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Softball Sundays at Garfield Park; Playing on Hallowed Ground

August 19, 2009
by

“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.”  IMG_3505Jackie Robinson


Father’s Day 2009; EC Parker wanted to do something positive.  Concerned with the continuous deaths of young Black men and the lack of positive opportunities within the community, he decided to take action.  Along with his good friend Ted Evans Jr.and others, they came together with family and friends for a friendly but competitive game of Sunday softball.

What was intended as a one-time game instantly grew into a weekly event which has been held at field across the city and has found a home at Garfield park in the Central District.

Now known as “Black Love Softball Sundays”, more than 40 amateur players come together as a way to positively impact their community.

“It’s all about Black love,” Parker says, “we want people to know, don’t believe the hype, [the Black community is] more than what you see in the news.”

“We’re out here to do something positive,” says player Jacob Muune, “people bring their kids, elders come out, this is good for the community; it’s good to see Black men and Black people together having a good time.  We are more than what the news says we are.”

IMG_3374

IMG_3408IMG_3424

Muune is right.  For news media, coverage of violence and negative stereotypes is disproportionate to IMG_3345everything else.  Every few weeks someone is shot, every few months, a murder is committed which usually goes unsolved.

Such is the case of Quincy Coleman.  The 15 year old student was shot to death on Halloween 2008 right next to Garfield playfield.  As is customary, Coleman was typecast in the media and police as a gang member, leaving friends and family fuming, and rightfully so.  Quincy Coleman was loved- he lived a life as valuable as any other, and he did nothing to deserve being gunned down in such a senseless way.

This past weekend as more than 80 spectators and players enjoyed the game, the food and the beautiful Seattle weather just steps away from where Coleman was gunned down, one young man stepped away from the group to pay his respects.

A makeshift memorial marks the spot where Coleman was struck down.  Jamala Myers Jr. busied himself with tidying the area, removing dead leaves and old candle wax.  His eyes weigh heavy with the memories of Quincy; he does not want his friend defined by the manner in which he died.

“He was a good kid,” he says matter-of-factly, “he told me, and others, to stay in school, and basically he was like a big brother to me.”  Myers, a student at Garfield who lives in the neighborhood lights up when the discussion turns to Softball Sundays, “I think it’s great, my dad is down here, and it’s just a way for adults and their kids to come together and just share the positive things in life, instead of the negative.”

Aaron Sebastian Bossett plays every Sunday and wouldn’t miss it for the world.  “This is where it’s at,” he says confidently about the weekly game.  For Bossett IMG_3368and those who play with him, it’s more than just a game.

“It’s a great stress reliever,” he says with a chuckle, “and the fellowship, just the opportunity to all come together is great- you get to see the human side of people, who they really are, not who they’re trying to be.”

Bossett says the game is an equalizer for him and his eldest son.  “He’s used to me being the disciplinarian, the dad in a traditional way, but when I miss a play, he’s critiquing my game.”

There really is something special about Softball Sundays- spiritual, even.  People come from beyond Seattle’s city limits to play or just to observe.  It’s fun- something lacking of late.  The impact of this simple yet beloved game may not be quantifiable in a traditional sense, but its potential is limitless.

But as it turns out, the crack of the bat at Garfield park is a tradition that goes back to the 1890’s and Seattle’s Negro League days.  Like today, Softball Sundays of back-in-the-day brought the community together in a way nothing else could.

Touching History

IMG_3357Local baseball enthusiast, writer and attorney Lyle Wilson penned Sunday Afternoons at Garfield Park, which relays Seattle’s IMG_3487rich history of Negro baseball.

The history books point to the Seattle Steelheads, the official Negro League team, but just as important is the unofficial team that was not a part of the League and existed for years at Garfield park- the Seattle Royal Giants known over the years as the Seattle American Giants, the Carver Athletic Club and later the Bird Land Pirates.  There was even a Negro ladies softball team, the Brown Bombers, named after Joe Lewis.

Baseball at the park on Sundays was the place to be.  IMG_3354

“You went to church, you came home and changed and maybe packed a lunch and you went to the games in and around the city,” explains Wilson.  Baseball was such a vital part of the community, “if you weren’t at the game your absence was noticed.”  Of today’s players he says warmly, “they are really on hallowed ground.”

All photos courtesy Terrell Elmore

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. EC Parker permalink
    August 19, 2009 4:16 pm

    I’d like to acknowledge Dennis Beaver, Mike, Damico Parker, Ted Evans & Aaron Bossett they were the ones that got the 1st game going & helped push it just as much as I have. I appreciate Sable for writing the piece & shining some light on this positive event. I hope we can continue to enjoy Black LOVE all year around, as we should. Also, be on the lookout for Black LOVE flag football this fall! Remember….Spread the LOVE!!

    Peace,

    EC

  2. Daryl McLennan permalink
    August 19, 2009 4:23 pm

    I love this article as I have been one of the many spectators that attend “Black Love Softball Sunday’s”, my husband Cecil “Sqeak” McLennan had been playing to the past 4 Sunday’s and he loves it. He is a product of the community and played lil league baseball right on this same field and also high school baseball for Garfield. This is a wonderful thing that EC Parker and other’s have put together and I hope that the tradition lives for ever:-) I also noticed that the Seattle Negro League Baseball teams were mentioned in the article and my grandfather Bennett Wilborn was one of the players on the Carver Athletic Club team, my son is now also very involved in baseball and he has loved the game since he started at the age of 5:-) Once again great article and much love for “Black Love Softball Sunday’s” 🙂

    Daryl (Breaux) McLennan

  3. Sable permalink
    August 19, 2009 4:33 pm

    Thanks for that addition EC, if I had more space for my column I’d have listed a roster of regular players.

  4. Sable permalink
    August 19, 2009 4:34 pm

    I love this article too! Uncovering the history of Sundays at the park was unexpected- and SO wonderful!

  5. Suzanne permalink
    August 19, 2009 4:54 pm

    Yay! From a white chick who loves baseball and people!

  6. D.Parke permalink
    August 19, 2009 5:57 pm

    I would like to thank Ted Evans, Dennis Beaver, and Mike for lighting the torch! They were the cats who asked me to play on fathers day!!! Im very thankful that you took the time to come n see what the big deal was!!! It is too often that an ugly picture is painted about our community and people. Im glad that my children will ask me “daddy are we going to your baseball game?” on the weekend..it takes me back to a time of innocense when it indeed took a village to raise a child. This has grown into something bigger than us, and we will continue to provide a positive weekend outlet for our people. Peace, Love n Blessings to all.

    D.Parker

  7. Liz "Buffy" Davis permalink
    August 19, 2009 6:19 pm

    Thank you Sable,

    This gives me names to the faces I see on Sundays. My brother loves to talk about staying open late so he can serve his Sunday regulars that play softball in the park. He runs the concession stand at Garfield play field, Healthy Options. We all want our community to enjoy each other and give many different options to our children. See you Sunday.

  8. Jamala Myres permalink
    August 19, 2009 7:02 pm

    This post is inspiring and I learned a few new things as I read it; from the past history, to my own son’s thoughts. When the news is REALLY covered with a balance, it gives the community a real chance to work on problems, address unjust issues and celebrate a productive positive place to grow and live…

    I can go on and on… But I’ll chill… I just wanted to thank you for your balance reporting Sable… It’s truly a great piece…

    MALA-NESS Sr…

  9. Mayisha Hamilton permalink
    August 20, 2009 8:43 am

    Nice article. This is a beautiful thing. I’m glad that my children and I have been Blessed enough to witness their father, uncles, Godfather and more participate in the game and fellowship every Sunday. This is a perfect example of “planting a seed and watching it grow”.

    As a mother of a teenage boy, this is the type of comradery he needs to see at this stage in his life,during these difficult times when things seem so gloom. It’s so positive. My message to him like many other parents is to “be a leader, not a follower”. I had to reiterate myself, I told him that if you must follow,make it this type of movement! Get behind something of this stature. This is God’s handy work. He chooses one (or in this case a few)person and rest will follow.

    What’s next?

    Mayisha Hamilton

  10. August 20, 2009 9:36 am

    I appreciate this article and the responses by others as they read it, embrace it and share it.

    I was raised in this community, still live only 5 minutes away…and am proud to say that I am a Bulldog from back in the day.

    This community has never received the respect and appreciation as to what this community represents to the rich history it brings to Seattle. Such sadness around the senseless deaths of our young and always portraying them as if putting a label on a person justifies the violent death to somehow now make sense…it will never make sense and should never be swept under the rug and forgotten.

    My family for many many many years have enjoyed softball games at Garfield with one of our family homes right across the street and another 3 blocks east. So in reading this and seeing the pictures….all the generations represented warms my heart and makes me smile…this is family…the beauty of community.

    Thank you for the article and the responses.

    Lady Flava

  11. Jon Hughes permalink
    August 21, 2009 10:50 am

    That was a beautiful thing to see as I drove by Garfield Sunday, of course I think I saw Coach Parker and Tiger Allen arguing over a call!!! Keep it up, this should be a regular thing! Way to go! The kids that play ball at now at Seattle Central will hopefully be doing this in their future!

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