Since their first game with the Uncertainty in 2014, Jo Jefferson has racked up a number of memorable plays and their next hit will be a big one as they are charging towards 100 career hits, becoming the 15th Dreamer to reach this feat.
I’ve been a baseball lover ever since my dad taught me to play “scrub” on the shady front lawn at my grandparents’ dairy farm in Nova Scotia. Kents from Scotland acquired that farmland after Acadian families had been forcibly evicted from it in the 1750s, and descendants of those same Kents are still farming it now, eight generations later. My cousins and I wore flat leather gloves from the days of our great grandfather on our small hands and played hours of scrub – a single-base game perfect for small fields and small hitters – coached by Dad, the boy scout leader who never lost patience, modeled kind and firm leadership, set clear boundaries, and insisted on fair play and fun above all else. Fifty years later, I’ve finally found a place to play that feels as safe, as fun, and as free as those summer Sunday front lawn games.
I joined the Uncertainty in 2014, my first summer in Toronto, and biked to ballfields all over town with my partner Rachel and our housemates Ashling and LJ. I struggled to reclaim skills I hadn’t used much since I’d last joined a team (Dalhousie English Department) when I was pregnant with my first kid. A lot of familiar and uncomfortable feelings came up for me that first Uncertainty season – some homesickness for the ballfields of rural NS, frustration about how difficult it was to hit the ball hard enough to get it past the pitcher, rage about the way gender was talked about among the teams we played against, fierce protectiveness for my teammates when they were injured or insulted, and an aggressive competitiveness I’d forgotten I was capable of. That aggression often found an easy outlet on the base paths facing off against bros who saw me as an easy out, or who didn’t see me at all because my middle-aged genderqueer self wasn’t part of their ageist, binary vocabulary.
After three years sweating it out on sun-baked city diamonds with the Uncertainty – gaining pals, confidence, and a (slightly) better batting average – I welcomed the birth of Field of Dreamers in the early, sleep-deprived months of life with baby Sonny. Rachel and I brought them to those first chilly May games, wrapped in ridiculously puffy snowsuits, awake and wailing in their new red stroller. I had the best batting average of my life that first Dreamer season, even though I struggled with an injured knee (I’m grateful to all the folks who ran when I hit) and later in the season a pesky gallbladder. And in the same way that I felt seen within the journey of becoming Sonny’s parent (by housemates, by midwives, by grandparents), I have also felt seen among the Dreamers under the Sunday night lights. As a pitcher, a hitter, a base coach, a captain, a Hustler, a Humdinger, #63.
Field of Dreamers has relieved me of my need to charge aggressively at second base, to loudly argue calls in defense of my teammates, to clench the bat with an anxious grip. There has been room for me to loosen up my hands and my feelings. I’ve had space to be a leader, to hit hard over the infielders, to feel at home. My walkup song is “Enjoy Yourself” by The Jackson Five, and that’s what I’ve tried to do every game. I’ve reclaimed my sense of fun and my willingness to risk that long sprint from the front porch to the tree stump where someone who cares about me waves me in.