ca. 1981 - Udhailiyah Women's Softball Team - ChampionsFront Row: Annie Hourie, Sherry Jarvis (Schumacher), Cheryl Simpson, and Cindy Werner Gates. Back Row: Karen Huggins, Sylvia Ahearn (deceased), Brenda Taylor, Myron Fogle, Trish Major, Vicci Turner, Mary Lero and Valarie Head (deceased). Missing from Photograph: Jane Stead, Laurie Swanson, Carolyn Baker and Doris Jarvis
My fellow Aramcons no doubt remember how sports helped bind us together during our time living in oil patch camps scattered across the Kingdom. High on my list of favorite memories from those years are the softball games that filled so many of my hours away from work. I played on a stellar softball team, Udhailiyah Falcon’s, as short fielder in my heyday in Udhailiyah, for those of you who wonder—all sixty-six formidable inches of me. Added to that in my memory bank are the countless little league games I attended, watching my sons Rusty and Brad cavort on the diamond with friends and friendly foes. Teams from the Arabian Little League have competed numerous times in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. In short, baseball has long been an integral part of the Aramco ExPats' experiences living in Saudi Arabia.
Henry Cook waits for his pitch at Dodger camp
Now living in Bellingham, Washington—an hour-and-a-half drive north of Seattle—I have adopted the Seattle Mariners as “my” team. Rarely do I miss a televised M’s game, and several times a year I take in a game in person at Safeco Field. A few weekends ago, in fact, freshly returned from the annuitant’s reunion in Asheville, I caught a game between the Mariners and the Oakland Athletics that had play-off intensity, with both squads battling for a place in the post-season. However ardent a Mariners fan I may be, my devotion pales when compared to the passion that the late Henry Cook showered upon his beloved Los Angeles Dodgers. Henry’s dedication to overseeing drilling for Aramco was unquestioned and his devotion to his family unparalleled, but his absorption in all things Dodger was nearly as powerful. Henry was “Dodger blue” through and through—just ask Bonnie.
Cricket may be the national game of Britain, Pakistan and other countries, and soccer (“football” to non-Americans) may be the world’s game, but baseball remains unquestionably America’s game. During my recent visit to Safeco Field, I witnessed the phenomenon firsthand as a voluble participant in the ritual. Courtesy of a friend, we secured Diamond Club seats for the game, placing us six rows up from the visiting team on-deck circle with a direct view straight across home plate and first base down the right-field foul line. I’m certain it’s not a reflection of my age when I say that I can’t believe how YOUNG the players appeared. They all seem bigger than life on television. Amazingly, however, when viewed up close from spitting distance, they’re actually life-sized, not the giants of the earth I had supposed. Our Diamond Club tickets came with all the fixin’s—free food, free drinks, free everything, with personalized service that saw servers bringing our orders to our seats during the game. Pre-game, we feasted indoors at an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord offering a dizzying array of food choices. Our biggest challenge was not eating and drinking too much before the first pitch was thrown. Otherwise, we would not have had room to sample the full range of ballpark foods (hot dogs, hamburgers, pizzas, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, you name it, it was ours for free!). By the time the game ended, neither one of us had a room for another bite or sip.
Sports teams are well known for their colorful mascots, and the Mariners are no exception. Their mascot is a moose—or, to be more precise, an amazingly agile athlete dressed in a moose costume. Starting during batting practice and continuing non-stop over the length of the game, the Mariner Moose entertained fans with his antics. Somersaults, back-flips, wild and wiggly dance moves and more—he was a hyperkinetic dynamo expending boundless amounts of energy.
The Mariners came away with a 4-2 victory, adding to the afterglow that lasted late into the night. Sports bring us together, whether it’s Aramcons tossing softballs on a sandy field in Abqaiq or million-dollar superheroes like Robinson Cano blasting hardball home runs at Seattle’s Safeco Field. I’ll long remember my night at the Diamond Club; I’ll never forget my nights shagging softballs on Udhailiyah’s well-groomed diamond or the ones hit nightly into my backyard!