Well, last night I played in my first softball game of the season. Now, to take you back a bit, it must be understood that I haven’t really played softball – or for that matter, baseball, t-ball, whiffle ball or tether ball – since my little league days.
Excuse me for a moment while I reminisce…ahh, yes, those were glorious days, to be sure; days where I could, without a care in the world, stand in the outfield, picking my nose and making obnoxious noises with my armpit. If the ball were ever hit in my general direction, there would be no reason to panic: I would simply let the outfielder to my right or my left go for the ball. At the end of our losing season (every season was back then), I would get a token trophy just like all of my teammates who actually did stuff like run for the ball, catch the ball, hit the ball, pay attention to the ball, care about the game, etc.
But not now! I have been re-born, as it were, a new and more talented player. I knew this right off the bat because, last night when I arrived a little before our first game, the softball coach actually gave me a team shirt, which is always a great sign. You know, they say that ten percent of winning a game has one-third to do with just showing up in the right uniform; this is true because your short stop will be less likely to tag out your second-baseman, an umpire, or a dog that wanders onto the field.
With my Number 36 Milestone Church shirt on, I headed out on to the field amidst the cheers of an immense crowd that numbered in the single digits (thanks, Amber, for your presence!). After making my way onto the field, I was called back to the dugout so that the coach could tell me where exactly I was supposed to be playing (our coaches have thought of everything). So, I found out that I was going to be the “catcher,” which seemed to me to be one of the safest positions, since I can’t technically “catch.”
First inning. My knees began to crack and my legs began to “feel the burn” as I squatted down behind home plate. Old age seems to have found my joints, but no matter…I’ll worry about getting back on my feet some other time, like after the game or after some intense physical therapy. But enough about my joints, I need to concentrate because here comes…the first pitch…followed by a swing and a close miss. Now, technically, I don’t know if the batter had a close miss of the ball, because all that I was paying attention to was the close miss of my skull. I’d better back up. Surprisingly, after giving up only five or so runs, we got three outs and I never had to stand up.
Our turn at bat. My team members do a pretty nice job of hitting the ball hard, but they don’t have the one strategic advantage that I do. You see, when I registered for the softball team, I gave myself the nickname “slugger.” No one else on our team has a nickname; knowing my advantage, I smirked as I faced off with the pitcher. The ball came…and a hard clink of the bat sent the ball slowly rolling through the infield, where its slow-motion movement allowed me to reach first base. One of the next couple of batters brought me home. At the end of the first inning, we were in the lead 8 to 5.
I won’t go through all of the innings, but I will say that at one point I did make a pretty dramatic and painful slide into third base. The players on both teams thought that I was really trying my best by sliding, when in actuality, because of my lack of recent exercise (kids, pay attention), my legs turned into Jello® and I basically slid into third base as my body toppled forward. Amber said that I looked like I knew what I was doing, so I’m going to stick to that story. The fall left my leg hurting pretty bad, but after I got a few more hits, we finished out the game. The final score: 16 to 14, or something like that; whatever it was, we won! We then went through some ritual where we lined up to give high-fives and soft knuckle-punches to the opposing team members while stating that the game was good.
Now, this morning, my body is sore and my leg specifically feels like a hungry wolverine was gnawing upon it. It wasn’t so bad until I saw, on my email, the game schedule for the season. Apparently, I have to do this all over again ten more times.