The Roanoker - July/August 2017 - 133
the men's team he was playing on, and harmony ensued.
"We're competitive," says Dean, noting that softball
offers "a stress-relief lifestyle."
Brandon and Marcel Jackson had their engagement photos shot on a softball field in Roanoke County and now
travel with their baby to games. "There are a lot of wives
and children at the games and it provides a solid social
grounding," says Marcel. "It's very healthy."
At 22, Brandon is a serious player with professional
aspirations, but the game allows him and his family to
travel a good bit "and we see big and small cities and to
do things we wouldn't do otherwise." Brandon ran the
bases in Myrtle Beach with his son in his arms when the
youngster was a month old.
"All my friends play softball," says Brandon. "I played
with my dad for six years and my brother for five years.
Dad is an umpire now."
Dustin and Caitlin Campbell are a father-daughter
team these days. He's 50 and still plays slow pitch and
coaches girls fast-pitch. Caitlin is 15 and plays a high
level of travel fast-pitch, preferring that to her high
school team because "it's a much better brand of softball." It's also costly, time consuming and brings father/
Caitlin says bluntly that she wants "to make a name
for myself. I want young girls to look up to me and I
want to see them as excited as I am to play." Dustin,
deputy chief of the Roanoke County Fire Department,
played adult baseball until 2000 and picked up men's
travel softball in 1996. He played mostly with and
against EMS colleagues.
For the Campbells "it's year-round, practice once or
twice a week for three or four hours," and can consume
as much as 15 hours a week, says Dustin. He has played
with a bat and a ball ("we used to play with a wiffle ball
until sundown after school") since he was a kid and "it
taught me values and gave me a passion."
Zatonya Chase, 38, and Damon Gregory, 34, and
their kids and Zatyra, 14, and Demonio, 17, are a real
presence at softball tournaments. Gregory works at Wells
Fargo and Chase is employed at United Health Care.
They were noted athletes at Woodrow Wilson Junior
High and Patrick Henry High. But it is softball that
brings them all together, sometimes in bits and pieces.
When the family moved to Roanoke from Detroit,
says Chase, softball gave them entree into the community. Zaytra finds that the slow-pitch game, as different
as it is, still helps with her school softball because the
players are older and better and she must play to their
level. And, "I like playing with my mom."
Above left: Cody Ennis
likes the social life and
Above right: Jordan
Clifton still gets an
Jordan Clifton, who is 20 now, is still hanging on to
that feeling she got when her Cave Spring High School
fast-pitch team won the state championship in 2013. She
was a member of an exceptional class, one that finished
19-1 one year, was unbeaten another and went to state
and regional finals.
"I get the same joy I had in high school playing yearround," she says. "Softball is an adrenaline rush for me.
There is a great feeling, being there with friends."
Her social life revolves around the relationships from
softball, a sport she has played in one form or another
since she was 5. She especially enjoys playing co-ed ball
because she says she doesn't have to hold anything back.
"I play better with the guys," she says. "They are on my
skill level and I don't have to worry about hurting them."
Clifton says she had five college offers when she left
high school, but none offered a major she wanted. She is
a phlebotomist (a medical professional who draws blood).
Cody Ennis is a 23-year-old Lynchburg factory worker who plays on teams in his home city and in the Roanoke Valley, filling up his free time with softball. He's
been playing softball for five years after being a good
high school baseball player.
He plays on men's teams and co-ed teams and finds
both competitive. "Some of the girls are built like men
and hit like men," he says. The game, he says, "offers a
good workout and is often for a good cause." The goal, he
says, is "to stay in shape and enjoy what I love and really,
ultimately, just enjoy [the game] and mostly the workout."
At a time when the nation seems especially divided,
softball is giving people the opportunity to capture a
time when a community was truly a community. I
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