Nearly four years had elapsed since I have competitively played baseball, which has been my favourite sport since childhood.
Each summer since, likely due to my mobile lifestyle, I have been prevented from doing so. After departing Saskatoon for yet another summer and moving to B.C.’s west coast, I was asked by a friend’s older brother to come to a slo-pitch practice of a team he was playing on — not technically baseball but close enough.
I jumped at the invitation and anxiously unearthed my glove I had handily packed in my trunk. Little did I know I was in for a sobering experience.
All my glorified baseball memories were returning to me: my tee-ball days, my first over-the-fence home run and a close childhood acquaintance peeing his pants at an out of town game when we were nine.
After picking my friend up for practice, he notified me that the team we were going to practice with was unique and that they were an AA team. I excitedly mistook this abbreviation as reference to a higher competitive form of baseball, as in “double A.” Unfortunately, I was mistaken and to my embarrassment he was actually referring to Alcoholics Anonymous.
After the awkward miscommunication, he told me that he had been refraining from drinking for a few months. The team was part of an alcohol and substance abuse recovery program that helped people get out and be active while promoting sobriety.
It was at this point that utter shock and confusion hit me. He told me not to worry, that the team was made up of decent people and the only thing I should be concerned about was to not mention my excessive partying habits. And if anyone asked, I was a family friend trying to get on a new scene. Once I wrapped my head around the idea, I was still excited to go play some ball.
I got a few swings of the bat, some fielding practice, met a couple interesting characters and at the end of practice, was asked to play in a huge baseball tournament composed entirely of recovery teams in Penticton the following weekend. I couldn’t say no.
The prospect of playing baseball in the mountains, amongst lush vineyards was definitely a deciding factor. It was only a few days before I was shopping for a new pair of Reeboks and anxiously packing my car in preparation for a weekend in the scorching Okanagan.
The teams in Penticton were competitive and our team, the Fun Addicts, achieved playoff status but unfortunately did not manage to advance past the first round. Besides playing ball, group circle serenity chants which involved both teams after every game, an opposing team called the Dopeless Hopefiends and two brawls that nearly broke out between players on our bench kept me entertained over the course of the weekend. Other oddities included my eyebrow-raising observation of a blatant swastika tattooed on the forearm of our pitcher, who surprisingly, was a nice fellow. It was evident some my fellow teammates had a rough and very different past than my own.
Most sober people wouldn’t readily hop into such a random situation due to prejudice towards who the roster is comprised of. Thankfully, spontaneity overpowered hesitation and I allowed myself the valuable opportunity to pick up a glove and play my favourite sport again. My only complaint from the weekend — for obvious reasons — was that I wasn’t able to pick up a nice bottle of wine from one of the innumerable wineries the Okanagan is famous for.
More importantly, I gained a newfound perspective by picturing the world through the eyes of recovering alcoholic or substance abusers.
Compared to the routine of a typical university student, the life of an ex-addict is very different. Most of the people who played with the Fun Addicts reside in recovery houses with support groups and attend daily meetings in the pursuit of trumping alcoholism and narcotic addictions.
Most alcohol and drug rehabilitation centres use exercise facilities and athletics to curb the withdrawal symptoms and cravings of ex-addicts, that without, would dramatically increase the chances of relapse. Sports offer recovery patients the opportunity to focus on something other than addictive tendencies.
I’m not an alcoholic or at least I don’t think I am — yet. Telling a little white lie in order to get back into a long lost sport is something I will always remember as justifiable because of the offbeat and unique memories I collected from an experience that was unquestionably eye opening.
graphic Danni Siemens