While I was interviewing Sara (Garrett) Ring last week for a feature story, we did a lot of reminiscing about Smith-Cotton and Sedalia Chics softball back when Garrett was playing.
I used to take a lot of bus trips back in those days with the S-C Lady Tigers. Don’t think my back and knees could take that anymore.
We both remembered a hilarious incident that took place in Garrett’s junior year in 1996. We went over to the Harrisonville Tournament and had the unenviable task of playing Harrisonville in the first round.
Harrisonville rarely lost in softball, especially on their home field, back then. Well, S-C senior pitcher Angela Hockaday, the best pitcher I’ve seen at S-C, stuck it to Harrisonville. Hockaday threw a one-hit shutout and S-C escaped with a 1-0 win. Huge win.
We were on the way back to Sedalia when S-C head coach Ken Brand called Hockaday up to the front to talk. A familiar voice rose from the back of the bus.
“Coach, is that about me pitching tomorrow,” yelled S-C catcher Jill Houchen in her high-pitched, whiney voice.
Of course, that sent the whole Lady Tiger team into convulsions of laughter. I was laughing so hard, I about slid out of my seat onto the floor. It was dark but I could almost see the ear to ear grin on Houchen’s face. From that night on, I nicknamed her the back-of-the-bus comedian. You just never knew what Houchen was going to say or do. Every team needs someone like that to keep the others loose. Houchen was also the catcher you wanted behind the plate. She was great at blocking balls in the dirt, had a strong throwing arm to second and was a decent hitter.
“(expletive deleted) you Houchen,” said Brand as he tried to keep from laughing.
Back in those days, if you looked up the word funny in the dictionary, you would have seen Houchen’s face next to the word. Jill was a character but an invaluable member of those Lady Tiger teams.
Every time I think about that line, I can’t help but laugh until tears come to my eyes and my sides ache.
I enjoyed being around Jill and I miss her comedy. I ran into her Mom, Lois, down at Swords Pharmacy a couple of weeks ago. She told me Jill was some type of athletic official at a university in the state of Alabama. Well, I know who is laughing.