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June 28, 2007: Out Standing In a Field (again)

Oh, I ache everywhere, but especially in my forty-year-old legs. Slaterettes Baseball season has begun and I feel like I put the “senior” in the “Senior Division.” I played right field two days in a row. (Who the heck put two games in a row on the schedule? Oh, my aching muscles.)

I’m on a new team this year–the team that was Palagi’s and wore lime green. We don’t know who our sponsor is or what color our uniforms will be this year because… we don’t have them yet. If you have the impression my league is not as organized as it could be, well, that’s because it isn’t. What are you expecting, the St. Louis Cardinals, here? It’s all volunteers who run the league; everyone’s in it for the love of the game. So it’s hard to get angry about stuff like that. As long as we get on the field and play, I could care less if we wore burlap sacks.

Still, it was funny as our team assembled for our first game and I walked up to the dugout actually not sure which of the two teams there that day was mine. Like I said… a little disorganized. “Anyone know what team I’m on?” I shouted as I neared the third base bench, dragging my equipment bag from my car.

“This one,” Lori answered. She’s the one who, when we were in the field would later yell, “Here we go Green! And red, purple, gray, blue… (mutter mutter)”

There’s no point getting worked up about it. I complained to corwin the night before the game, trying to do the drama queen thing. “Damn it,” I said as we were eating dinner, “I better like my team this year. If I don’t, or the coach is mean to me, I’m quitting!”

His answer, “You will not either!”

Which made us both break out into hysterical laughter. “You’re right,” I said. “I obviously just can’t pull off the drama queen act.” Yet another lack of similarity between me and Ken Griffey, Jr. And besides, the first thing our coach did when he saw me was give me a big hug and a big smile.

Anyway, I can hardly criticize. If the league got a late jump on this season’s preparations, I’ve been even worse. I didn’t visit the batting cage even ONCE during the offseason, haven’t looked at the glove or even moved my equipment bag since the last game of last season (though I did take the dirty laundry out). Haven’t even played softee-ball toss with corwin in the hallway or hit the Wiffle ball in the park.

On the other hand, I’m in better cardio-vascular shape than last season. Last year, some of you may recall, I hurt my arm in early April and had to quit working taking class at my tae kwon do school. I was too demoralized about this to pick up some other activity like, oh, riding the exercise bike in my office more than once a month.

Then Christmas came and corwin got dance pads and a game system for Dance Dance Revolution.

For those of you who don’t know what it is, “DDR” is a video game of Japanese origin, in which one steps on specially marked places on the pad (north, south, east, west) as directed on the screen to accompanying hit pop songs from around the world. It’s like aerobics class for geeks, basically, only better, because it’s competitive. Yes, there’s the magic word. No one hands you a score or a grade at the end of an aerobics class, but the game keeps track of your high score and all that.

Am I competitive? P-shaw. Of course not!

Hopefully you all detected the heavy sarcasm coming through the Internet in that last paragraph. I’m so competitive that if I had to chose between playing every inning myself and having my team lose, I’d chose to sit on the bench. The reality of course is that what I ought to do with that competitive fire is make myself into a contributor to the team winning. Now if only I had a little more time to practice, I might be able to do that.

It’s clear to me that physically it’s an uphill battle against age. My fielding skills which were halfway adequate when I started in this league five years ago are now a joke. If I could hit like Jason Giambi, that might not matter so much, but… I hit more like Chuck Knoblauch.

The first game was fun, even if I only got one at bat. We had a lot of players on the bench, so I sat for three innings and played for three innings, but only got one at bat in that time. That’s because it was a low-scoring game without a ton of walks for either team, which made it all the more fun. Our new rival team is last year’s champions, the team in Light Blue. (I’ve no idea who their sponsor was last year, and not this year either.) They are a fun team, and the one that most of the older women in the league have gravitated to. A lot of my old teammates from that Narragansett Electric team of five years back (when we were considered the “old lady” team) like pitchers Brenda and Michelle, are there, and they’ve got one serious stud named Lisa who pitches hard and fast and can hit the ball a ton. If she’s fighting an uphill battle against age, she started out so much further up the hill from the rest of us, we can’t see it.

Bob, our coach, said as we gathered in the dugout before the first game, “Okay, so, this team beat us last year, they beat everyone last year, and that makes me really want to beat their butts.” Okay, he didn’t say butts, but technically there is a no cursing in the dugout rule in our league and I wouldn’t want to get him in trouble by telling you he actually said “ass.”

Well, we went out and beat their ass. How? Two out hits, some good defense, cashing in on some walks that Brenda made, and some calls in the final inning that went our way. They had scored two unearned runs in the first inning, one of them on an RBI triple that Lisa hit. Lisa pitched the first three innings for them, but we scratched two runs off her to make it 2-2. Brenda pitched the final three, and we went up 6-3, but they scored in the final inning and then had the tying runs on with one out.

Oh, so, FYI, we play a six inning game. At one point the league voted to change the rules to make it 7 innings, with strict rules about the need for darkness to end some games before the full seven could be played… but at some point they got overturned and we reverted back to six. With games starting at 5:30, by 7:30–when six innings are typically over–it’s starting to get dim enough that my eyes (and most of the umpires’…) are straining. We’ve got no lights on our field.

So for us “bottom of the sixth” is equal to “bottom of the ninth.” I don’t feel like the last three innings are missing. I feel like the middle three are. Like we play one-two-three, and then seven-eight-nine. For example, for us, by the time it is the fourth, the starting pitchers are starting to get tired, making it more like the seventh.

Anyway, the game ended on a wacky wacky play that I’m not even sure I can describe accurately. It left some players on our team wondering as we lined up to shake hands whether we had won or lost the game. No, I’m not making this up.

There was a ball hit in the infield, a force out was made for the second out but the batter reached, and then we tried to get the runner who was trying for home, but failed, so she was safe, making it 6-5, but meanwhile the batter rounded first thinking about trying to take second while the business at home was taking place… but Bridget, our catcher, gunned he ball to first, and the batter was tagged out while trying to get back to the bag. End of game.

May I say right now, Bridget is awesome. She was awarded MVP of the league in a recent year–it might have been last year or the year before, I can’t remember. She’s also the one who pegged me right in the chest on the day Rob Novotny came and ran the tryout-clinic for the 24 Hour Game. We were supposed to be practicing the flip-to-second on the double play. I used to play second base, remember? She was at short, got the ball, and instead of the soft flip, she sidearm winged the ball hard from ten feet away and hit me square in the sternum. Oof.

I think she was just nervous from us going first and everyone watching. Can you believe that was in 2003? Four years ago. She also used to pitch and I used to hit her pretty good.

She was a star in the league then, and is a star in the league now, and she’s also grown up a lot. I’m not sure when she converted to catching, but in our league the two most important things to winning are a strong catcher and a couple of pitchers who throw strikes.

Anyway, we won the game 6-5, which might be the first time a team I’m on won our first game. The year I played for Narragansett Electric we lost the first game and then pretty much didn’t lose another one. The next year Diane, our coach, quit or was run out of the league or whatever that drama was (I never did get all the details), and Paula took over but we lost all our previous pitchers to one thing or another, had no catcher, and had to pull a couple of teenagers out of the junior league to fill out our roster. We lost every game that year, as I recall. I hit and played well, and was voted an All Star, but I’d rather have the team win, and thanks to that experience I can say that with authority.

The next two years were with Shove Insurance, which Paula’s ex-husband Todd coached the first year (their daughter Megan was our catcher) and last year Todd seemed to split the coaching duties with Dave. But Megan’s off to the military now, and Dave’s daughters are off to other things, and so Shove was broken up and the players, like me, were scattered to other teams.

So the league is at four teams again, after a brief expansion to 6. The last time we were at four, the schedule was nice and neat. We each team played two nights a week, Monday-Wednesday on one week, Tuesday-Thursday the next, in rotation so everyone played everyone an even number of times.

This year, it’s a four team league, but although we played our first game on Tuesday, on Wednesday–which was yesterday–we played again.

Did I mention my legs hurt?

No one was in as good shape the second day. Still no uniforms, and so our players were still in the shirts and caps of past years, though the team we faced seemed to be all in yellow shirts. All except Kayla, another of Todd and Paula’s daughters, who arrived one minute before game time in Bridget’s car–Bridget who we were also waiting for as it’s hard to play without a catcher. They were on an all day trip to Six Flags; Bridget had the most amazing chlorine-frizz hair. Good thing the catcher’s equipment hides it.

It’s a nicely loose team, in large part because Lori, our resident True Jock, keeps everyone laughing. This is one of my old teammates from Narragansett Electric, and she plays hockey in the winter, plus a laundry list of other sports. She’s the best bench jockey I know. Now, in our league, we’re actually prevented by rule from shouting insults at the other team, though there is some good-natured banter going on across sides from time to time. Which means what it comes down to, if you’re going to make fun of the other team, you do it inside your own dugout without letting anyone but your teammates hear.

I’ve decided I ought not try to reproduce our bench talk. Because you might get the idea that we ladies of the diamond are an uncouth lot, or worse, that baseball is a detriment to our feminine comportment.

Did I mention we won this game, too? Shannon and Becky pitched in the first game, three innings each, and were great. Remember what I said about how any pitcher who can throw strikes can do well in this league? It helps tremendously that the team has overall good defense, too. Well, second game, Sarah pitched four and Nora two, and we won, I think, by a score of 5-2. It was 5-0 going into the ninth–I mean, the sixth–but they had their best hitters coming up, they did get a couple, but we stopped the bleeding in time. Again the game ended on a non-standard double play, in which a fly ball was caught and then the runner on first, who had taken off without waiting to see if it would be caught, was doubled off.

We are in first place.

Okay, so I was going to end the entry there, and then I realized I never said a word about what I did personally at the plate.

In the first game, I only had the one at bat. I haven’t seen live pitching since last August, and haven’t even been to the cage. Brenda was on the mound. The first pitch was a ball, the second one was so far inside I not only had to get out of the way but the catcher had to reach out for it–but it was called a strike. I then swung at the next one about an hour before the ball got to the plate. The one after that, I swung only a half hour before it got there. A little anxious, are we?

Before the second game I cadged Crystal, who was on Shove with me last year, to do a wee bit of soft toss for me, just like 10 balls, and I made contact with 9 out of ten. Okay, so my hand eye coordination is NOT 100% shot. The result? I made contact with the baseball in all three at bats.

The first at bat was the worst, in which I popped up between first and the catcher and got another one of my patented Bizarre Base Hits. The ball ended up dropping just fair and then got kicked by one of the opposing players into their dugout. So I got a hit and then was awarded second. I’m not sure if that counts as a ground rule double or an error. The runner on third was awarded home, the one on second got third, etc. I don’t know if I got an RBI for that or not. All I care about is we got a run. See? Good things can happen when you make contact.

The next time up I grounded an outside pitch up the first base line but right to the first baseman. (First basewoman?) Bob’s comment: “Good idea, but… well.” And the last time up I hit a pop fly into short left which sounded pretty solid off the bat, the best “ping!” I’ve gotten in a while, but it was caught. So that makes me 1-for-4 on the season, I think. Which puts me already way ahead of last year when I didn’t get a hit until our second-to-last game. That was one of those Bizarre Base Hits, where the ball went up the third base line, stayed fair, they waited for it to go foul, it hit the bag and then went into foul territory and eventually into the dugout on that side… meanwhile everyone was running, scoring, et cetera, except me who had overrun first and then went back and stood there waiting to find out what the heck happened. They say you should run until you hear the word “foul” and well, I never did since the ball never went foul!

That wacko hit broke my oh-fer and the next day I went four-for-four. And that was the last day of the season.

Bob’s taking us all to the batting cages on Saturday. He says I have a hitch in my swing, which is something new for me. I know I’m still jumping at the ball and swinging too early, too. So maybe we work these things out, and I go on a hitting tear. I can hope.

(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)

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