Our Softball Meet Cute

Pete and Danny before softball game

In Spring 1997, about fifteen new recruits, including me and my soon-to-be roommate Joe, entered the draft to play in the Big Apple Softball League. New players were usually picked to play on preexisting teams, but since there were enough new recruits, the league officers decided to form an all-rookie team instead. At our first practice, we aptly chose “Rookies” as our team’s name.

Most of our games were Sunday morning double-headers. And we lost—a lot—in blowouts. We took the losses in stride and focused on the social aspect of the league: bar hopping on Christopher Street after the games, with the final stop at our sponsor bar, the Dugout, a musky, no-frills dive joint on the outskirts of the West Village.

One of my teammates, Oscar, had been friends with Danny in Texas. He invited Danny to all our games and other team activities. Secretly, Oscar wanted us to hook up, but I hardly noticed Danny.

Fresh out of a three-year relationship—one that started right after I came out—and having been involved with just one guy, that Spring and early Summer was my time to finally sow some oats. Post-games at the Dugout were freedom to me. A place rife with sexual tension, where I flirted with other men for the first time in my life. But the embroidered “Rookies” across my jersey not only announced my team affiliation—it also described my hooking-up acumen.

On and off the field, I hit a ton of singles and only reached first base. At the Dugout, I drank beer after beer and then would kiss and make out quite often. But all the kissing came with a cost. I got mono. At 29 years old, I caught the teenage kissing disease. And my lips got benched until further notice. But I still loved Sundays.

The original Rookies from '97
The original Rookies from '97

At Oscar’s urging, Danny kept showing up and hanging around the Rookies. He scouted me throughout May and June, but I had no clue. He operated in my blind spot. His blip never made it onto my radar. About to give up on me, he made one last attempt to capture my attention.

After a sweltering ninety-degree doubleheader in mid-July, Danny spotted an opening and stepped up to the plate, well, the Dugout’s jukebox, where I looked over the song selections. Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” ended, and Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” began. I scanned for country music, found Garth Brooks’ Greatest Hits, and put in a few dollars to queue up a block of his songs: “Standing Outside the Fire,” “The Thunder Rolls,” “Friends in Low Places,” “The Dance,” and “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House.”

Pete batting
Playing offense
And defense

“Can I get you a beer?” Danny asked after I had punched in the last digits.

“Not drinking,” I said, “getting over a bad cold.” My first words to him, a lie.

He walked away. A minute later, he handed me a bottled water—a clutch pinch hit. His thoughtful gesture changed everything. He was no longer in my blind spot. He was right in front of me in living color.

Up close, the crevasses from adolescent acne scars made his face look like the surface of a sponge—his description, not mine. But the scars also chiseled his face, giving him a rugged, masculine appearance. Combined with his thick salt-and-pepper hair, he was strikingly good-looking. How didn’t I notice him sooner? While the lines across his face made him look severe and somewhat harsh, he was anything but.

Danny and Pete on a blanket before a game
Danny and Pete on a blanket before a game

When I finished with one bottled water, he bought me another. And then another. His patience and persistence paid off. It took nearly three months, an adolescent disease, and several bottled waters for his blip to capture my attention.

Because Danny matched each of my bottled waters with a vodka and cranberry, he didn’t remember much of what we said to each other. But I did. We laughed a lot because he, a native Texan, didn’t listen to country music, but I, a native New Yorker, did. I invited him to go two-stepping and asked if he wanted to come with me to see Garth Brooks in Central Park. We didn’t kiss at the bar, but there was a spark.

Long after the sun went down, I suggested we leave the bar and go for a walk. He needed to sober up. I slung his rollerblades over one shoulder and my duffel bag over the other. We stepped out into the heat of the night and have been together ever since.

Danny and Pete during a game.
Us at a game
Our budding relationship
Our budding relationship

That summer, I gained a family of Rookies—my brothers—and found the love of my life. And Danny, after staying silent in the shadows, found his voice—a loud one. He screamed his lungs out whenever I came to bat for the rest of the season.

“Peter! Peter! Hit the ball like Derek Jeter!”

If only.

Season 5

At the end of the 2000 season, our lives changed in an instant. Danny and I became parents. In Spring 2001, we brought our new son, Kevin, to the opening day. As soon as we got to the fields, I helped Danny set up a blanket on the lumpy brown grass behind our dugout, then immediately laced up my cleats, stretched, and tossed the ball with Joe to warm up. Danny placed Kevin in the middle of the blanket. Kevin sat straight up, eyes open wide, and took it all in.

One of Kevin's first Rookie games
One of Kevin's first Rookie games
Kevin with his Papa at a game
Kevin and Papa at a game
Kevin throws out the first pitch
Kevin throws out the first pitch

Of course, with a new fan on the sidelines, pre-game batting practice came to a halt. My teammates huddled around the blanket to gawk at our latest recruit. Those who missed the baby shower had their first encounter with the “mythical” subway baby. Joe placed a softball in Kevin’s hands. It rolled off. Joe cupped Kevin’s hands and put the ball inside. Kevin bounced and squealed with excitement, but the ball fell again. He looked to Joe, then at the ball, then back at Joe as if to ask, “Aren’t you going to get it and give it to me again?” So Joe did. 

Even though the softball was too big and heavy for Kevin to grip or control, he loved playing this game of fetch. They went back and forth a few more times before Joe left the ball by Kevin’s side and returned to practice. Symbolically, you could say Kevin threw out the first pitch of our 2001 season, which meant the Rookies were off to a promising start.

Danny with Kevin cheering on the Rookeis
My boys cheer on the Rookeis
Pete at bat
Trying to hit the ball like Derek Jeter

We brought Kevin to almost every game that Spring and Summer. As the season progressed, something strange happened: the Rookies won. We ended the regular season with more wins than losses for the first time since our formation four years earlier. And the miracles continued in the playoffs. We staged late-inning comebacks, pulled off improbable upsets against dominant teams, and claimed the championship.

Oscar rubs Kevin's head for good luck
Oscar rubs Kevin's head for good luck
The Rookies first first place trophy
Our first 1st place trophy

No one could explain how we suddenly got so good. Not much had changed from our previous losing seasons except for one thing—we now had a good luck charm cheering us on.

Pete looking back
Looking back

Little did I know in early 1997 that signing up to play softball would change my life forever. It has given me amazing friends and a family. In 2022, I was inducted into the Big Apple Softball League’s Hall of Fame. I’m humbled and grateful to receive this honor.

Pete's Hall of Fame plaque
Hall of Fame plaque

For the Rookies first few seasons, our teammate Bob Glasscock created a pack of baseball cards for each of us. I love and treasure these cards—thank you, Bob. Here are mine. The write-ups on the back bring it all home again.

Pete's 1997 Rookies softball card
Pete's 1997 Rookies Card
Pete's 1997 Rookies Card (back)
Back of the 1997 card
Pete's 1998 Rookies Card
Pete's 1998 Rookies Card
Pete's 1998 Rookies Card (back)
Back of the 1998 card
Pete's 1999 Rookies Card
Pete's 1999 Rookies Card
Pete's 1999 Rookies Card (back)
Back of the 1999 card
Pete's 2000 Rookies Card
Pete's 2000 Rookies Card
Pete's 2000 Rookies Card (back)
Back of the 2000 card

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