May 4, 2009

Remembering How to Run

This past Friday I played slow-pitch softball for the first time since, oh...labor day? Sometime back early last fall. The team I've played on the last three years, the Shorewest Northeasters, disbanded this year after a pregnancy and other inconveniences prevented enough people from signing up. After putting myself on the MSCR free agent list (I was a free agent! Sadly, I had to settle for the league minimum), I received several calls and found a coed team in the friday night league. I hadn't made it to any of the practices due to job-related travel, so the first-game-jitters were amplified by the new-team-jitters. Here is my Friday night of softball.

9:30 AM - I get strange looks from Rodney, Elizabeth, and Krysta as I bounce up and down in the parking lot of a city park in Green Bay. I also throw some small pebbles around and swing a couple of branches, trying to figure out what my batting stance was.

4:30 PM - Leave work, walk to the car. Still wearing an ironic all-khaki archaeologist uniform, I go to Michael's Frozen Custard. Not my ideal pre-game meal - a burger and malt - but my car's brakes are not happy at the moment, so I wanted something in between MAP and Olbrich Park. Michael's fits that bill. I sit there for a while, feeling dumb about my outfit and reading a book about the Gnostics while visualizing swinging a bat.

6:00 PM - Head to Olbrich.

6:05 PM - Trade in my archaeologist duds for an equally ridiculous uniform - that of a dorky slow pitch softball player. High blue socks, gray (for now) baseball pants, and a #23 St. James jersey. I try and put contacts in, but my left eye will have none of it. Glasses today. Also, a blue bandana.

6:30 PM - The first game of the season starts...mine is at 8:30. I probably would have gone home, but the less driving I can do for now, the better. I sit in the bleachers and 'scout' - really just keep reading my book.

6:40 PM - One of the teams is full of a bunch of young guys and their wives/girlfriends - they're good, and their pitcher is this hardcore old guy. Later, I find out he's the dad of the left fielder. He seems way too competitive for this. Wouldn't mind having a nice day against him at the plate. The other team is fairly young overall, but has way more fun out there.

7:30 PM - Game 2 starts, and by now I'm cold. The sun has set and I'm freezing. I hang out in my car until 8, when I get out and try and find my new team - Eat at Joe's. I know what one guy looks like - that's it.

8:15 - I find the team. We're mostly young people too, with two older guys and one lady. 7 guys and 7 girls in all. I warm my arm up with a guy Eric, and we start.

8:30 - We're the home team, and I start in center. We play guys at catcher, second, left, center, and rover. Inning one goes quickly, and we head to the plate.

8:?? Who keeps track of the time during the game? - I am the seventh batter in the lineup, and the sixth batter ends the first inning. Not a bad deal, really...I like batting with nobody on base.

Top of the Second - Several walks/infield singles to third (frustrating as hell, btw) lead to the other guys scoring a couple of runs. With two outs and runners on first and second, the batter ropes a hit by the second baseman. I run over from center field to cut the ball off. I slide, grab the ball, and fire it to the rover. He makes a good throw to the third baseman, and we get the runner from first. Inning over.

Bottom of the Second - I lead off. First pitch is a strike, deep and on the inner half of the black. Probably a decent pitch to hit, but I'm too nervous on the first pitch of the year to do anything. It's good to see one. Second pitch looks like it'll be close, so I make contact and push it to the left side of the infield. Not a strong hit by any means, but I'm fast. I think the fielder might have bobbled it, but it doesn't matter. I wasn't getting thrown out. Now I'm on first base with no outs. The girl right after me lines out to third base, and I jump three steps off the base before heading back. Ah, baserunning. The next batter grounds to the third baseman, and unfortunately they throw to first. If they had gone to second to try and get the lead runner (me) I'd have beaten it. Still, I feel slow. Haven't really ran bases in a while.

With two out, I am definitely trying to score on this next hit if at all possible. The batter grounds sharply to the third baseman, and the ball glances off of his glove. I started running at contact, but paused for a split-second while the ball dribbled through to left field. Because I hesitated, my stride was off as I hit third base. I tried to shorten a step and still hit third with my right foot, but basically just succeeded in tangling my feet up. My momentum kept me going around the bag and miraculously I stayed upright. I stumbled into home with our team's second run.

I got a break and sat out the next inning was good because I could barely breathe after my baserunning escapades. I didn't have any defensive opportunities the rest of the game.

In my second at bat, I swung at the first pitch and grounded to the second baseman. I tore down the line and beat the throw...but I also hit the dirt. About one foot in front of first base, there was an area of really soft dirt. My left foot came down right in this patch of loose soil, and while my momentum was enough to get my right foot on the bag, after that it was all tumbling and rolling. Thanks for the rubber ankles, dad! No injuries, just a little dizziness after I popped back up off the ground. I moved to second after a single. A strikeout and popout later, and we were back to me on second base with two outs. However, this time it was a solid line drive to center that scored me - with no embarrassing display of "running" either.

Going into the top of the sixth, we were down 9-6 with the top of our order up in the bottom of the inning. However, our pitcher's control disappeared - after a lot of walks and a couple of timely hits, we were down 16-6. I was up fifth or sixth in the bottom of the inning, but we didn't get to me again. So, the 2009 MSCR season looks like this for me:

Eat at Joe's (0-1)
2/2 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 2 0 0

Should be a fun year.

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