by Donn King
To recap, Creakers is an over age 50, coeducational softball club, or league, and currently we are over 250 members strong. With that many members, it is safe to say, there is something for everyone, both on the softball playing fields, and off. “Off the playing fields” means the socializing, the friendships and potential friendships, that can arise from 250 souls playing, striving, winning and losing, and relating to one another over time. Technically speaking, you don’t even actually have to know how to play softball to begin as a Creaker. A desire to learn must exist, but if you have willingness and sincerity, and reasonable physical mobility, you can learn on the job.
The Creaker organization is well organized and well run, and there are mechanisms in place to accept and integrate new members. There is a high degree of friendliness and congeniality. Nevertheless, each new person who approaches the Creakers and wishes to become a member of the family must bring patience and a willingness to put in their time. This is true in wine clubs, bike clubs, and in occupations. It is normal to want to skip the dues paying phase of breaking into any social situation, including the social structures that grow up around work and play. Everyone wants to feel comfortable. The first day as a Creaker is similar to the first day on a new job. There are rules of behavior, mostly unwritten, that have to be learned, and that takes time. There is no way to hot-wire it. We are humans and humans look at each other, evaluate and yes, judge one another. We watch new members to see how they will fit in, what will they bring, and what are the sticky, difficult parts of their natures. That’s what we do. It’s not malicious but we can’t help it.
We become used to one another through exposure. Again, there is no way around this. Sure, some people appear to integrate more quickly; everyone brings different tools and starts from a different place. Some will integrate through their ball playing skills, others will bring verbal and organization talents, some will display dogged hard work. Don’t expect that feeling of belonging to a family to come overnight. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel it on the first day. It takes time.
The most successful Creakers, and I’m not talking about softball skills, will show a willingness to learn the Creaker ways. This can be as simple as where the bases go in the shed when they are not in use, how to chalk the field, or asking for tips on how to play a position. In the beginning, talk less, listen more, and ask questions. Keep coming back, as folks in recovery say. One day, probably unnoticed, that feeling of belonging will slip into your consciousness and you will notice that you are feeling comfortable in the group. Keep lacing ‘em up, keep stepping up to the plate, figuratively as well as literally. Demonstrate patience and the ability to hang around. It is written: you won’t be disappointed.