Real Cooking

Late last Friday afternoon, softball coach Tina King and I were driving to Salina for the girls’ 14- and-under-division state softball tournament. As we drove, we periodically checked the digital readout on my truck’s outdoor thermometer.

“Can you believe how hot it is?” I asked. “Look at that, 105 degrees.”

“Those poor girls,” Tina said. “We’ll have to keep them cooled down. Did Meg start drinking water last night like I told her to?”

“Yes, ma’am, she always does what you tell her to.”

We drove on talking about sunscreen and ice packs. As we entered Gypsum and drove by the Cookie Jar Cafe, we made plans to come back to that little town some time for lunch.

When we reached the north side of town, I glanced at the thermometer again.

“Uh, Tina…it’s 108 now.”

“It’s a good thing that we only have one game this evening.”

I wholeheartedly agreed. In the past, the girls on Hillsboro’s Crush softball team have tolerated the heat fairly well, and the coaches and parents have been diligent in helping them find ways to cope and stay safe when the temperatures climb. But having only one game to swelter through would be a blessing.

Soon we entered Salina on our trip to the state playoffs, the thermometer climbed with every block we traveled-109, 110….

When we passed by a bank we noticed the time-and-temperature signboard was flashing 112 degrees. I checked my truck’s thermometer. It registered 111 degrees.

“Tina, it’s 112 degrees outside! Surely they’ll delay the games for awhile…won’t they?”

“Get serious.”

“But aren’t those dangerous temperatures to play in?” I knew Tina would be up on those things since she has coached for years at both the high school and college levels.

“Well, let’s put it this way, if it was a school game, there are certain guidelines that must be followed regarding high temperatures and levels of humidity. If Crush was a school team, we wouldn’t be playing today.”

“But,” Tina continued with a chuckle, “this isn’t school, so be ready to play. The tournament directors will want things to stay on schedule.”

“Ahhh, Tina….”

They say there is no crying in baseball. I guess that means there should be no whining in softball, so we entered the sports complex in Salina and the girls took to the field.

It was hot. And it was hot the next day…and the next. And somehow, in spite of the heat, we all survived. The tournament directors, coordinators, umpires and groundskeepers did a terrific job of making sure players and fans alike were kept as comfortable as possible. Players were encouraged to take breaks during the games to get drinks and to get wet towels on heads and necks.

In the end, after playing six games in that deadly heat, our Hillsboro Crush girls, along with their coaches Luke Lindsay and Tina King, came home with gold medals around their necks. Hillsboro is now the hometown of the current state champions of the silver division for girls 14 and under in ASA softball.

So, congratulations to Stephanie Abbott, Lora Andrews, Amanda Bina, Katie Fiedler (from Newton), Rachelle Goldsby, Meghan Jost, Amber King, Jenesa Klose, Jessica Klose, Suzy Lindsay and Jandi Nikkel. It’s been a pleasure to watch each and every one of you grow this season as a player.

But what I remember most from this year together is how you continue to treat each other with respect, how you encourage one another, how you laugh together and how you work together as a team…on the field and off.

The medals and plaques that you have earned this year are nice mementos of tournaments played. But the things you will remember the most in the years to come will be stuff like “lay off the high ones” and “mooove her over now,” playing keep away in the hotel swimming pool and the late night suppers at Coach’s restaurant.

You’ll remember Coach King sitting on the ball bucket in the doorway to the dugout shouting encouragement and Coach Lindsay standing at third base pointing to the outfield, the sign for “put it out there.”

And maybe you’ll remember just how much fun your parents had, too. Those of us who sit together in the “critic’s corner” are still laughing over Mark King’s stories of the games he and his brothers played as kids.

I mean, who wouldn’t be amused by a game called “Spit in the Dark in the Basement,” which, as Mark tells it, would always escalate into “Fight in the Dark in the Basement.”

Next year we’ll still be teasing Alan Goldsby about getting lost and Gary Andrews about disturbing the peace with his loud music. And they’ll still be teasing me for knowing absolutely nothing about softball.

Hey, I’m learning. Just like the girls. Go Crush.

* * *

I couldn’t help myself. In honor of Crush softball, here are a couple of summertime recipes to help us all stay cool on these hot days.

Orange Crush Sherbet

2 cans of sweetened condensed milk

6 (12 oz.) cans Orange Crush soda

1 (20-oz.) can crushed pineapple

Mix ingredients together and chill overnight. Freeze per ice cream freezer’s manufacturer’s instructions.

Orange Crush Sherbet – II

1 (11 oz.) can Mandarin oranges

1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 (12 oz.) can 5-Alive or frozen orange juice

1 (2 liter) bottle Orange Crush soda

In a blender or food processor, whirl the oranges and pineapple until pieces of fruit are fine but not yet pureed. Add the milk and frozen 5-Alive and whirl again until blended. You may have to empty and reload your ingredients depending on the size of blender bowl. Pour the fruit mixture into an ice cream freezer’s container and carefully add the soda using a wire whisk to incorporate. Freeze per ice cream maker’s manufacturer’s instructions.

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