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November 18 2002 : Oh For Two On The Year

6:06 pm–I pack my batting gloves, glove, contact lens solution, and wallet into a tote bag, my spikes into a plastic grocery bag, and put my “61*” cap on my head. I am ready for my first game of softball, ever. (I’ve decided to try indoor winter softball as a way to stay in shape for baseball season.) The game is due to start at 7 pm sharp at Strike One, the indoor clay baseball/softball facility in Danvers, MA. Each game is only an hour long, so time is of the essence. I figure at will take me about 45 minutes to get there, which will leave me a few minutes to warm up and meet my new teammates when I get there.

6:07 pm–I shut the door of my house only to realize the instant it clicks closed that I have left my keys somewhere inside the house.

6:09 pm–I check the back door and basement door–they’re locked.

6:15 pm–I call around to my friends who may have keys to my house. Hallelejah! Laurie has the spare key on an Ayn Rand key fob. Not only that, she is willing to bring it to me! Now if only she didn’t live ten minutes away and it weren’t so cold outside. She tells me she’ll need to get ready to go out and then she’ll be over. She is a goddess and I hope I can return the favor someday.

6:30 pm–At least I’ve brought a book to read. I am amusing myself reading Sparky Lyle’s memoir of the 1978 New York Yankees season, THE BRONX ZOO, while I wait for Laurie. One of my eyes seems rather blurry and I suspect I have put one of my contact lenses in backwards.

6:35 pm–She’s here! I’m saved!

6:36 pm–I reverse my contact lens.

6:45 pm–Danvers, here I come! As I pull away from the house, I realize the gas gauge is reading “E.” But there is no time to stop.

7:18 pm–I pull into the parking lot at Strike One. The game is one third over! I run to the door and reach the field just as my team is taking their places for an inning… I’m not sure what inning.

7:22 pm–It’s a one-two-three inning. As they go in, I enter the indoor field through the gate in the chain link fence and cross to the “dugout” side. Tom, our team leader yells down to me, “You’re batting after Harry.” “Is that Harry in the batter’s box?” “Yeah!”

7:25 pm–Harry makes out.

7:26 pm–I swing at the first pitch I see, about three feet before it reaches the plate. Damn but it takes a long time for the ball to get there. “Strike one,” the umpire says. In recreational softball where every game has a one hour time limit, there’s no stepping out of the batter’s box. Why bother? It’s not like you have to catch your breath after a brushback pitch. I swing at a pitch near my eyes and I’m not even close. “Strike two.” Strike three is the same exact thing and then I’m back at the bench, which I am too nervous to sit on.

7:29 pm–I receive my official canary-yellow team t-shirt and put it on. Our team has no name yet. Tom tells me I’m going to sub in for Sarah next inning. She’s catching.

7:30 pm–The other team is on the verge of scoring a run. I ask my teammates what the score is. “Two nothing, we think,” one of them answers. They don’t say which team is winning though.

7:31 pm–The other team scores a run. “Three nothing.” That answers that question.

7:40 pm–‘Dip, the one truly athletic specimen on our team as far as I can tell, scores from first on a ground ball fielder’s choice that rattles around on the clay. The entire field is only 90 feet by 90 feet, but the ball takes all kinds of weird hops on the clay surface, which is bouncy.

7:42 pm–I’m behind the plate! I’ve been told all I have to do is pick up the ball on the bounce, and throw it back to the pitcher. And don’t get in the way of the batter. And if it rolls in front of me, pick it up and throw to first. Nothing untoward happens other than the other team loading the bases, but they do not score.

7:46 pm–My next at bat. I swing and miss at the first two and thing, darn it, slow down. I wait and wait and wait and then swing at the third one, and hit a dribbler into the infield. Actually, I have no idea where the ball goes exactly because I’m too busy running to first. It must have gone toward second, because they forced Harry out at second. So I’m on first with one out.

7:46 pm–I realize I don’t know what the baserunning rules are. Am I allowed to tke a lead after the pitch is thrown, or do I have to wait until the ball is hit? I wait until the ball is hit, and I make it to second. On the next batter I make it to third but there are now two outs. The third out is made before I can get home.

7:48 pm–The umpire asks if we’re the home team. It turns out we are. He says we’ll get one more chance to bat after time is called. The final inning starts. I’m catching again–or failing to catch as the case may be. I’m at least just trying not to let the ball hit the umpire, who seems like a nice guy. “You might have better luck,” he tells me while we’re waiting for the batter to change, “if you swing up in the path of the ball.” I file that mental note away. The other team fails to score.

7:50 pm–The buzzer rings to signify final inning. We are up.

7:55 pm–We rally! Little Tom (the other Tom) hits the first pitch for a hit! John beats out a grounder at first! Other cool stuff happens! We tie the game at three-all!

7:59 pm–I learn that recreational softball games can end in ties!

8:06 pm–I’m on the road to Chili’s, the bar down the highway which is our “sponsor.” Each team gets two free appetizers for going there. Free food! We’re there.

8:16 pm–For some reason it takes longer to get seated than it does to play two innings. But that’s okay.

8:35 pm–We start to discuss our team name. Ten of thirteen players are present. I suggest because of the yellow shirts we should be the “Canaries in a Coalmine,” since we play indoors. Rebecca says that is not ferocious enough and suggests “Killer Kanaries.” Tom suggests emailing around to take votes.

9:01 pm–Most people have finished their first beer by this time and food has arrived. “Killer Kanaries” is sounding better and better, and we vote unanimously for it.

9:30 pm–The party breaks up. I realize we’ve spent more time in the bar than at the field. But so what? Our next game is next week at 8pm. Which is good, because that will leave me an extra hour to find my keys.

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