tom-stafford:-a-baseball-story-—-from-the-mound-to-a-new-stage

Tom Stafford: A baseball story — from the mound to a new stage

Sports

Apr. 4—Not until a month or so ago did Rosa Tuttle begin to think it might be getting in the way.

But for the past half dozen years, the black bag holding her softball gear hasn’t come out of the trunk of her 2013 Civic.

The worn balls, bats and gloves wouldn’t fetch much at a garage sale, of course.

But one of them is the glove she bought back in 1973, when she was 17. The glove softened and aged over the years so it doesn’t fit merely like a glove; it fits like her glove.

And another glove in there belonged to her late husband.

As for the bag, its first ride was her 1970 Volkswagen Beetle.

Her thoughts of the game itself go back a little farther, to a day when she was 7 or 8 and playing in the back yard of a friend’s house. Her friend’s brothers had some gloves and bats. And though she doesn’t recall what about baseball spoke to her, “I just loved it.”

And she continued to love it, although the times were against her.

Her daughter, Kendra, would be named to the all-conference team when she played softball at South High School. But in Tuttle’s girlhood of the 1960s and ’70s, girls teams of any sort or sport were few and far between.

Tuttle did bowl as a member of South’s Girls Athletic Association, and she still thinks that helped her with her pitching motion. But she had to wait until age 16 to play organized ball.

Hills Department Store had just been built across the pike from the Upper Valley Mall, and she remembers how the yet-to-be-paved parking lot changed from dust to mud, depending on the weather.

It was while she and the other new employees were sticking price tags on all the merchandise that would fill the shelves for the first time that the word came: The store was going to have a women’s slo-pitch softball team and was asking for volunteers.

They didn’t have to ask Tuttle twice.

She turned out to be a good pitcher.

Then one thing led to another until the day she and Annette Duncan were warming up one evening at Lagonda Field and “Dirty Burt” Mossbarger popped the question: “Do you want to pitch for me?”

After some seasons with Hills, Tuttle played on girls teams for Bullock Garage and Lacey’s bar. As her inning count mounted, she grew into an excellent fielder and caught on to the fundamentals of pitching.

In a game that asks batters to hit ’em where the fielders “ain’t,” pitchers have to try to pitch them where the hitters “cain’t.”

So, at pitching rubbers in Davey Moore, Lagonda and Snyder Tank fields, when the mighty hitting Jody Eichmeyer came up to bat, Tuttle said, “I knew to try to pitch her low and inside.”

Other women who, like Tuttle, went on to co-ed teams included Lisa and Julie Snyder and another pair of sisters named Brenda and Eileen, who invited her to join a new co-ed team.

Tuttle didn’t really have the arm to play the position. But she always wanted to, so, at the first practice, “I went and stood at shortstop,” kind of claiming the territory.

When a guy came out, stood beside her and then wouldn’t leave, she wasn’t pleased.

“I was thinking, ‘Who does that (expletive) think he is?'”

For one, he was Brenda and Eileen’s brother.

Dan Tuttle would be the starting shortstop — and then her husband.

And after that, nature took its course.

Just as the Tuttles’ daughter played softball, their sons, Jason and Dustin, played baseball and softball.

Family weekends were spent playing at River Star, Expressway and Queen City fields in Cincinnati, then at ballparks in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Georgia.

Dan was a star on teams that competed in the Stroh’s softball tournament, a regional draw that was for years a Springfield institution.

And because Dan, Brenda and Eileen had eight other brothers and sisters, when the family team played at Disney World, the starting lineup was a scorekeeper’s nightmare: Every last one of them was named Tuttle.

And it’s likelythere will be Tuttles in local lineups for generations.

The lack of gender equity in softball did lead to some hard feelings in Rosa and Dan’s softball marriage.

When Dan was named a Springfield Softball Legend, “I was jealous because I never got inducted,” Tuttle said. And that led the family to get her a T-shirt identifying her as the wife of a legend.

She was not amused.

And when her sister and brother-in-law sponsored a Tuttles team, although all the other players were men, Tuttle was sure they’d make an exception for her to play.

“I even paid (Don) Spanky Rinker my $25,” she said.

But her husband weighed in against her, claiming she’d get hurt. And that was that.

She lost him in 2014, and played her last game the following year.

“I miss it like crazy,” she said.

What she misses most is “the smell of being at the softball field in the evening and being surrounded by all your family and friends. It was just a relaxing time.”

And here would end a nostalgic opening day story but for the day a month or so ago, when she began to think her softball bag was getting in the way.

What it was getting in the way of was an interest she latched onto in childhood even before baseball.

At 6, she found herself electrified while watching Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show.

“One day, me and my mom was going someplace, and I said, ‘I want to be playing guitar just like Elvis.'”

So, her mother got her a little guitar, and Tuttle walked down to the Kincaid’s music store in the Springfield Arcade to take lesson.

“I’ve been playing ever since.”

For the most part, though, it’s been in her own house or with friends.

But she didn’t really play “out,” as musicians describe it.

More recently she has played acoustic sets with John Adkins at a V.F.W.

But since she met a new boyfriend — my old friend, Denny Reed — she, Adkins and Reed have played at Dan and Dee’s in Springfield.

It was about a month ago, when they were loading up to go, that there wasn’t enough room in the trunk of the car for the softball gear and the music gear.

She still has the bag, of course. And it’s still a keepsake.

But it will be set aside some nights to make space so she can move on to a new stage with a fine, previously owned Fender guitar that’s beginning to fit her like a glove.