I don’t care for baseball, but I love community softball.
Anyone who thinks that the Yankees are exciting to watch probably hasn’t been to a community softball game.
Sure, professional players might play a better game technically speaking, but when it comes to showmanship they can’t hold a candle to a pack of cable installers from the Bronx.
For example, if a Carlos Beltran missed an easy pop up to right field, we might – at best – hope to see another player touch his forehead in response. But when that sort of thing happens in Central Park, you can expect the pitcher to hurl the worst insult he could think of, which this past weekend happened to be:
“YOU BE WEARIN’ SOCCER CLEATS!”
It didn’t exactly matter that the player missed the catch. The opposing team had the game all but settled at that point, leading eight to one with just two innings left to play. Still, when a woman stepped up to the plate, the losing team got awfully cocky about the prospect of an easy out.
“Bring it in, bring it in!” the players shouted as she took her practice swings.
I’ve heard that line before. I played softball exactly once – when my company team would have had to forfeit if some girl, any girl, didn’t show up to balance out their roster. “Bring it in!” is precisely what the other team had to say about my batting skills.
They had good reason. My first attempt looked like something straight out of a cartoon. The pitch was low and I, unable to differentiate between a ball and a strike, took a swing that was better suited for a golf course.
“You don’t have to swing at all of them!” my manager called from the dugout. Then, perhaps realizing that he shouldn’t criticize anyone holding a bat, hastily added, “THAT’S OK!” and clapped several times as if to prove his point.
Bring it in, indeed.
Unfortunately for the outfielders who were busy doing just that, I caught a lucky break on the second pitch and hit a line drive between center and right field. It might have been recovered easily enough if the players were standing where they were supposed to be, but they weren’t – and off I went.
When I got to first base, our coach shouted for me to keep running. When I got to second, I heard someone tell me to go to third. I was almost halfway there, when I noticed several people – including someone from the other team – motioning for me to go back.
“SHE DIDN’T TAG THE BASE!” they yelled.
Tag the base? What the hell kind of technicality was that?
No one mentioned that detail when they gave me the crash course on softball before the game started. Talk about advice I needed yesterday. In their defense, they probably didn’t think I’d ever make it out of the batter’s box – but they should have thrown it in anyway.
Of course, the real problem wasn’t that I couldn’t figure out that a key part of baseball was, in fact, tagging the bases. It was that there was a woman roughly the size of a moose standing in front of the one I was supposed to touch. Instead of taking my chances with her on my first pass by second, I did a neat little side kick near the base and figured that would do.
It did not. That became very clear when I saw my company’s CFO come out of the dugout gesticulating wildly – and quite threateningly – for me to turn back.
I did, but I found the woman still planted in front of the plate. She looked eager to make a tackle, which, even as a novice, I knew was not supposed to be part of the game.
“YOU DIDN’T TAG THE BASE!” she yelled – as though she bore no responsibility in the situation.
I stopped a few inches away and, with both hands on my hips, said, “I’m sorry, could you please move?”
Incredibly, she did – albeit slowly – and I tapped the bag with a single toe before heading off to third again.
But it was too late. The outfielder finally found the ball and I had to stay put.
If, after all that activity, there’s any doubt about how good my hit was, please know that it brought in two runs. I’ll be the first to admit that they were a result of chaos in the outfield as opposed to any sort of talent on my part – but that sort of thing doesn’t get noted in the scorecard, now does it?
That game ended well, with our team winning by more than two points. I can’t say that my hit made much of a difference, but I suppose that I helped prevent an automatic loss just by showing up – which I suppose counts for something.
Here’s to a fresh new week. I hope you show up for it.