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2003 Women’s Baseball Diary Part 3

Baseball Player Diary 2003, Part 3
Originally posted on June 30, 2003.

June 5

Tonight I volunteered at the ABCD Field of Dreams tournament at Fenway Park. ABCD is Action for Boston Community Development, and the Field of Dreams is a tournament where large corporations who donate a heap o’ money get to play in a six inning game on the field at Fenway Park. The game was a cross between baseball and softball, with regular length basepaths, but a softball in use pitched by a pitching machine. The rules were simple: eleven batters per inning, no matter how many outs, two pitches per batter, no exceptions.

The festivities started in the morning, but my shift was 5pm to 10pm. I arrived right at 5pm and collected my “staff” t-shirt and redeemable food coupon, then went down to the Red Sox dugout to change into my spikes and stow my bag. A light rain was beginning to fall–what a shock–and the temperature hovered around a chilly sixty degrees. Warm air was being pumped in behind the dugout bench, and I sat there for a few minutes, chatting with some other volunteers, before going out to my station.

My job as a bullpen monitor was to help the teams on deck get ready for their game. Well, really, my job mostly consisted of trying to keep the teams off the grass and out of the bullpens, where because of the rain the Red Sox did not want people tramping around. Some of the corporations had brought 25 or more players, all wearing snazzy professional-looking uniforms and newly-ordered matching cleats for the occasion. Others sent slightly smaller squads that looked like they played corporate softball on a regular basis.

I got chatting with he Fleet Bank team, whose players included two women who play for the Massachusetts Mutiny, the women’s professional football team. Janice Barsha was captaining the Fleet squad and led her group through a very professional-looking game of pepper. If I’m not mistaken, some women who used to play in NEWBL jumped ship to play football instead, maybe Kate Titus? And what was Ann-Margaret’s partner’s name? I’m forgetting now. Anyway, we chatted about the people we sort of knew in common.

My partner on bullpen duty was a young woman, 17 years old, named Tianna Carr, who made the final cut with NEWBL and has been drafted onto the Seahawks. “I don’t think I’m going to make it because I can’t travel,” she told me. I replied that only the all-star team has to travel, that they would probably be very interested in having her play the regular schedule because she has a strong arm and she runs well. Looks like I was right.

Not a lot else to say about Field of Dreams other than it was fun to hang out on the field at Fenway. Now my spikes are full of Fenway warning track ground brick.

June 7

Today was team photo day for the Slaterettes “major league” (what they are calling the adults and older teens division). My coach was unable to make it, but I met some of my teammates and we got our uniform shirts. I am on the gray team (no yellow!) and as it turned out all the small size shirts were the single digit numbers. Let’s see, 2, 3, 4, or 5? There was some speculation that Diane had let people pick numbers at practice, but since she couldn’t be there with the list, no one was sure what numbers were not taken. Brenda was pretty sure no one wanted number two, which I found hard to believe, so rather than labor the point any more, I took it.

It’s a fine number, formerly worn by one of my Yankee infield heroes. I am talking, of course, about the late “Old Crow,” Frank Crosetti. A few years ago, when I first got the bug in my ear to actually play baseball, one of the first books I found on the subject was tucked away in the basement of a used bookstore in Madison, WI. “Frank Crosetti’s Secrets of Baserunning and Infield Play” was an old library bound hardback book for school kids, part of a sports instruction series called the Putnam Sports Shelf. Bill Gallo, the cartoonist for the NY Daily News, illustrated it. I’ve read the book every spring for a couple of years now, and the Old Crow continues to be right about everything. “When the ball does come your way, you move in on it if you can. Don’t let the ball ‘play’ you.” “Keep those arms and wrists loose and get them out front to field the ball ahead of your feet.” “A fast start, good range, and sure hands are what a second baseman needs most–I mean after confidence and determination.” It’s 125 pages of coaching advice, written for a grade school audience, which only goes to prove that baseball is a simple game that is hard to master.

I think our first game will be June 19th. Hopefully the final schedule will be sent around by Monday in email, and we’ll practice next week.

After photos were taken, corwin and I headed off to the SABR meeting at McCoy Stadium, a mere five minutes away. We heard research presentations on the greatest rookie pitchers in major league history, and the winning ways of Joe McCarthy and how McCarthy shaped the championship character of the Yankees. McCarthy supposedly told his players they should score the most runs in the ninth compared to any other inning. The current Yankees don’t seem to have caught this message. In 1996 they lead the league in come from behind wins, but this year thus far they are 0-18 when trailing after six innings. We know that because Fox Sports flashed the stat after Juan Acevedo threw one pitch after Roger Clemens left the game with a 1-0 lead… and gave up a three run bomb to Eric Karros. Argh. I hate to say I predicted it. Karros came into the game when Hee Seop Choi was taken away in an ambulance after colliding with Kerry Wood on a pop up. Choi made the catch, then fell and hit his head and neck hard on the basepath and was out cold for several minutes. He has a concussion, we have since heard, but at the time it could have been a broken neck or worse.

By that time we had left the SABR meeting to head to the Dave & Busters in Providence where we camped in front of the big screen at the sports bar. “You watch, Karros will be the hero, coming in for Choi like that,” I said to corwin. Oh, I’m wrong on these predictions all the time, but baseball has this way of making for dramatic turns and creating opportunities for heroes to rise. And I know a good story line when I see one. For Karros, only in the game because of the freak injury, to hit the game winner and bring the Cubs their first ever win over the Yankees (they were swept in ’32 and ’38, right?) and also to deny Clemens his 300th again… all too obvious. Especially sine Acevedo never seems to get the job done unless it is the ninth. So when they pulled Clemens after only 84 pitches and replaced him with Acevedo, predicting disaster was easy.

Here’s my next prediction: Juan Acevedo will be gone as soon as they can unload him. Remember when Carlos Almanzar gave up that game-winner to Mike Piazza on Father’s Day 2001? He was gone the very next day, and Wohlers and Witasick came in. Neither of them worked out too well, either, but the Yankees felt they had to try something else. I think the organization will react the same way to this.

And Clemens? When it comes to drama, his search for 300 has become an Odyssey, so of course it was going to drag on. He faces the Cardinals next.

I suppose I’m glad I’m not a pitcher. Speaking of which, corwin wants to have a wiffle ball game tomorrow. Except that it is raining again. I hear a rumor summer will start in July this year.

June 11

I can’t believe it’s raining again. It was nice yesterday, and rumor has it that my team might have practiced, but I didn’t get a phone call about it, so I didn’t go. Hmm. Maybe I’ll go to the batting cage myself tonight, after the Yankees play. (Unless it’s raining in New York, too…)

I have my schedule, finally. I’m on the Narragansett Electric team! That was my power company when I lived in Rhode Island. The other sponsors are ISL (no, I don’t know what it stands for yet), Carter & Carter (who could be anything from a country music duo to a heavy machinery company…), and Darlington Liquors (self-explanatory, I hope). The only bad news is that some of our games ended up scheduled for Wednesdays, and I’m teaching a writing class on Wednesdays. I’m going to have to miss a third of the schedule, which hurts.

Actually, there is some other slightly bad news, which is that over the past three days I’ve spent about eleven hours working on the submissions we received for The Fenway Project. (This is a SABR project where people who attended a game at Fenway Park during the national SABR convention in Boston last year all wrote about various aspects of the day and the game.) All that time in front of the computer has made my wrist act up–it’s inflamed and burning. I’ve switched my mouse to the left side instead and it isn’t that bad. In fact, after a day and a half, I’m getting used to it. (Did I mention I’m a switch hitter?) I need to throw to build up my arm.

June 21

Today was supposed to be the first day of summer, the solstice. How fitting then that the Slaterettes season got going last night.

The forecast was for rain. What a shock. 40% chance of showers. But the afternoon turned out beautiful, sunny and just 70 degrees. The evening was just as nice, cooling off but not unpleasantly so. Now if only I hadn’t spent most of the evening trapped in my car in traffic. Game time was 6 pm, and when there is light traffic it takes an hour to go from my house to Slater Field. In rush hour traffic in the past that has swelled to 90 minutes. But yesterday was even worse.

As I came down the Southeast Expressway traffic wasn’t just slow–it was stopped dead. I switched my radio from sports talk to the traffic and news station. They reported that the road was blocked for a motorcade. Was Pres. Bush in town and I didn’t know it? So I sat. And sat. Back on the sports talk station they were interviewing Bill James about the Red Sox and statistics. Normally I’d be happy to be listening to James talk. But as time went by, my frustration grew. I had left the house at 4pm, a full two hours ahead of time. But it became obvious as I sat there that not only was I not going to make it there by 5:30 to meet Andrea to warm up, at this point it was questionable I’d be therer for game time.

Well, there was nothing for it. Traffic eventually moved, and it was heavy all the way to Pawtucket. By the time I pullecup to the field it was 6:22, the second inning, and tied at nothing.

I hurried up to Diane Thibeault, the team’s coach, and introduced myself. “Oh,” she said, recognizing my name. “You’re the one who never shows up!”

“Hey, I’d show up if someone would tell me when practices were,” I shot back.

“I’ve been sending you emails,” she answered.

“I haven’t been getting them. And I’ve tried to call…” Then her daughter Karen, who is also on the team, interrupted.

“Your email is like one letter off or one number off or something. That’s what it is.”

Okay, fine, we let it drop. Feeling a bit lost, I went to sit on the bench with my teammates who were rooting for the batter in the box. At that point I wasn’t sure what to do or what they expected of me. Being late, did I have the right to ask into the line-up? Or not, since they hadn’t even seen me practice? Or was I the one being too sensitive about it, and did it even matter? I decided to sit and see what happened.

Two more women arrived after me, so I wasn’t even the last one there. Karen, who was keeping the scorebook, wrote their names in at the bottom of the lineup as the “bench” list. I didn’t notice this at the time. I noticed it two innings later when I took over scoring the book. Should my name be there, too? Why hadn’t she written it in? Or did she just space out and not realize it?

I wrote it in myself, since Diane seemed to be making substitutions based on that list. But shortly after that, she quit making substitutions and just told people to get out there and play the same positions they had been. The women who had been taken out, Ann, Kathy, one other whose name I’m forgetting now, were never put back in. Ann, Kathy, and me are all rookies, our first year in the league. Did that matter? I could totally accept it if there was a reason to keep me on the bench, like I haven’t practiced, they haven’t seen me, AND I was late. But no one said anything about it, so maybe I was just forgotten. I didn’t speak up to say “hey, can I play?” and at the end of the six inning game all I had done was sit, and keep the scorebook. (There are no lights on our field and by 8pm it’s starting to get a bit dim; six innings is the regulation game.)

Honestly, I was having fun just being outside in gorgeous weather, and cheering on my team. We lost 5-1 by the way. Diane gave a nice speech partway through the game, after a pretty bad inning where we gave up three runs all on errors. “I don’t care if what the score is,” she said. “It’s the first game of the season, everyone’s got first game jitters. Don’t worry about it. Just go out and have fun.”

I’d have more fun, though, I’m sure, if I actually played…

We’ve got practices scheduled for Monday and Wednesday this week, which I WILL make it to, even if I have to leave the house at 3pm this time, and then another game Friday. So I am sure I will get on track with my team!

It might have been a blessing in disguise that I didn’t play, because my arm hurt all day. I couldn’t completely rest it from typing, it’s just not possible. I rested it most of Thursday, but Friday I had to answer email. Today it is Saturday and I am typing this one-handed. Left hand. It is slow, painfully slow, but not as painful as aggravating my arm more.

I went to the batting cage today, though. And that felt good. My first round I could barely see the ball. I went to Good Time and the light is really dim in there. But the second round I started to surprise myself a little. I got a good line drive stroke going and was hitting quite a few line shots right over the machine and over second. A bunch of guys were waiting to hit and I heard one say “look at that swing!” Huh. Then I got self-consicous about them watching me and got out of my rhythm, and never quite got that stroke back.

I did something today that I had never done before, to help me catch up with the ball. In the dim light, it was very difficult to time my weight shift because I couldn’t quite see when the ball would release from the throwing arm. So I started, for lack of a better term, waggling my ass. What I was doing was very subtly shifting the tension from one leg to the other, very quickly, such that I could instantly move it to the back leg in time to launch my hands forward to meet the pitch in front. It worked is all I can say.

Tomorrow the NEWBL season is supposed to get going with a double header at Fraser Field. I was thinking about going down there to show my support for the league, even though I’m not playing for them, but the forecast is for, guess what? Rain. So, maybe not.

I hope this time next week I’m writing about finally playing in a game. We’ve got games scheduled for Friday 6pm AND Saturday 12 noon, a quick turnaround with a lot of driving for me. But it will all be worth it once I get on the field.

June 23

I woke up this morning with my arm hurting and the weather gray and chilly. How quickly things can change. After I dismissed my interns this afternoon I hopped in my car and headed for Rhode Island for baseball practice. By that time the sky was blue and cloudless, the temperature was 73 degrees, and my arm was merely stiff. I checked the traffic before getting in the car. The Southeast Expressway, my normal route which had been blocked by a motorcade on Friday, was jammed completely, so I took the Mass Pike to I-95 South instead. As I paid the toll to get onto 95, I heard a traffic report that was deja vu all over again: another motorcade! What the F*** is it with these motorcades? While I was in the traffic stopped dead once again, they announced yet another road, somewhere north, that was also shut down for a motorcade. What the?

Fortunately this stoppage did not last as long as the one I had been in on Friday, and I made it to Slater Field right on time. I parked my car, grabbed my spikes and glove, and walked toward the field. There were a bunch of people on the field already, and a big guy on the mound… the players looked very short next to him… I was just starting to wonder A) was I late? and B) is that my team? when someone called my name. My team was up the hill around the park benches, glaring at the team on the field. Apparently, a junior league team beat us to it.

We took ourselves to a grass field nearby used for soccer, set up using a tree as a backstop, and started to practice. Brenda and I played catch. She is your classic women’s baseball 3B/P… i.e. she throws hard and well. Her arm was still stiff from pitching half the game on Friday but we got to airing it out pretty good, I think. Well, at least 75-80 feet apart. With no bases or points of reference it was hard to tell how far apart we were. We probably could have gotten even farther apart but I didn’t want to push it since it was my first time throwing in how many weeks?

Diane wanted to see a few of us hit who had looked scared at the plate on Friday. Ann, who is in her fifties, a stout, gray-haired paramedic, went first while the rest of us took the field. Diane put me at second, Andrea at short. Diane worked on Ann’s stance and her swing. By the end, she was making pretty good contact given that she was staring right into the sun, which was setting right behind our “center field.” Then Ann went to right field and Sandy came in to hit. Sandy’s main problem is that she’s timid. She’s also only about four foot ten, I’m guessing, which doesn’t help to make her look imposing. I don’t know how old she is, but she seems young because she is so hesitant both at the plate and in the field. But Diane got her swinging a bit harder. Then Nicky, a lefty, came in to pitch–she throws a bit harder than Brenda, and Sandy had to speed up another notch. She was swinging a little late, so a lot of balls came to the right side.

It was a challenge to pick the balls cleanly on that rough ground–you go after a grounder and get the glove down for it and… then you realize the ball has dipped down into a little depression you can’t get the glove into. That happened to me once and it was pretty comical, but not as funny as the one I had take a funny hop at the last moment and roll right up my left arm like Evel Kneivel going off a ramp–boing! The ball popped off my shoulder and Ann had to pick it up in right field. I did get to a few and made two good throws to first, though.

Then Diane wanted to see me hit, so Sandy went to second. My swing always puts a lot of balls in that direction, so she had a lot of chances. By the fourth or fifth bouncer at her, she really made a nice play and the whole team cheered! Diane’s main tips for me were: 1) shorten my stance and stride forward, 2) don’t let go of the bat. She also said I was backing out on strikes inside. I think since we didn’t have a plate neither she, the pitcher, the catcher, nor me, really knew how close to the “plate” I thought I was standing. I think I thought I was further away than I actually was…

Then Debbie came in to hit and I went to left field, but she never hit one toward me. And that was pretty much all we had time for with the sun down and no lights.

Wednesday we get together again. We’re going to go to another field Diane knows to avoid any league conflicts. Let’s hope no motorcades this time.

By the way, did I mention that ever since throwing with brenda, my arm has felt great? Now it’s three hours later and still feeling good.

You’re not going to believe it, but it just started to rain again…

June 27 2003

--Graphic of Cecilia at Bat--And Narragansett Electric has beaten Darlington Liquors 7-3!

I played a small part in this victory, but the thing is, I played. I was in the starting lineup, batting ninth, and playing left field. As it turned out, there was no much action in left, or any other part of the field, in the early innings, as our pitcher, Michelle, alternated between strikeouts and walks. In the top of the first I think bat hit ball only twice–both foul. (It might have only been once…) Diane told me before I took my position “I need a good glove and speed out there.” Hm, okay. As it turned out, I didn’t move much from the slightly worn patch of clover, though.

In the second I came up with a runner on second (Deb had doubled) and no outs, and after swinging at a high one I shouldn’t have, I took an outside pitch to the right side on the ground. I was out at first, but the runner moved to third and Diane gave me a big thumbs up as I came off the field. “See where that runner is?” she asked me gleefully. You betcha!

In the second I fielded one ground ball that went through between short and third, and threw in to the cutoff at short. That was pretty much my sum total of contributions for the night, since before we could turn the batting order again we swapped in people to the field positions who hadn’t played yet.

Michelle tired in the fourth and Nicky, our lefty who throws hard, came in and shut them down for three innings. We actually thought it was only two–our scorer got confused and we thought it was the sixth and final inning when it was only the fifth–and we were up 5-3. In the additional inning we tacked on two more runs, and I coached third base for the first time.

All in all, a very fun time was had by all, at least on our team. Tomorrow, after my uniform comes out of the wash, we take on Carter & Carter at noon.

June 28 2003

Carter and Carter are the team we played in our first game, and they are still just as young and tough as they were last week. They turned two double plays on us and used three pitchers who all throw hard.

I started in left and stayed in this game. It being a Saturday we had some players missing who couldn’t get out of work. Overall we played okay, but we didn’t hit so great. I myself had my three typical at bats: struck out swinging, struck out looking, and grounded out to the right side. The pitcher I struck out looking against could really hit her spots–she got me after I fouled off quite a few, with a perfect pitch on the inside corner that there was no way I could hit. Even our bench could see it–tough pitch! Ah well, something to work on.

I had no chances in the field so nothing much else to report. We practice Monday and have a game Tuesday.

June 30 2003

I woke up this morning from a dream that I was back in my parent’s old house in Scotch Plains, NJ. We were having a thunderstorm, and looking out the back kitchen window, I could see an awesome sight. The lightning was so intense it was like a giant plasma globe in the sky, just continuously snaking purple lightning bolts all over the sky from this central point. The noise was this intense crackling that went on and on! Then I woke up and realized the crackling was my clock radio tuned to static.

Well, later on I went to baseball practice. The entire drive down they were predicting “isolated thunderstorms.” For once, I had almost no traffic (I avoided the Southeast Expressway by taking the Mass Pike to 95 South) so I arrived at the field a half hour early. While I was sitting in the car listening to the radio and waiting for people to arrive, the thunder and lightning arrived.

The lightning was not quite the freak of nature it had been in my dream, but it was intense. The thunder cloud was right overhead, and as the light would flash, the car would shake from the sound of the boom. And then it started to hail, at first tiny pellets, and then chunks the size of lima beans. Well, I thought, looks like I did that drive for nothing. At six p.m. the hail was still coming down, the puddles were getting large, and I thought about heading for home. Then I decided to stick it out a little longer–after all, visibility was awful and did I really want to drive through hail? So I waited another fifteen minutes or so.

Then I saw Diane’s car pull up. A minute later, the sun came out and the rain trailed off to random droplets. Diane got out of her car and went out to the field with something in her hand. It was a tape measure. She was picking out a place for home plate. I went out to help her and we measured out an infield. We had no bases, so we put down bats in place of bases and the tape measure at the “mound.”

She had her girls, Karen, Robin, and Jen Rogers, with her. And then Nicky showed up. “Where are the rest of those cowards?” Diane asked. She got out the phone list and we called the rest of the team–the only one we reached was Lori, who said she was there at six and left because of the rain, but that she’d come back. Well, she never showed, so Diane just hit grounders to the five of us. We practiced turning the double play (hey, guess what? when I really try, I can make the throw!). I also picked the first couple of balls that came my way, but then I found it hard to keep my concentration for some reason. I missed one, and then I missed another one, and my confidence started to flag and I stopped getting good jumps at the ball. Confidence and concentration seem to go together and the less confident I feel, the more distracted I am–the opposite is also true.

Anyway, I don’t care if I boot every ball that comes my way–there’s nothing better than being out in a grassy field on a summer night running around. Okay, that’s an exaggeration–I DO care. Getting better at what I do is part of the fun. But as Diane said “It’s just like learning anything. It just takes practice.” And practice is what I want.

Driving home there was an incredible, gorgeous sunset, covering the sky with magenta stripes. Tomorrow night we play ISL, the only team in the league we haven’t yet faced.

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

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