which you approach it. I'm not saying it's far away, but if it were one mile farther east, you'd have to pass through a fruit inspection station before entering the park.

Danehy 5:27 p.m.: Players' names and supportive phrases are being written on car windows with white shoe polish. This is an amazing substance. Put in on a shoe and it will wipe off in a stiff breeze. Put it on a car window and it's there for life. My wife's Grand Marquis will hereafter look like it has a sticker price of "Go Darlene! #2."

6:15 p.m.: They're supposed to be having the opening ceremonies, but it has started to sprinkle. We really shouldn't be surprised. Anyone familiar with the summer monsoon pattern knows that the moisture comes up from the Gulf of Mexico, from which Lincoln Park is, what, about three miles away?

Lincoln Park is set up with four softball fields facing outward, with a refreshment stand/bathroom ramada at the hub. When the rainfall intensified, all of the people tried to crowd under the protective roof of the ramada, bringing up the eternal question: Which is worse, standing too close to a person with no deodorant or one with too much perfume? Or, God forbid, both?

Not wanting to have to find the answer to that the hard way, I stood in the drizzle as long as I could. Unfortunately, I had brought reading material (having been to enough of these things in my life to come prepared) and I eventually had to protect the book by crowding under the roof. I stood next to a thirtysomething woman whose makeup looked like it was done by Ray Charles, in a hurry.

After two minutes of that, I can tell you the answer is both.

6:42 p.m.: The opening night festivities are washed out. Weather permitting, the games will start tomorrow morning. I only half-facetiously suggest that we get a motel room on this side of town for the night. On the drive home, we quickly realize that Lincoln Park was the only part of town that got so much as a drop of rain. Two miles from the park, the streets are bone-dry.

Saturday, July 19, 9:07 a.m.: Northwest is opening with Catalina Foothills. The Northwest squad has practice hard for three weeks and they hold two impressive practice-game victories over prep teams made up of 15- to 17-year-olds.

Northwest teams haven't fared very well in regional play. I've always figured that since the national tournament is held in California, our kids are smart enough to not want to go.

It will be the last All-Star tournament for my daughter, Darlene, who is getting up in years. She made the AG All-Stars two years ago, when she led the league in batting average and just about every other offensive category. Then, last year, she led the league in hitting again, but was left off the All-Stars.

When she tried to join the prep team this year along with her classmates, she was turned away because she's only 14. So, despite being the only freshman on the Varsity team at Amphi, she ended up playing AG with kids her own age but a year behind her in school.

9:22 a.m.: I spot a guy with past-the-shoulders hair, a mustache, and a gut which would give a car stretch marks. He's walking around the park smoking, his body stuffed into coach's shorts, knee socks and a way-too-small baseball jersey. Without speaking a word, he convinces me not to buy those nachos. He also reminds me of Martin Lawrence's last lucid statement: "If you're weighin' 250, stay the f--- out of Spandex."

11:11 a.m.: Northwest is reeling after an 18-2 loss in a game in which, while you can't say they should have won, they certainly could have won. The wheels came off early and often. Spotty pitching, weak defense, almost non-existent hitting. Darlene and her friend Vanessa were the only two kids on the team to get base hits, but then both turned around and made uncharacteristic errors at third base and shortstop, respectively.

I felt bad for the team. They're all good, hard-working kids, but they played so nervously. It was tough to watch.

4:04 p.m.: Northwest faces an early exit in the double-elimination tourney. Facing perennial power Las Niñas, which had lost earlier in the day to Sahuaro, it's going to be tough.

While other parents had taken their kids to eat or to the movies between games, we had to take Darlene home so she could shower and wash her uniform after some momo convinced the kids to lie in the grass for an impromptu relaxation therapy session.

4:55 p.m.: Northwest falls behind early, but then starts to claw back. The third-string pitcher, a kid named Ingrid, has pitched a great game. But still Northwest is down, 6-3 in the sixth inning. Nicole Johnson, daughter of former Denver Bronco star Vance Johnson, hits a routine ground ball to short and easily beats it out for a single. It's like something in the cartoons, she's so fast. Darlene and Vanessa follow with hits and the rally is on.

Northwest scores two in the sixth, two more in the seventh, then hold off a Las Niñas rally to win a nail-biter, 7-6.

Sunday, July 20 6:54 p.m.: One game away from a championship match-up with Sahuaro, Northwest is facing Foothills again. As before, they again fall behind early, but this time they battle back. Down 11-1, they come back to make it 11-6 before the game is called because of time.

Overall, they played pretty well, plus they earned a spot in a second-chance tournament in which they can also win a trip to nationals. This one will be at Golf Links Park, which is only two-thirds of the way to Lincoln Park. Heck, I might be able to make it on one tank of gas. TW

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