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2003 Women’s Baseball Diary, Part 2

Originally posted on June 7 2003: Baseball Diary 2003, Part 2.

Photo of ctan in uniform here.

May 15

My arm hurt all weekend. Then again, so did my back, my knee, my neck… it has gotten cold and damp again, if you can believe that, and every part of me that has any nagging injury is aching. And the Yankees are on a losing streak, which makes me feel down, which makes me ache more. This is all very annoying, but doesn’t keep me from doing my morning routine no matter how creaky I get. I’ve added some things to the rehab exercises I did over the winter, and here’s what I’m doing pretty much every day: 100-200 crunch sit-ups, 50 leg lifts with the 5 pound ankle weight–each leg, 10-20 “superman” lifts for my back–lying on my stomach, 10-20 “crawl” lifts (lifting left leg and right arm off the ground, then vice versa), 3 sets of ten wrist curls with the blue Theraband for my elbow/wrist, 3 sets of 10 the other direction, both arms of course, and then sets of 10 lifts with a 3-lb. dumbell for my arms, butterflies, etc… I don’t have names for them all. It all takes about 20 minutes with backstretches thrown in. I’ve been doing this routine, gradually adding to it, for several weeks now.

All the light lifting must be helping. I know because tonight we had batting practice in Pawtucket. About eight or nine of us showed up at the Boys & Girls Club so we could use the field with the lights. It’s a Little League size field, I think, about 200 feet to the fences, 50-60 feet onthe basepaths. I threw with a quiet woman named Kathy to get warmed up and my arm felt fine. The sky cleared for a few brief hours (just while we were out there!) and it actually got up to almost 60! So even if it wasn’t, it SEEMED warm.

Then we took turns hitting and feeding the pitching machine. Actually Tina did almost all the feeding, but I did the feeding when she was hitting. She took a comebacker off the thigh that Brenda hit–ouch.

Anyway, when my turn came, I looked at the assortment of bats, picked up a blue one with a fat barrel and decided I had nothing to lose by trying it. I swung and missed a few times until I got used to it, and then I started making solid contact. I don’t think the ball went any farther, but with a heavier barrel it SEEMS like I can hit the ball with more authority. Not only that, I didn’t hit any off the handle. Hmm. When my cuts were finished I looked at the bat thinking it was maybe 25 ounces (my dinky one is 22) and was surprised to find it was 28 ounces! 28 ounces, 31 inches, and I was not choking up on it. There is that extra 2-3 inches I need to reach the outside pitch… The bat is Sherri’s and she said I can borrow it. But if we don’t end up on the same team, I’ll need to take up a collection to buy one of my own. They run about $99–maybe $79 if you get them on mega-sale. I am stone cold broke right now so for the moment I’ll just hope I can keep borrowing it for a while.

May 17

Today was the WBL Girl Scout baseball clinic at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. Talk about fun–there were about 125 girls, teenagers mostly it seemed, who took a baseball clinic with us, then had dinner, watched the Pawsox game, and then got to watch A League Of Their Own on the giant scoreboard screen and sleep overnight in sleeping bags on the outfield grass. The only drawback–it’s freezing! They are expecting it to hit the low forties tonight. Figures–every time we camped out when I was a Girl Scout it was like 20 below!

I got there around 1:30 for the 2pm clinic. I thought there would be a lot more of us, but it was just seven. Me, Deb and Tina from the Slaterettes, and four women I knew from NEWBL, Emily (pitcher), Susie (second base), Scrappy a.k.a. Christina (third base), and Maryanne (outfield). I’ll probably see the four of them tomorrow at NEWBL practice, too.

We split up to different sections of the field and each took 15-20 girls with us, and some baseballs. I was sent to the outfield, but I know even less about playing the outfield than I do about the infield, so the first thing I did was pair my girls up and start them throwing the ball and playing catch. Most of them had not thrown a baseball, or hadn’t since they were in tee-ball league when they were eight. Then since we were supposed to be working on outfield stuff I had them throwing “pop ups” to each other. The girls were free to move from station to station if they wanted. Maryanne was teaching them to do crow hops in centerfield. Emily was showing them the ready position in the infield. After about a half hour of that, Sam Horn, a former Red Sox and Pawsox player, gave a short hitting clinic. I think most of what he said went in one ear and out the other for most of the girls, but I noticed the seven of us “instructors” were all listening to him intently. He talked about the difference between hitting the inside, down the middle, and outside pitch, and then did some soft toss to Emily and Maryanne to demonstrate–pulling the outside pitch, hitting the middle pitch up the middle, and taking the outside pitch the other way. Then we went out to shag while some of the braver girls tried it.

Sam was great with the girls and we had a lot of fun. Then he signed autographs for everyone–us included. He apparently has a baseball academy (called “Around The Horn” I think…) and at the end he took all of our names and phone numbers because I guess he is looking for instructors.

I don’t know enough to teach baseball–are you kidding me? But I will. After all, I’ve already taught skiing and tae kwon do professionally, why not this? After I gain some skills of my own, of course!

Tomorrow is the first informal practice for NEWBL hopefuls. More later!

May 18

Today was practice with NEWBL on the newly renovated Fraser Field in Lynn. It was my first time on a “synthetic infield” and let me tell you, it’s not Astroturf. It feels like real grass and real earth. They’ve done a beautiful job leveling the field and renovating the stadium. The North Shore Spirit men’s independent league team are all set for their home opener next week.

There were about twenty to thirty women there today, most of whom I knew from my stint with the league two years ago. Susie Santos is still one of the slickest-fielding second basemen (basewomen?) I’ve ever seen. For my part, I picked up every ground ball that came my way, which was a vast improvement over last year’s practice, where the first one I missed and the second one bounced and hit me in the eye. (Coincidentally, that was the day of my first SABR Hot Stove meeting, that night at a local pub, and I had quite a shiner.) Not only that, I was actually making the throw to first base. When it came time to turn the 6-4-3 double play, though, Megan told me to sit out. I think she was trying to impress the coaches and owners who were there observing. So I watched Susie, Kelly, and the rest dance across the bag just in time to receive the throw and then wing it to first. No, I’ve never done it but I am confident that I can…

Then we went to the outfield which is a different story. I just can’t catch a fly ball to save my life. OK, that’s an exaggeration. For some reason I am better at snagging the ball when I am on the run than when I am camped under it. The ball will be coming down right to me, and then at the last second… I’ll miss it. Obviously I’m doing something wrong, judging something off or getting my glove in the way or something… but no one has told me what. Not something I can work on indoors with Cheryl.

I don’t play at the level that this league does. Even if I could catch a fly and turn a double play, I don’t have the experience level and the knowledge that they do. One of the Spirit owners Al Malvanos (spelling?) and Coach Perrone (from Salem State) came down and gave a little pep talk. Al stressed again how committed Nick Lopardo and the Spirit ownership are to women’s baseball and making this league work, and both he and Coach Perrone were impressed by what they saw on the field that day. They were especially impressed with the arm strength they saw on a lot of the players, he said. I doubt he was talking about me, but there are a lot of women in the league with guns. They talked about their aspiration to really make the league a leader in the country, and the first step toward real women’s professional baseball. I am definitely in over my head here and if I make it it will be because they decide I am coachable enough to work on as the season goes on. My sense is, though, that to get the league going they would rather get players that are ready right out of the gate. Which makes sense. But I am going to try out anyway.

May 24

We were supposed to have another NEWBL practice today, but it was cancelled for the holiday weekend, and it’s probably going to rain anyway. The whole spring has been cold and rainy, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the majors or the minors, the park league or Little League, the rain hits you just the same.

June 4

Well, tonight was NEWBL tryouts. I haven’t done anything lately. Between work and going to Los Angeles for a business trip and the weather absolutely sucking, there’s been no opportunity to throw at all. It showed. Tonight I could only huck the ball about 75 feet consistently and I couldn’t get any zip on it. Oh well.

I showed up at the field at about 5:30 and there were about thirty women there waiting around. We were each given a white T-shirt with a number on the back (I got #38) and “LADY SPIRIT: Women’s Professional Baseball” on the front. By 6pm the number had swelled to about forty five and we waited another 15 minutes under gray and threatening skies for some latecomers who had been stuck behind an accident on the highway to arrive.

First they had us jog back and forth, back and forth, then run low to the ground with the glove backhand to the ground, sidestep, and carioca (so that’s what they call that front-to-back dance step!). And we paired up and threw. It was about 59 degrees but we were nicely warmed up after that. I was paired with a woman named Kerry who threw so hard I think I have a bruise on my hand. Just as we were warmed up, though, they had us sit down and Al and Coach Perrone gave a speech. Coach Perrone introduced the rest of the coaching staff and told us when he first got interested in the position, he had the same male chauvanist thoughts you’d expect–i.e. can they really make the throw from deep at short? But he was converted by what he saw at the practice and was very enthusiastic about the high level of play he was going to expect in the league.

We got good and stiffened up while we sat there, but it wasn’t too bad. After that it was a ground ball box drill, just taking grounders and throwing them back to the person hitting them, not to first. I did not do as well as I did at tryouts. I let one go through my legs, got a few off my foot, one went off my glove… I made probably 50% of the chances. I was not nervous, which was interesting, because I expected to be. I guess all that positive visualization I’ve been doing the past two weeks when it was too crummy yo go outside really worked in that regard. The ball would come off the bat, and I would go through the motions and there wasn’t an opportunity to be nervous. But I wasn’t as sharp as I can be. Rusty from two weeks on my ass, I guess. And my arm… Caitlin was catching for the hitter (I think it was Bama…) and not once did I get the ball all the way to her, 90 feet away.

I did turn a double play though, so go figure. We did the 5-4-3 double play. The first try I had the throw to me went wild and I tried to stretch off the bag for it, but it went wide. The second one I got a nice feed chest high and turned and threw right to the first base bag–at her feet, which she scooped. So that was 90 feet. It was probably the furthest I threw it all night.

It started to rain halfway through. That steady light rain that just makes the ball and grass wet, but not wet enough to stop. We worked on taking the throw from the outfield and being the cutoff. By then I had built up my usual mental block about throwing and would take four steps toward my target before letting it go. Interesting that I call it my “usual” mental block, because now I realize that’s partly what it is. I’m giving up on the throw before it’s even complete. Got to stop that. More positive visualization…

Then we did a pop up drill with a tennis ball and a raquet. A coach would hit the ball a couple hundred feet in the air and we’d try to catch it. The guy who was hitting for our group couldn’t hit them straight up, so we were mostly having a sprinting drill! That was fun, but I didn’t catch any. The one that I got under before it came down, same problem as catching a baseball… something goes wrong right before it hits my glove and I miss it. I wish I could see myself because I could probably figure out what I’m doing to sabotage myself mechanically and adjust.

Kudos to Coach Perrone and his staff for their obvious struggles with what to call the players. You could see a little cringe on the guys from time to time as they’d say things like “Okay, ladies, can you all come over here,” or “That’s it, girls, bring it in.” Ladies makes it sound like we’re old ladies, and girls makes it sound like we’re all ten year olds. But “women” just doesn’t sound right, does it? Can you imagine shouting out, “could all you women come here?” or “okay, women, good job?” By the end of the night Coach Perrone had settled for the group noun “guys,” which works perfectly well and is the closest thing to a gender-free noun we have in modern english, along with “people.” “Great job, guys.” “Okay, people, see you on Saturday.” “Guys” is probably what he’s used to saying anyway, and he should just keep it up and not worry about it.

Anyway, it was not by best night, but I think even my best wouldn’t cut it in this league. Not with the plans they have and the quality level of the product they want to put on the field. Coach Perrone said there would be cuts made that night and they would post the names of those they want to see back again on the Internet by noon tomorrow. “If you get cut, don’t see it as an exit from baseball,” he said. “Just see it as a detour. Now you know what you have to do, so work hard and come back next year and try again.” Of course he also said “most of you are young, high school, college, so keep working.” I’m not in that category and the clock is ticking for me on the baseball years left in my body. But if I get cut, I’ll play in Pawtucket and keep dreaming.

June 5

As expected, I got cut. Tonight I’m helping out with a charity tournament at Fenway Park which should be fun. I’m a bullpen monitor and have to wear my cleats. After last night’s rain, my spikes are completely caked with mud. I better shine them up before tonight. Saturday is team picture day for the Slaterettes Majors division so I will be down there at nine a.m. to get my uniform and meet my teammates. They had a practice while I was in L.A. so I still don’t know who they are. Our coach is Diane Thibeault. Please, please, don’t let our shirts be yellow…

(Re-posts of my 2003 player diary will be continuing daily! Tune in tomorrow for more!)

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

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