‘Granny With a Hot Glove’ still crazy for softball
Virginia Smith promotes low-key women’s softball league in RP despite not being able to play because of health issues
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By Natalie Gray  February 14, 2014 12:00 am

You would expect the woman nicknamed “Granny with a Hot Glove” might know a thing or two about baseball and softball, and Rohnert Park’s Virginia Smith does not disappoint. In fact, she knows a little more than a thing or two about what seems like almost every sport, from basketball, bowling, kickboxing, wrestling and, of course, softball.

“I was always a sports person, all my life,” said Smith, though she said she also considers having nine active children (and now 17 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren) helped focus a large sum of her life in the sports world. “I’ve coached everything.”

 

Visual proof of her sports fandom

Along her workplace desk, Smith has evidence of being a sports fan. There are potted “flowers” handmade from unraveled baseballs, a clipping of a mixed martial arts magazine featuring her kickboxing daughter is strung up on the wall, and an impressive explosion of black and orange Giants’ memorabilia is splashed all over her desk.

And streaking across the wall, a sign in bright letters reads, “Granny with a Hot Glove.” The name was given to Smith, in part, by YouTube, Giants’ announcers and talk shows hosts attempting to sum up the unique circumstance for which Smith is now something of a celebrity. September of last year, Smith was at a Giants’ game with a few of her daughters. She was wearing a fuzzy green antenna in honor of Irish appreciation day and was wrapped in a large Giants’ blanket. Attached to her glove was a large green bow and, with that glove, Smith reached out and snatched a foul ball just before it hit her daughter in the head.

In the videos posted online, you can watch Smith, who effortlessly and casually reaches out and grabs the ball out of the air. It’s quite an impressive display of skill, one of which might just have been acquired from 39 years of participating in a low-key softball league here in Rohnert Park.

 

Started as a housewives’ league

“I had always wanted to play,” Smith said, recalling when she first joined the league in the 70s after she and her family had moved from Santa Rosa (where she was born and raised) to Rohnert Park and her children were old enough to be independent of her. According to Smith, the Rohnert Park Women’s Low-Key Softball League began as a housewives’ league – an enjoyable, engaging time created and run by the women. Not too much has changed within the league since then; it is still run entirely by the players, independent of any private company or affiliation. Any woman over the age of 21 is invited to play and the competition and time seems to remain enjoyable. The league is organized and run by a members board that sets up rules, regulations, manages money and keeps the league functioning in a way best suited for the players. Smith herself served as president of this board for a time.

There are no requirements outside of age and a $70 fee to join the league, said Smith, which results in women of every athletic skill and background. According to Smith, returning teammates and coaches often take on the responsibility to help teach these players. The official 2014 rules and regulation for the RPWLKS states that teams will be arranged of the first 72 women to sign up and then picked at random into teams of 12. Players must be able to attend a practice once a week and are not eligible to perform as a scorekeeper or umpire, as those will be approved by the board, once selected. 

 

Loyalty among umpires

According to Smith, umpires tend to show remarkable loyalty and stay with the league for years.

“They usually stay for 15 years before they decide they’re sick of us,” she teased.

The rule handout also covers sportsmanship, fair-game rules, official slow pitch rules, participation guidelines, fundraisers and suggestions for injured players. The handout states that games typically run for 1 hour, 15 minutes, and Smith said there is never a shortage of entertainment at games.

“Barbeques, food, games – there’s always something to do, for kids and husbands, too,” said Smith, adding that she often sees teammates and families take turns watching children so mothers can play. 

Smith no longer plays with the league because of health reasons, but she remains passionate about it and spreading the word in favor to join. It’s easy to see why; this low-key softball league seems perfectly fun and engaging for local women (and their families) and, all things considered, a great way to train you to protect loved ones…against oncoming foul balls that is.

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