John F. Russell: Love of the game

John F. Russell

— I’m not sure what heaven looks like, but this week I’m really hoping that somewhere hidden in the clouds, God left a place for a softball field.

You see, my father-in-law, Wendy Hicks, was a hard-working man who loved his family. For years he was the scorekeeper for our family softball team, and he was one of the biggest fans of the game. He passed away Monday at age 79.

One of the things that I will miss the most is the love he had for the little things in life, like hanging out with friends at the bowling alley in the winter or heading to the softball fields to watch games in summer. He never played softball, but that didn’t matter to him. He understood how the game worked better than most of the players on the field, and he was the greatest fan any team could ask for.

For more than 10 years, Wendy was a regular in the stands of the coed C and coed B leagues where his son, daughters and son-in-law all played for the Rabbit Ears softball team.

Wendy kept track of every run, every out and played an important role on the team. He never missed a game, and he may have been the most disappointed when we all decided to hang it up several years ago.

When he wasn’t watching his children play, Wendy still could be found at the fields. In the summer, he would head to Howelsen on the weekends sometimes settling for youth baseball or a girls fastpitch game if that was the only game happening — but his true love was the game of softball.

He was a huge fan, and I spent more than a couple of Fourth of July weekends bouncing from field to field with Wendy watching local teams like Strong Arm Cleaners and Alpine Taxi make title runs. It was a time when a lot of locals were talking bad about adult softball and the Triple Crown Tournament in Steamboat Springs, but Wendy only saw the positive side. For him, and a handful of locals who were normally seated next to him, the games were entertaining and something to do on the weekends.

He enjoyed cheering for the home teams, he enjoyed meeting fans of the other teams and he enjoyed watching the game unfold. Typically, he didn’t even care who won the game when it wrapped up.

He was simply a fan of the game.

So if there is a softball field in heaven, which I’m sure there is, it will not take Wendy long to find it. He will be seated in the stands, next to his daughter, cheering for the home team.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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