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Clark: For a day, prison is fun and games

Doug Clark (Courtesy Clark / The Spokesman-Review)
Doug Clark (Courtesy Clark / The Spokesman-Review)

You’d think a guy with my shady reputation wouldn’t have any difficulty getting into prison.

But entering Pine Lodge Corrections Center Saturday morning took a bit of red tape.

Maybe it’s because Pine Lodge is a women’s prison and I’m blessed with dangerous good looks. I had to surrender my driver’s license and car keys and autograph a couple of official-looking forms, which, I think, gave the Department of Corrections permission to have me deported.

Believe it or not, I drove to the Medical Lake lockup to watch a softball game.

Of course, this was no ordinary softball game. According to the invitation that arrived at the newspaper, this was the first-ever game featuring an all-inmate team, the Pine Lodge Powerhouse, and The Stars, a team of visiting community players. (The Stars prevailed 9-6.)

I’ve always been a big fan of “The Longest Yard” and other documentaries about penal recreation.

Judy Kelsch, a corrections officer and the coach of the Pine Lodge Powerhouse, told me she didn’t pick her softball players on mere ability.

The women were also selected on “sportsmanship, teamwork and commitment.”

Having played first base years ago on a church softball league, I had no idea what Kelsch was talking about.

Man, you haven’t seen assault and battery until you’ve seen pious, church-going ballplayers tearing into each other.

But I can see how softball can be a positive influence in a better-behaved setting, like prison.

Anyway, Helen Biddulph, the Pine Lodge public information officer, introduced me to a few of the Powerhouse players. And everything was going so well until I asked shortstop Marnie Brown if she had a “gun.”

The entire Powerhouse team looked at me with wide eyes and gasped. Uttering the word “bomb” in an airport will draw a similar reaction.

Don’t blame me. See, I used to be a sports writer another lifetime ago.

And the word “gun” is just an old slang noun for a ballplayer with a strong arm. For example, “Barry Bonds has huge guns and a big deformed dome from all that steroid abuse.”

I was so embarrassed. Honestly, I would have crawled off the field if it weren’t for all the high, menacing fences.

I met some really nice people at Pine Lodge. But they need to know that playing softball in prison calls for different rules and vernacular, such as…

•In a pinch, a catcher’s mask can be a bandanna with eyeholes.

•No killing the umpire for less than three cartons of smokes.

•Mandatory bat count after every inning.

•Home field advantage means you have a map of where the tunnels are.

•Outfielders may NOT go over razor wire to chase a foul ball.

•Nobody walks. After four balls, batter is “paroled” to first.

•Stealing home will get you an extra six months.

•You can load the bases. But you can’t be loaded on the bases.

•Close calls are ultimately settled by tort claims.

•The winning team is always the team that gets to leave.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at