About a year ago, I was giddy with the excitement of daughter Jess finishing up high school softball once and for all and heading off to a four-year career in college ball. For a ball-playing girl, college ball is The Show. Well, unless the six-team Professional Fastpitch League grows to stupendous proportions. Which it won’t.Last spring, besides looking forward to college softball, I was all charged up about Jess getting a first-class college education, meeting new and interesting people and settling on her path in life. So far, my role in Jess’ college education has been limited to fixing her computer when it breaks down, and giving her advice like, “If you write better than your teacher, change teachers.” And I offered, “If they try to make you read John Milton, just quit the class.” Jess tells me that her teachers write just fine, and she hasn’t been bothered with that godawful purple-writing Milton.As a faithful balldaddy, my role in Jess’ athletic endeavors will be limited to four years of watching her games during the usually pleasant months of March and April. No more 100-degree summer ball games for me. No more unsupervised, orange-lipped, Cheeto-eating siblings stepping on my feet. No more tournaments on the obsolete softball fields of Chattanooga.Here’s my plan: Every week or two, I’ll jump in my vehicle, drive a few hours to the ballyard, watch Jess play a doubleheader, then hug Jess and go home. But don’t you know, it just ain’t working out that way.Last September, daughter Jess’ team played a three-game tournament, just to knock the rust off and get ready for the competitive season. That would have been just fine, except that it was 90-something degrees in the shade, and the humidity made the air feel like a wet wool blanket. Jess spent her day at the ballfield not playing, but puking. None of us Jowerses were prepared for the weather. We didn’t bring any sunscreen. Over the next couple weeks, our arm and face skin fell off in patches, mummy-style.The next time Jess’ team got on the field, it was for a tournament in early March. I usually like March. I fly kites in March, I take long walks in March. But last March, the weather was just way too cold. Before I went to the ballfield, I donned many layers of clothing, I wore gloves and a cap, I shared blankets with wife Brenda. Every time I’d lean forward, the blankets would avalanche down like three feet of snow racing down a mountainside. Brenda, bless her, tried to re-fix the blankets. She tucked the loose corners into my pants, under my ass, down my collar. She swaddled my legs, well, mummy-style. I was immobilized, helpless. A baby could have killed me.Thank heaven no babies tried. I lived to experience the anticipation of going to a weeklong tournament in the middle of Mississippi. Surely it would be warm in the middle of Mississippi in mid-March.Nope. It was bitter cold in Mississippi. Cold enough for a person’s nipples to break off, all by themselves. The wind howled. The rain fell, in a mist that promised hypothermia. I had on drawers, sweatpants, jeans, a T-shirt, a sweatshirt, a heavy coat and a ball cap. But I shivered like a bug-eyed chihuahua. Brenda and I gave up our field-side seats and watched the tournament from our van, parked high up on the hillside, with the heat running full blast. We burned 20 bucks’ worth of gas sitting still.A couple weeks ago, Jess’ team had two weekend doubleheaders—two games on Saturday, two on Sunday—not too far from Nashville. Having learned our lessons, Brenda and I packed thermal underwear, extra sweatshirts, heavy coats, hats, wool socks and, just for the hell of it, shorts, T-shirts, sandals (for Brenda—I’d die before I’d wear sandals) and sunglasses. And we took a cooler, just in case.On Sunday, I was sure I’d die. Even though Brenda wrapped me up like a giant burrito, the wind whistled through all the cracks and crevices in my blankets and clothing. It reminded me of the time when my daddy, Jabo Jowers, rode his Harley up to North Carolina on a chilly day, and came home with all his joints locked up from the cold. His knees wouldn’t bend. I had to lift my 6-foot-tall daddy off his motorcycle and walk his bent-up 5-foot-tall frame into the house and to the bathroom, where he sat on the edge of the tub until his knees thawed out. Two Sundays ago, I was afraid that Brenda was going to have to enlist some of the other ball-watching parents and grandparents to pick me up in my chair and tote me to the van so I could thaw out. Lucky for me, though, I had just enough flexibility to hobble to the van by myself.Besides those trials and aggravations, the host team had an emo-boy announcer, with a voice that combined the sounds of Ben Stein and Eeyore. “Now batting,” he’d intone, sliding from tenor to low baritone in a disappointed sort of way, “Jess (deep sigh) Jowers.”But now, thank you Jesus, there’s just one more tournament to go. The weather forecast says the temperature will range from the low 60s to the low 70s—right where I like it.And as soon as the tournament’s over, it’ll be time for me and Jess to go down to an empty ballfield and get her ready for the ’09 season.I’m guessing it’ll be hot.