The note atop the stack of blank baseball league applications was clear - ''Boys Only.''
I wasn't happy about that. It just didn't seem fair.
Mrs. Johnson, my elementary school's secretary, must have agreed.
When I asked for one of the applications, she looked to see if anyone was around and quietly slipped one to me - a tiny act of rebellion that would change my summer and, in some ways, the person I would become.
I took the paper home and, with my parents' blessing, completed and returned it.
This was back in 1976, just four years after the passage of Title IX, the federal amendment that opened up sports opportunities to girls and women.
At the time, though, I had absolutely no clue what that was, or how it might help me.
I was 11. I just wanted to play baseball. And because, at the time, the sports association in my small, northern Michigan hometown had no offerings for girls my age, they let me.
Three years earlier, a girl in Ypsilanti, Mich., had broken the barrier in Little League. And now it was my turn.
There was only one problem: While I had little doubt I should be ALLOWED to play, I really didn't know how to. My only experience was a few pickup games with my brother and his friends in the field next to our house. They used a bat and tennis ball and usually hit it so far nobody really fielded the ball anyway. I was usually just their stand-in runner.
So panic quickly set in when I realized that I'd potentially signed myself up for weeks of teasing and humiliation.
My dad and brother didn't let that happen. Before the season started, they spent evenings and weekends in the backyard, teaching me how to throw, field and bat.
If I had anything to say about it, no one was going to accuse me of ''throwing like a girl'' - something you heard all the time on playgrounds back then.
When I showed up for my first practice, my stomach was jittery. A few of my teammates' eyes widened. There was a bit of grumbling, but it didn't last long.
The tone was set by my coach, an easygoing sort named Bruce Baker who often wore a floppy fishing hat instead of a baseball cap.
I was always trying to prove that I belonged. He was always reminding me to relax and have fun.
And good thing, because we were northern Michigan's version of the ''Bad News Bears,'' the team in the movie that had just come out that spring.
We lost game after game - and I endured the taunts from the crowd and the opposing teams.
I played second base and outfield, mostly. One time, coach put me into pitch. But, while I liked pitching in practice, I hated the added pressure in the game and asked to go back to my second base post.
People in the stands laughed. It was proof, they said, that I shouldn't be on the field.