Americans face off with Germans for friendly softball game
June 20, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (June 21, 2013) -- Americans and their host-nation counterparts met June 7 for a friendly evening softball game at Katterbach Kaserne, but with a twist: one team had never played softball before.
The inaugural German-American Softball Friendship Game served as the second part of ongoing friendly competition between a group of Germans who comprise a soccer team from Bad Windsheim and an American softball team consisting of USAG Ansbach and 12th Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers.
In 2011, the coach of the Bad Windsheim team approached Matt Livingston, chief of sports and fitness for the USAG Ansbach Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, to play a friendly international soccer match. They did so in 2012.
"We had a great time," Livingston said. "We lost that game 2-1, but it was a good game. We had a great time."
After the soccer game, the German hosts held a dinner for the Americans, which included family and friends. This time, as part of an effort to return the favor and make up for their defeat, the Americans challenged the Germans to a friendly softball game.
But there was a problem: Although softball has been recognized as the number one participatory sport in the U.S., the German team had never played a game of it.
"They didn't know any of the rules or anything," Livingston said. "I arranged for them to go to practices at Illesheim every week. We've been practicing for the last two months -- rain or shine. I've been teaching them the game and showing them how to do things. They've been having a really good time. They've picked it up very quickly."
The American team, however, is not just experienced with softball; they play it regularly.
"These guys are Soldiers first," Livingston said as the ball flew off an American's bat and over the fence for the second time in just three innings. "They're good players. This is the best of the best that we have to offer for Ansbach. They're taking it easy on the Germans.
"They picked it up very quickly," Livingston said of the German team. "They understand the concept and they know a lot of the rules, but in really playing a game I think they're learning even more. They're doing a great job and they're holding their own. They're doing well and they know what's going on."
Livingston added: "They have no expectations to win, but they think it's a great time."
With a final score of 29-14, Livingston was correct. But ask most players on either team about the final score and you're likely to receive a shrug.
"They're all having a really good time, playing the game and just learning it," he said. "I hope we do a soccer game and a softball game every year. I hope this grows into a permanent relationship where we do this every year."