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Women’s Baseball Player Diary, Part 4

Originally posted on July 24, 2003.

July 1 2003

Narragansett Electric (that’s my team) beat ISL tonight. The final score was 9-4, I think, though it could have been 9-6. I know we were leading 6-4 in the fourth, having scored all six runs in the first inning when the ISL pitcher/coach, Darry, just didn’t have it. The first three runs came in on walks and hit batters, two more on ground outs. I batted third tonight and walked my first time up, moved to second and third both on walks, and scored on a ground out. My second time at the plate–which was still in the first inning–I faced another pitcher, a woman named Paula who threw such a soft ball that she induced five or six soft comebackers to her in the game. I grounded to first and was tagged out in the baseline, but I think a run scored on that, as well… we lost track after a while. (That’s why they keep a scorebook on the bench!)

In the field I played second for the first few innings. I made one put out at second but had no chance for a double play. And I had a chance at a pop up that fell between me and the pitcher… after it fell I wondered, shouldn’t the infield fly rule have been called? But, whatever. ISL (still don’t know what that stands for) loaded the bases that inning, but Michelle got out of it. She was pitching really well tonight, throwing a lot of strikes, and getting a lot of strikeouts, even on their good hitters. Then Nicky came in to pitch the final two innings and nail it down. All in all a good game.

The only bad news of the day is that we’re not going to the Roy Hobbs tournament in Washington, DC this weekend. With each team guaranteed to play four games, we would have needed a lot of pitchers, and with the holiday we just couldn’t get enough pitchers to go. I can’t go to the other tournaments this year (Montreal, South Bend…) because of other commitments, so I’m a little disappointed. But if I play again next year I will try to keep my schedule a little more open. I’m sure by next year I’ll also have better skills, a stronger throwing arm, and more confidence.

Our next game is Monday. Coach may call us to try to get us to practice on Sunday, but if not, maybe I’ll try to get some time in the cage or throw with corwin over the weekend.

July 3 2003

No practice or game today. I wore an off-the-shoulder dress to a tea this afternoon and when I got home I noticed in the mirror my neck is noticeably browner than my shoulders. I am getting a “baseball tan.”

July 7 2003

We beat Darlington Liquors 12-0 today, in a five-inning game that was called on account of darkness. We batted around in two different innings, and although the other team did get men (women?) on base several times, they never scored. Their best chance was in the first when Michelle was a little wild, and when our fielding wasn’t the best it has been–they loaded the bases with a walk and two soft hits, one of which should have been a force at second. I was there with my foot on the bag but Andrea at short picked up the slow roller and threw to first too late to get the batter out. But Michelle struck out the next batter to get out of the jam. Another time they threatened in the fourth, and Stacey, who was playing second by then, let a ball go through her legs. But on the next batter she turned a neat 4-4-3 double play by tagging the runner and then throwing to first to get out of it.

I did two things I’ve never done before today: I popped up to second (twice!) and I played center field in the fifth. I didn’t have a chance to do much but field a grounder that got through the infield out there, but it was a new perspective on the game. The whole outfield is clover and this week it bloomed. I would have batted in the sixth but by then it was 8pm and the umpires decided it was getting too dark for safe play. Tonight the sky was overcast so we didn’t have the usual afterglow, and the balls were starting to look a bit dim, even the nice white game balls. Ah well. We practice tomorrow, and then Wednesday there is a game, but I’m off to Denver for the SABR convention.

When I come back, dammit, I’m determined to hit a ball out of the infield. Don’t ask me why, but I am confident that I can hit. I just haven’t yet. I know that I will, I just haven’t gotten it right yet. Feet look good, stance looks good, hands look good, and I’m swinging at strikes… it’ll come. Diane’s advice today: “don’t worry about it.” So I won’t.

I’m really enjoying playing for Diane. In fact, overall, it looks like our team is always having more fun than the other teams, even when they’re beating us. There is a lot more chatter from our bench for our hitters, and from the infield to the pitcher; we’re just having a ball. It helps that Diane has a good sense of humor and no one ever feels worse than necessary when they do something dumb like swing at a pitch over their head or throw the ball away. It’s very clear she cares about the outcome of the game, so do we all. But no one cares to the point of making everyone else tense or freaky about it.

Now if only we can beat Carter & Carter. I’ll have to root for my team from afar on Wednesday.

July 8

Woke up this morning with my back completely “thrown out.” Argh. I woke up with it pretty bad yesterday too, but I stretched it out right before the game and cracked it, and it felt great through the whole game. After the game I went back to my car and sat down and lean over to take off my spikes and it started to hurt again then. I’m wondering if this is the same phenomenon as the black belt thing which happens to me regularly–I don’t feel any of the many nagging aches and pains I have at all, until I’m in the locker room taking the belt off. And then it’s like, ouch. Just goes to prove once again how large the mental component of these endeavors is…

Anyway, I quit taking ibuprofen over the July 4th weekend, after being on it for two straight weeks for my arm, because I want to give my stomach a rest. So I don’t want to pop a bunch now–since I go to Denver tomorrow for several days, I won’t be typing or doing anything else to aggravate my arm, I hope. So it’s ice and heat, stretching, etc. for me today. Right now it’s so painful and stiff it’s difficult to get in and out of a chair. But I have practice tonight! I better go get the ice now.

So I just remembered something I meant to write down last night. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I really haven’t been nervous. I wasn’t nervous for tryouts (even NEWBL tryouts), and I haven’t been nervous for games. Michelle said to me on the bench yesterday before the game that she still gets nervous before every game, moreso now that she’s pitching again. And I realized I really haven’t been. Yeah, my blood pressure goes up when I’m in the box and Darry’s throwing wild, but it goes back down when I force myself to focus.

And I’ve decided to try a more patient approach at the plate–more like what I used to do–instead of swinging at the first good pitch I see. Well, maybe depending on the pitcher. There’s that one big blond girl on Carter & Carter who can really hit her spots. But for everyone else, if they’re throwing a lot out of the strike zone, why swing until you have two strikes on you? I think I prefer hitting with two strikes because then I stop thinking so much–I just “think” about making contact and protecting the plate. That doesn’t mean I hit better (yet), but I have a better chance of getting a base on balls. This was the style I used in the NEWBL game I played and in the scrimmages. I’ve just been so eager to hit the ball the past two weeks that I haven’t been doing that. Last night I swung at the first pitch both times–both looked like pretty good pitches to hit–and popped them both up. Time to have a look at the Louisville Slugger book of Hitting Faults and Fixes…

July 14

Tonight was the All-Star home run derby, and I had plans to go to practice in RI and then meet up with corwin at Kimberly, JB, and Ted’s to watch the derby on ESPN. At practice we had eight in the field, one at bat, and one pitching. Karen batted first and she makes a lot of contact so the fielders were pretty busy. I played first! Gee, first base is easy for me when the infielders make good throws, and impossible when they don’t. By and large, though, everyone was making good throws so we racked up seven or eight “outs” in a row. I took a few grounders to the bag myself, also. I also made one long run into foul territory to try to get a pop up, but it hit the fence. Most of the foul pops came pretty close to hitting the cars in the driveway across the street…

Beth then tried her hand at pitching, and she throws strikes! Looks like she’ll probably get in a game as a pitcher pretty soon.

We were having so much fun we didn’t even realize how late it was… until the ball was starting to get hard to see. Oops, 8:30…

I hurried north listening to the HR Derby on the radio, but found when I got to the house that they were watching it on TiVo about a half hour behind, so I didn’t miss that much!

I think I kind of like first base. But I have to learn when/how to go off the bag to get the wild throws…

July 17

We played Darlington Liquors tonight an beat ’em 12-4 or thereabouts. After it was 8-4 in our favor, I stopped counting. I played right field the whole game, but had no chances out there. In the first, Brenda was on the mound, and although she loaded the bases, we got out of it only giving up one run. Then we came to bat. Nicky batted fourth, and me fifth. When she came to the plate, the bases were loaded (Kathy led off the game with a walk). Nicky hit a ball hard that would have been a two run double, but then Nicky got herself in a rundown between second and third so the third runner scored. And then Nicky ended up sliding into third safe!

So I went up there thinking what I usually do–just ground it to the right side and there’s an RBI… Actually I have no memory of where it went now–maybe I didn’t even look. I just hit it and ran like heck for first, and guess what? I got a hit! I eventually ended up at third after another hit and then a walk to load the bases again, but the third out was made before I could cross the plate.

Second inning, Brenda couldn’t seem to get the height right on her pitches–some were low in the dirt, and some were high, up around the batters’ eyes. We gave up three runs, but it didn’t seem that bad. Especially since in our half of the inning we batted around again. This time I walked, pushing Nicky to second, and then we “stole” on a passed ball/wild pitch. That was fun. They want to change the stealing rule in our league because since we are currently not allowed to take a lead until after the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, we are at a disadvantage when we play regulation tournaments. But honestly, with the pitching the way it is in our league, we have lots of chances to move up. We piled on the runs.

I came up again in the third–that’s what happens when you keep turning the lineup over, and got hit in the hip with a pitch. I ended up scoring… I can’t remember if it was on a hit or a fielder’s choice or what. The pitcher ended up hitting three of our batters that inning, and had to leave the mound–apparently there’s a rule that if a pitcher keeps pitching after hitting three batters in an inning, the game is forfeit. (Boy, Pedro wouldn’t like that…) I think we had five HBP in a game last week, but no one mentioned the rule then. Anyway, they put in a pitcher I hadn’t faced before, who threw a lot harder.

Against her, in the late innings, our team kept scoring, but not as prodigiously. I struck out twice, both times on a pitch that tailed away from me. The first time, it was about belt high, but I swung and missed. The second time, I took the pitch tailing low and away for a called strike, so when it came again I kind of had to swing, but didn’t catch up to it. Maybe I should have taken a little step that direction and tried to inside out it. Everyone hit a lot of foul balls off this pitcher (whose name I didn’t get) so she was keeping the ball moving. She racked up several strikeouts.

But by then Nicky was pitching for us, and she was racking up the strikeouts as well. So when all was said and done, Darlington didn’t score again after the second, and we did. Some of it was skill, but some of it was luck, too, breaks going our way. Balls hit right to fielders, stuff like that. Doesn’t make it any less fun to win, though. That old cliche is right: it’s a fun game to play, but even more fun to win.

After the game, Diane gathered us around for a little pep talk. “Guess what?” she said. “The ‘old lady team’ is in first place.” The only team that has beat us is Carter & Carter, and apparently they have been beaten recently by both Darlington and ISL. (We were supposed to play them last Wednesday–the game I was going to miss because of my trip to Colorado–but the game was rained out.)

This Saturday we face ISL–I can’t play because I’m running an event here in Boston. And I’m going to miss two games in the next two weeks because of the writing class I am teaching. That bums me out, but at least I will still be making it to practice and there are two other games that I can be there for! After all, I’ve got to keep my hitting streak going…!

July 20

Wheeee! Wow, am I tired! After running a big event on Friday and Saturday, I got up early today to go to Pawtucket for a pro-style baseball clinic with Rob Novotny, former Texas Rangers scout and vice president of American Women’s Baseball.

He ran us through an “individual workout” program that included running (short sprints, carioca, etc.) and throwing–the two things I need to do most! We did dry cuts in hitting, just working on stance and timing, and then we did fielding, taking grounders and working on the double play. He showed us some great techniques in footwork for turning it, and also how to feed the ball to your DP partner–after on the first run through the shortstop grabbed the ball only about five yards from me and hucked it full force right at me. She hit me right in the breastbone with the throw! Ow. Ron also timed our throws with the radar gun and stuff like that. I never found out how slow I was throwing, but it was probably pretty slow…

Anyway, turns out Rob is on a crusade not only to travel around and visit tons of women’s baseball programs around the country to spread the knowledge of things like how to make the DP flip, but also to recruit players for a special 24 Hour Game that AWB is planning for October. So the clinic was a tryout for the game, as well. I hadn’t really thought about that when I signed up for it–I just figured it was a chance to learn something. But then at our lunch break Rob explained what the 24 hour game is about.

If you had the choice to do one of the following things, which one would you pick?
1) Make history and get into the Hall of Fame
2) Further the cause of women’s baseball as well as improve your own play
3) Save lives

I think most people would pick #3. Well, according to what Rob told us, we can do ALL THREE just be participating in the 24 Hour Game.

The 24 Hour Game is the equivalent of the AIDS Ride or the Walk For Hunger or the breast cancer runs, etc… only on a baseball field. Every player needs to garner pledges from sponsors. The game will probably go 100 to 130 innings, and they need 136 players to do it. Players would go in shifts of 4 hours or so–no one would have to play the whole 24 hours! The whole event will bring a lot of attention on women’s baseball, but also draw attention to the cause they have chosen to support, which is the efforts of US Doctors For Africa to help African mothers with HIV.

In the area of South Africa where the efforts are being directed, there are 60,000 people for each doctor. Here in the US, the likelihood of a baby getting HIV/AIDS from an infected mother during childbirth is down to 2% thanks to the proper administration of drugs and surgical technique. In South Africa, the transmission rate could be as high as 40%. What would it cost to supply the necessary drugs and technique so that huge numbers of babies could be born virus free, without the death sentence on their heads? USDFA says that it costs about $125 to $175 per birth. So, think about it. Raise $1000 to play baseball and save 7-8 lives…

But, I thought to myself, there is no way I am going to make it through this tryout. I’m not one of the top 100 women players in this country. But then Rob explained that the purpose of the tryout was two fold. One was to give us the individual workout techniques so we can keep doing them and be in great shape to play in October. Two was to evaluate the skill level of each player so she can be matched up with other players of equivalent level. So it sounds like it is up to me to make the commitment, raise the money, and play!

I’ve sent in my application already. Once I hear if I’ve been approved, which I hope I will be, I’ll start formally fundraising. In addition to the 24 Hour Game, the festivities include another professionally coached baseball clinic, a tournament, and some other stuff, too.

My head is still spinning a little about it. The information on the game is going to be archived in Cooperstown. Steven Seagal is going to be a spokes-celebrity. I could be playing baseball in a game that is webcast to the world. And I could help save lives. How can I say no? If they’ll let me, I’m doing it!

(Re-posts of my 2003 play diary are continuing every day for the next week or so here at Why I Like Baseball. Tune in tomorrow for more!)

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