The game nearly lost to history, and the woman fighting for its survival

Carolyn Parsons

There was an entire sport invented on Change Island years ago.

No official rules were recorded, but local kids would gather to play the game all over the island.

"When we were growing up, we just called it ball," says Carolyn Parsons, who grew up in the area. 

Years later, as an adult, Parsons is working to preserve the rules of the game. She's writing down what rules she can remember, and holding annual games. 

From what Parsons describes, its inspiration seems to be firmly rooted in American baseball.

"It's played with a ball and stick, so a ball and bat. But when we were growing up, if you couldn't find a proper bat, you'd use ... whatever was handy," she said.

We played every single day.  - Carolyn Parsons

"So the rubber ball with the red, white, and blue – with the stripe –  that was the ball that we used, and it had quite a bounce."

Although the necessary equipment was easy to remember, the rules are a different story. 

"To complicate matters of course, there were little variations depending on which part of the island you grew up in," she said.

"Each of the teams usually had about six on a team at least. It operated almost in threes for everything. So three strikes you're out," said Parsons.

Carolyn Parsons

But, she said it's still not quite baseball. 

"It's faster moving than baseball. That's the thing that I find interesting about it, is that the pitcher would be generous. So you're likely to get a hit," she said.

Nearly lost to the sands of time

To Change Island, ball was as ubiquitous as American football in Alabama.

"We played every single day, like, waiting for the bus. We'd pick up and play a ball game and the bus would come and wherever we were in the game we just threw the bat the ball aside and got on the bus. And then we would be on the bus going to another cove to pick up another batch of kids, and they'd see us coming and they'd throw their ball. They were playing as well," she said.

It would be fun to grow it from here now that we've got a handle on it.  - Carolyn Parsons

Somewhere along the way the game fell out of favour, though.

"I was away, and when I came back, talking to people – the young people didn't know the game. They had stopped playing somewhere, I'd say the late 80s, early 90s. And it sort of switched over to baseball."

"It's very fun and it was it was uniquely ours. You know, I don't think it exists anywhere else."

Looking toward the future

Parsons is hoping that the future of the sport is bigger than annual pickup games.

"I'd love to see, in the future, more people playing. Come down to Change Island, play a tournament or do something. Like it would be fun to grow it from here now that we've got a handle on it."

"We don't know how far it goes back, but we do know everybody on Change Island, in our memory – like my father-in-law is ninety – remembers the game."

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