It hardly compares to the eventual effect a two-pack-a-day smoking habit will have on one's family, but playing a lot of softball lends itself to creating often lonely, sometimes angry wives and girlfriends wherever the game is available to be played on a daily basis.

"Softball widows" find themselves missing out on things like going to movies, fixing quiet dinners at home and extended summer vacations.

All softball widows who have kept dinners warm until the late news comes on or who have endured the wind and cold of April under a blanket in the bleachers, have one thing in common: they hate people like me who entice their husbands and/or boyfriends into playing almost nightly, and then ruin the family weekends by scheduling make up games and entering the team in tournaments.

Spreading my softball addiction was not a goal when I set out to play more than 100 games this summer. What many of these wives/girlfriends have been affected by, however, is Team Rule No. 3.

Our overall team rules basically stress that winning is important, but attending the postgame pizza parties is sacred. Also, every player gets in for at least part of the game, and no intrateam arguments are tolerated.

But Rule No. 3 leaves broad sanctions to interrupt any aspect of family life. It states: "Although everyone has his own idea on how a softball team should be run, the unfortunate part of these teams are that we will abide by the decisions of only one person, regardless of how much of a jerk he is generally believed to be. All decisions during the course of the season will be made in thought of how the entire team will best benefit, not to satisfy theories or egos of any individual."

Much of our recent success -- a playoff berth last year and this summer heading to the best overall record ever for what I consider my most important team -- is due to well-executed player shuffling. The rosters of each of the five teams I play on includes several players who rarely show up. If we need a player who could mean the difference of winning or losing an isolated game, I can tap these skilled, but also legally eligible resources. Everyone else must understand an occasional cut of their playing time may be in the team's best interest.

Rule No. 3, though, is tough on the spouses. Whenever one of my teams needs a player, I recruit from another of my teams. This means that an individual who thought he would be playing one day a week often plays more. I appeal to his conscience by pleading Rule No. 3 -- a team needs him. It is just that some mates do not understand.

Lin Burns had not played softball for six years, but his wife Tricia encouraged him to get active again playing one night a week.

Lin came out a little rusty, but talented. I started calling on him more and more. A few weeks ago he consecutively played on Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon, Monday and Tuesday nights. When I call their house now, I speak to Tricia first and ask if her husband can come out and play.

Often during the summer I am asked, "Why? Why? Why?" by an angry wife or girlfriend after announcing that a make up game has been scheduled for an upcoming open date. I hide under the guise of Rule No. 3 -- playing that day is what is best for the entire team.

Billy Panzer, who has already played nine different defensive positions, does not believe in missing any of his three to four games a week. His fiance Mary likes to go away for long weekends, but she did not realize when she accepted the engagement ring that I would be the one planning their summer schedule.

And I do not create just local widows either. When the heavy-hitting Sean Burke took off 10 days from work because his fiance was visiting from out-of-town, I could not stand by idlely without taking advantage of the situation. I convinced him to play on five of those days, and Karyn suffered from the sidelines each time.

Then there is the case with outfielder Vinnie P., who plays while keeping a low profile.

His wife of about one year, Anna, outwardly detests softball and being around softball players. She mumbles every Sunday morning when Vinnie plays with our company team. Asking him to play Monday nights also seemed out out of the question.

But every Monday around 5:30 p.m., Vinnie offers to go to the store, get the car washed or to run other casual-type errands. He changes into his uniform at the field, and as soon as the last out is made, he darts back to the car, changes again, and rushes home.

Our whole team was surprised recently when Anna showed up at a party I threw for members of all five of my teams.

"She comes out to things like this once a year," said Vinnie. "Because occasionally she gets to thinking that maybe softball isn't that bad."

I wondered how this year's "tryout" went.

"She'll see you again," he answered, "Sometime next year."