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Women’s Baseball Player Diary Part 5

Originally posted on August 16, 2003.

July 26 2003

I had to miss Wednesday’s game because of the writing class I’m teaching, but I heard we won. That made the team’s record 6-2 (with two rainouts and one game cancelled for lack of umpires) before today’s game. The only two losses were both to the same team: Carter & Carter. We played them today.

We beat them by so much that they abdicated after four innings.

The game started at 10am instead of 9am, so that a game that was stopped in the middle for rain last week could be finished first. So we started an hour late as it was.

Our team pattern seems to be to take pitches until we find out if the pitcher on the mound has much control. Usually they don’t, especially in the early innings. So we build up a lead by getting a lot of people on with walks and hit-by-pitch and a few hits here and there. Our own pitchers are often a little wild to start the game, too, but somehow we usually hold them.

Well, today we batted around in the first inning, and then we batted around again in the second inning. At this point I can’t even remember what I did and when. Some walks, I also got hit in the sneaker… it’s hard to keep track of who did what when the game gets that out of hand. At one point it was 14 – 4, I think, or maybe it was only 14-2. The lead at the end of four was fifteen runs (18-3? something like that) and two hours had gone by. Doc, the C&C coach, saw how tired his pitchers were getting (I lost track of how many of them there had been…) and threw in the towel.

Did I mention baseball is more fun when we win?

July 28

We had a game against Darlington Liquors that had the most exciting finish of any game we’ve played thus far. We’ve had a lot of blowouts, as I’ve mentioned. Not tonight.

Brenda was really on her game, throwing strikes, even mixing in som breaking balls that had nice wrinkles in them. At one point the umpire, Tom, joked that he was going to have to check her pockets for illegal substances or implements. We got her a lead with a run in the first, but not our usual first inning explosion. Then got another four runs in a pretty good inning–I walked on four pitches, went to third on a double off Nicky’s bat, but there were two outs and Sherri grounded out to end the inning.

Unfortunately our infield had one of those freak innings in the fourth, where a lot of grounders bounded off gloves and other weirdness. They ended up getting four runs off Brenda that inning, who didn’t deserve such a fate when she had two strikes on every batter and their soft hits were just not being handled by the infield. I was in right field at the time and helpless to do anything about it. That put the score at 5-5 going into the fifth inning.

In the top of the fifth we did not score. So going into the bottom of the inning, with it starting to get dark, we had a feeling we needed to hold them or it was possible they might call the game off after 5 and declare a winner. With two outs they had one on and the batter at the plate sent a ball deep into left center. Sherri, who normally catches but didn’t this time, was out there and had to chase it down. She had to run all the way to the fence, grab the ball. She fired a huge throw to Beth at short, her cutoff, who threw the ball right to Jen at the plate, who tagged the runner out to end the inning. What a great play! Tie game!

As predicted, the ump then called the game for darkness. We will have to play one more inning against them at some later date.

July 29

Diane, understandably, wanted to work on our defense tonight in practice. But she gave a really good speech first. I can’t recreate it here, I just can’t do her justice. But the gist of it was, look, don’t get down on yourselves, you’re a great team, and the bad inning was a learning experience. Among other things, she said, she learned some of the limitations and abilities of the team. She probably won’t play Stacey at third again, but she probably WILL play Beth at short and Andrea at second again. She also said it was her fault for leaving Brenda in there too long, that she should have just brought Nicky in to pitch and not listened when Brenda insisted her arm was fine. Brenda really had pitched well, but sometimes you need to turn the tide.

In practice, Brenda played third. When I got up to bat she was starting to get bored, because no one was really pulling the ball. She lit up a cigarette and was yelling to me to hit one to her. “Come on, knock the butt out of my mouth!” I don’t think she thought I really would, but then I hit one right toward her and she had to put the butt in her mouth to free her hand to field the ball. Then I hit another one toward her. Interesting–I’ve never been able to pull the ball before. Maybe I just needed the right incentive.

Overall I’ve shortened my batting stance and when I remember to let the bat head droop a little back toward the umpire/catcher, which was Diane’s suggestion, I am able to fire the barrel a little more aggressively. I then hit a couple of liners and hard hoppers to short stop that sounded really good off the bat, but still probably would have been outs in the game. (Andrea handled them pretty nicely.) I also had one hard shot up the middle that went off Lori, who was pitching at the time, who then shouted “Hey, I’m on your team, remember?” I guess I was hitting the ball pretty hard, but I’m still generally not getting it out of the infield. The hits I’ve had in games were just the ones that went through. Something to work on…

Tomorrow’s game I have to miss for that class again, and there are no games this weekend because of the Montreal tournament, which I’m not going to. Our next game is Wednesday of next week–our nemesis Carter & Carter again. After the spanking we gave them last time, though, we feel pretty confident we can beat them.

Then we’ve got the New England Classic tournament, one more regular season game, and the league all-star game. Unless we’re going to make up the three cancelled games, that will be it for the season. Hard to believe it’s August already, but it is!

August 6

Tough game tonight. We won it 9-2–beating Carter & Carter once again, in a darkness-shortened four-inning game. The tough part was that Brenda, who took the mound for the top of the fifth, got hit in the face with a ball and broke her nose. Hardly anyone saw it happen–it was during warmups. Somehow Nicky threw her a ball she wasn’t ready to receive and it got her right on the nose. Brenda went down immediately, her hands on her face. I was there for that game at Fenway Park when Bryce Florie got hit in the face with a line drive–this wasn’t quite so dire, but we were all pretty shook up nonetheless. It took about twenty minutes to get Brenda off the field–it was a while before she could stand up and get the blood flow stanched. Thank goodness Diane is an M.D. and keeps the medical kit at the ready. Once we got Brenda off the field, Diane made some phone calls to surgeon friends of hers to get them down to meet us at the hospital. Well, not all of us. Even though it was pretty dark, the umps for the game, two really young guys, decided we should keep playing. So Anne took Brenda off to the hospital and the rest of us stayed to play.

There was perhaps a bit of controversy about that–it sounded to us like the umps wanted to call it, and by the rule it is their decision, but Doc, the C&C coach, pressured them to keep the game on. I was reminded that Doc was the one who was an hour late to photo day, too. The league decided to just take one group photo of all the major division players there, and did, instead of doing each team, since there were so many absentees and since Doc’s team didn’t even have their uniform shirts because he had them with him. As the photographer was packing up, Doc finally showed, and then forced the photographer to take a photo of his team, also. Is he one of those men who believes the rules can always be bent for him specially? I don’t know him that well, obviously, so I can’t judge. You figure anyone who puts in the time and energy to volunteer coach is a good person at heart. But jeezus, we already sent one player to the hospital who didn’t see the ball coming back to her, did he want it to be one of his players next? The umps saw sense when they realized they couldn’t even see the ball coming in from the pitcher. Thank goodness.

Anyway, we remain in first place as far as we know. It would appear we’ve lost only two games, while our nearest competitor has lost five. So with two games left to play (three, if you count the one inning we need to pay to settle the one tie we had), we’re basically a mathematical lock for first place.

Tonight we also voted on our All Star team selections. Diane had us vote instead of her picking. What she said was “As far as I’m concerned you’re all All Stars. We’re the best team in the league, so what I’d like to see is, hey, let them pick All Stars from the other three teams and then let that team play us!” But that’s not how they’re doing it, so we had to pick six.

It was hard to decide who to vote for. I narrowed it down to eight, but then I just had to cross two people off my list at random. Everyone has contributed one way or another this season–it was hard to have to leave people off.

Saturday we play the makeup inning against Darlington Liquors, and then we have a makeup game from a rain out against ISL. By the way, I finally found out what ISL is. Insurance Specialists something-or-other. And Carter & Carter is a construction company, apparently.

August 9

Ouch. I had my worst day at the plate ever today–I was never on base once. Three at bats, three strikeouts. Tony, who is usually a very consistent umpire, today was calling balls that were at my ankles strikes. Even moving far up in the batter’s box, I couldn’t golf those low pitches. I fouled off a lot of balls today, but it was either swing and miss the low pitch, or take the low pitch for a called strike. Can’t hit it either way, may as well go down swinging. ow that I think about it, I had a strikeout just like that the other night, too, when the young ump was calling the really low stuff, too. I guess I need to learn to hit that unhittable pitch.

The plan today was we were going to show up at the field around 10:30, so we would be ready to play one inning against Darlington Liquors after their game with Carter & Carter. But when we got to the field, there was no one there. Eventually someone called Sarah, the D.L. coach, who told them Carter & Carter couldn’t get enough players and so were going to reschedule the game. This set off another round of grumbling about how Doc wants to make his own rules–technically if you can’t get enough players for a game, you forfeit. Why Darlington would let them off like that, we don’t know. But anyway, it meant that no one was there, and the DL team didn’t come down until 12 noon.

My first at bat of the day was in that inning, the sixth. We did’t score, but neither did they. We scratched out a run in the seventh, though, and then held them scoreless in the bottom of the seventh, to add another W to the win column.

Between games Diane gave a little speech where she told us this was the firts year she coached since she had left the league years ago, after he husband had died. Joseph Thibeault had been president of the league, and he and Diane had often coached against each other, and sometimes umpired together. After he died, and the kids wanted out of the league, she gave it up. Diane got pretty choked up at that point, and so did we. “Thanks for giving it back to me,” she said, and we all clapped. Then she looked up at the sky and said “You see, Joe? They’re good kids. Take care of ’em.”

Then came the game against ISL. They had a girl named Renee on the mound, #3, whom we had never seen before. She had almost no windup and a very tricky delivery–well, not tricky exactly, but just a very very small arm motion, almost like she was short-arming the ball, so it came from behind her ear. But she threw hard and fast and she threw strikes. And she was getting those calls on the low strike. It was such a change from what we are used to–i.e. pitchers who throw junk all over the place–that it took a couple of innings to get used to it. But then we couldn’t get our hits together. Nicky hit a huge double off her that was almost a home run–the closest anyone’s come this year to hitting one out–when she finally caught up to one of those fastballs, but most of us were swinging and flailing. Even Karen and Robin, who are our two best contact hitters, both struck out. Michelle maufactured a run herself when she walked, stole second, went to third on the throw, and then came in on a sac fly. Unfortunately, we ended up losing 3-2, the closest, lowest scoring game we’ve had all season.

I made the last out. As I said above, another strikeout. At the time I wasn’t that upset about it, but about fifteen minutes later, I really felt like sitting down in my car and crying. Stupid, I know, for a grown woman to feel that way. Maybe it was Diane’s speech that was still in my mind, getting me all misty. The feeling passed pretty quickly, though, and honestly, I’d rather play a game that I really care about than waste my time on something that doesn’t mean anything to me.

I was already planning, as I left the batters box, to spend some time in the batting cage. Then Diane made it official, telling us each to do that instead of practice on Monday. I’ll go somewhere up here and save the mileage on my car.

We play ISL again Wednesday, and then we have one more make-up game against Carter & Carter the Monday after All Star day. And that’s our season. I’d like to get a couple more hits under my belt before it’s over!

August 12

So today I drove down to Good Time Emporium, a pool hall, amusement place that is a giant warehouse with sports showing on giant projection TVs everywhere, and also has a baseball batting cage. It’s one of the few cages near metro Boston that is self-serve. What I mean is, of course they have cages at Strike One in Danvers and such, but you have to have a friend with you to feed the balls into the pitching machine. At Good Time you put your tokens in and the Iron Mike throws to you.

My plan was to take about 75 swings, but when I got to the cage I was surprised to find it was occupied by a man batting, a kid waiting, and a third man feeding soft tosses. The walls and tables just outside the cage were covered with photos and brochures. Turns out the third man feeding soft toss was Dave Valdez, former infielder for the Mariners and Dodgers. Apparently the Good Time cage has been transformed into the Dave Valdez Baseball Academy. Every day from 3pm to 7pm he offers clinics, running on a weekly schedule that goes through hitting, fielding, etc… and then offers private half hour sessions on Saturdays. It’s just $30 for a week’s membership in the academy, and $25 for members lessons, $30 for non-members. I was perusing the brochure when he came out of the cage to say hello. He shook my hand and introduced himself. I was tempted to sign up for a lesson just to see what he had to say–thirty dollars is pretty cheap–but of course I have plans to be in Pawtucket this Saturday! Dave showed me some photos of a clinic he taught at Trum Field to about twenty kids. He seems like a sweet guy. Then he asked me if I knew Donna Mills, which it turns out I do–she pitched for the Robins in the summer I hung around with the NEWBL teams. Then I think he said something like she’s his sister in law? Not 100% sure–by then he was back in the cage, a little far from me, and they have music playing in there and such. But what a small world, eh?

Anyway, it looks like he’s going to be set up there for quite a while, so maybe in the winter when I have no other options for places to work out I’ll take him up on that offer for a lesson.

August 14

So I went down to Rhode Island yesterday for our game against ISL. The weather has been soupy for about two weeks–every day hot, humid, and unsettled with sudden showers, thunder clouds, etc… coming and going all the time. Yesterday was no different. The sky was black and it was pouring when I left Boston, but by the time I went through my first toll booth it was sunny overhead. So who knew what we might get at Slater Field?

It was overcast and patchy when I pulled up at the field, just before game time thanks to stop-and-go traffic on I-95 South. “You’re the DH,” Diane told me. “I figured whoever showed up next would be in that slot, so you’re it.” That put me tenth in the lineup. Our team batted first and we were facing that same pitcher, Renee, who throws hard strikes. She’s the only one in the league I’ve seen pitch who throws hard enough that the ball hisses as it cuts the air on the way to the plate. She handled us pretty good the other day, but on this night she had first-inning control problems, and by the time three outs were recorded, three runs came in. We got them out pretty quick in the bottom of the inning, as rumbles of thunder came over the trees.

A large, dark thunder cloud was moving in as I stepped to the plate. Nie ominous rumble as I stepped into the batters box. By then Renee had her control back and was throwing strike one, so I decided if the first one was right in there, I was going to swing. Sure enough, the pitch was a high fastball, but not too high, and I put the best swing on it I’ve had all season! Unfortunately, the ball I whacked good and hard went right at the second baseman (basewoman?) and I was out by plenty. Dang! By the time I got back to the bench, Michelle was stepping in, but then she stepped back out as a flash of lightning was seen. “I’m not standing up there with a metal bat in my hand,” she said. Then large rain drops began to fall.

“It’s going to pass over, it’s going to pass!” Diane shouted as people began to scatter to their cars, grabbing bats and gloves as they went.

“I can wait 15 minutes but then we have to make a decision,” the umpire said. So we scattered to our cars. About the time I got into the driver’s seat, a huge flash of lightning and a sound like an explosion went off on the tennis courts about fifty yards from the field. Yowza. The rain then ame down so hard that the parking lot had three inches of water in it. After fifteen minutes of soaking rain, even though it was lightening up, the coaches and umpires decided the field was going to be too puddly to be safe. So they rescheduled the game for tonight.

Tonight the humidity was slightly less and the clouds not a threat. We had to start the game over again, wiping out our three runs. That was too bad, because we could have used them. Renee was on her game. Michelle, who had started the game for us yesterday, started for us again today and found her groove in the second inning. She even broke out a great little curve ball that not only fooled the batter, it fooled Tony the umpire! The only run they got off her in the early innings was a runner from third who scored on a passed ball/wild pitch. But in the fourth, I think it was, her control began to waver. Probably should have taken her out sooner, but Nicky’s elbow has been acting up and Brenda–what a trooper–was playing third, but I don’t think Diane wanted to put her and her broken nose back on the mound just yet. (Amazingly, Brenda doesn’t even look that much the worse for wear–just a touch of raccoon eyes.) So in that one inning they piled on 5 more runs.

By then I was out of the DH slot and playing left field. Murphy’s Law of the outfield seems to be this: whenever Diane tells me to play deeper, the next ball hit is a shallow pop fly that I have to run and run and run in to get… and can’t get because it’s just too far so it drops in for a hit. It happened to me twice in right field last week, and tonight in left. Sigh. I haven’t had a legitimate chance to make a play in the outfield all season. This makes me nervous that I won’t be ready when one finally comes near me!

Anyway, at the plate tonight, I had almost a replay of last night’s at bat against Renee. First pitch strike, first pitch swinging–this time a popped liner to second. Argh. My second at bat, though, I got to face another pitcher, Crystal, because Renee had planned to leave by a certain time–other plans, I guess. Crystal was a more typical Slaterettes style pitcher, not as hard and not as accurate. I walked on four pitches, moved to second on another walk, stole third/moved up on a passed ball (depending on how you look at it), and came in on a walk also. We put up three runs that inning, but going into the top of the sixth and final inning we were still down either 6-3 or 7-3, depending on whose scorecard you looked at. I came to the plate with it getting rapidly dark, with two outs and one on.

I just didn’t want to make that last out. By then Paula was on the mound, the mom whose daughter is her battery mate, and I knew I could hit her. I felt like my last two swings the past two days had been really good cuts. On a few of the strikeouts last week I had a bunch of foul offs, and I felt like my bat was really coming around–even though my trip to the batting cage had only been mental. So when Paula threw me a strike high and a little outside, I just whacked it and was very gratified to see a line drive to right that fell in front of the right fielder. So I was on. Typical inside-out swing for me! Then came another walk, etc… eventually I ended up on third base, with one run in and the go ahead run at the plate. Jen took a great cut at a pitch and it went deep into the outfield but just foul. The catcher was waving at it like she could help it foul with body english. Maybe she did. I had crossed the plate but had to go back. Jen made out on the next pitch, grounded in the infield. Ah well–we put up a good fight and it was a good game.

The All-Star game is Saturday morning–our team’s and ISL’s all star selections are on one team, and Darlington Liquors and Carter & Carter will be the other. hen we have our makeup game against C&C on Monday, and that is it for the regular season. But then we start practice for the Roy Hobbs tournament we are hosting. Diane is going to coach the tournament team, which makes me even more interested in playing in it! Which reminds me, I better get my player fee paid…

And looking ahead to October, I have sent out my first round of fundraising letters/emails for the AWB 24 Hour Game for Africa, women’s baseball marathon game. I am more than halfway to the minimum for sponsorship already! Woo hoo! So, Tucson, here I come…

August 16

The Slaterettes Major Division All Star Game was a hotly contested battle that our side ended up winning 6-5. The combined Narragansett Electric and ISL squad scored first, putting up three runs in the third via our typical method of getting a lot of people on base via the walk, and then timely hitting. Michelle pitched well through the first couple of innings but started to tire. We lost the lead though when Brenda got some bad breaks on the mound–they were hitting her pitches, some of them hard, some of them just falling in the right places. Nicky relieved her, but even some of her pitches got hit. It was 5-4 going into the fourth, and in the bottom of the inning we tied it but couldn’t get any more, then got the go ahead run in the bottom of the fifth, and shut them down in the top of the sixth and final inning. Whew!

After the game the coaches and umpires voted Nicky as the MVP, and gave her the game ball signed by all of them. And then we, Narragensett Electric, presented Diana with a plaque from the team. We made her cry. Did you expect anything less? I told her “You’ve made my summer.” “No, you’ve made MY summer,” she replied. “You guys have given me my life back.” I predict it won’t be long before Diane takes over the whole league.

Then a photographer took a team picture for us, and we went over for the awards celebration/picnic. They had a dj letting the kids do karaoke, a big inflated trampoline castle, a giant barbecue grill, and we chowed down on hot dogs and hamburgers.

Then came the awards. Each player’s name was read out by her coach, starting with the youngest in the instructional league, and eventually working up to the majors, the first place team–us–going last of all, of course. The young kids got trophies (bobble-head trophies!) and we majors got medals. Damn but I’m proud to have one. It sounds almost silly, like as a grown-up I should be past stuff like that, but you know what? Anyone who believes that a player of any age wouldn’t or shouldn’t want some symbol of their accomplishment is out of touch with reality. Major league players who make a minimum of $700,000 a year still want that ring. And it’s not so much about having the material thing–it’s about two things: competitiveness and teamwork, which are the reasons we play a game like this instead of taking water aerobics classes in our free time.

This was my first experience with a team sport like this. Hard to believe, isn’t it? The closest thing I had before this was one marking period in high school I took deck hockey as my gym elective. Instead of mixing people up every day with new teams, the teacher we had (whose name I have forgotten now…) ran it like an intramural league. I was only a sophomore at the time, and the rest of the class was mostly junior and senior boys. I got placed on a team of guys who were all friends. One of them, Joe DiBenedetto, was a goalie, but a week into the class he sprained his ankle. Since none of them wanted to play goal, that became my every day position.

And I was good at it. We racked up shut out after shut out. This was long before I had formally studied the martial arts, but I somehow had a sense of what to do–relax, see the whole picture, read the fakes from the true shots, and react lightning fast. I’m sure I let a goal in here or there, but I don’t remember them. We dominated that class.

But the guys didn’t really talk to me, didn’t really know me, and since I was behind the goal line and behind the mask and pads, I was kind of in my own little world. I didn’t have to cooperate with them in any way, and I barely had to communicate with them. And I also knew that as soon as Joe was better, he was going to be back in the goal and I was going to be on the sidelines.

Well wouldn’t you know it, Joe came back to class on the last day, the day of the “championship.” Somehow I knew that would happen. He strapped on the pads and got in there. Now, this was a class that was only 40 minutes long or something like that, and we would play two 20 minutes games–ours being the last one that day. When he had let in five or six goals in the first five minutes, I knew we were sunk. They let him play another five minutes and then, grudgingly, they gave the pads to me. I held the other team scoreless after that, but it was too late to make up the deficit and we ended up losing. I thought the guys were pretty stupid to have let Joe play when I felt I had proved beyond any shadow of a doubt I was the best goalie in the school. But then, I thought, who cares, really? He’s their buddy, they signed up for this class so they could play together, and who really cares who wins a P.E. class anyway? Other than me, that is?

And of course there were all those years of track and cross country track. But track is not a team sport. Not really. There’s no teamwork involved, no cooperation. There’s a little camaraderie, which is fun, but it’s not the same as teamwork. Likewise with the martial arts: with full contact tae kwon do teams like I was on in college, you have five individuals who each fight an individual fight, and then you total the scores. (If you’ve ever seen the Eric Roberts movie “Best of the Best” you know what I’m talking about.)

So anyway, that was a big divergence from what I’m trying to say, which is that this was my first time really belonging to a team–and man, it was great. That’s all. Diane got to hoist the championship trophy, while the dj played “We Are The Champions” in the background. She’s decided we should each have it for a few weeks and then pass it on, like the Stanley Cup.

We have a make up game with Carter & Carter to play Monday, though, so we’re not all sad that the season’s over, yet. Plus then there is the tournament and it looks like a bunch of us are going to do it, so that should be fun, too. And then there is next year!

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