Slow-pitch softball helping people one Friday at a time
Jul 25, 2017 12:05PM ● Published by Kelly Cannon
A member of the Unmanageables up to bat in a game this season. (Billy Swartzfager/City Journals)
For 18 years, the Clean and Sober Softball Association of Utah has been putting together teams of coed softball players for friendly competition while the players find camaraderie, support and fun. The league is one of the largest in the state with 67 teams and seven divisions. Four fields in Sandy are home to many of the divisions. Games are played every Friday night from late March all the way in to November some years.
The league is something powerful for many who are looking for a reason to stay away from drugs and alcohol. There is a rule that in order to play, one has to have been sober for at least 14 days. That may not seem like much, but to someone going through the struggles of addiction, two weeks can seem like a very long time. Some players even attribute the league to their long-term sobriety. According to Nick Daniels, league secretary and captain of the Unmanageables, he stayed sober in order to be on the diamond.
“For the first 60 days or so, I stayed sober just so I could play ball,” Daniels said.
He’s come a long way from there, and has found others who have done the same. There are close to 15 people on his roster and most have stories similar to his. Being together on the field every week gives them all something to look forward to as well as a sense of community.
“We are more like a family out here,” Daniels said. “We know each other and are here to support each other.”
The support and care for one another extends past game time as well. Many of the players are close due to the nature of their struggles and share time over the BBQ or at the bowling alley when not in uniform or during the off-season.
“This is a place where people can meet others with similar experiences, whether it’s someone in recovery for 20 years or someone who is just starting out,” Daniels said.
Daniels’ story is similar to many of the people he faces every Friday night. He sought treatment for his struggles and heard about the league from others who had found it to be helpful. Many of the teams in the league are sponsored by treatment centers, made up of players who are participating in the center’s programs or who have been through the center previously. Other teams, like the Unmanageables, are put together through various channels and pay their own way with help from sponsors. Daniels’ team gets a share of their league fees and money for jerseys from Lone Pine Cabinet.
Most players discover the league through friends and support networks or the league’s Facebook page. They generally reach out to a team captain, an old timer from meetings or one of the league’s numerous officials and board members hoping to get placed on a team. With 67 of them, it usually doesn’t take long to get someone a team to call their own so they can begin the process of recovery, surrounded by a group of people who have been there and are willing to help.
The league requires that participants be a part of a recovery program, though one could argue that being part of one of the many teams on a Friday night serves every bit as good as a meeting. Watching the teams play games shows just how close these folks are. They know each other’s first names, each other’s history. They share respect for the work they are doing off the field and it shows on it. The upper divisions in the league are competitive, but never at the expense of what really matters, which is the fact that the league helps people change their lives, and has been doing so for a long time.