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Women’s Baseball Player Diary Part 6

Originally appeared on October 14, 2003.

Okay folks, get ready for a really personal one this time.

This entry isn’t about how the Yankees have executed three strike-em-out-throw-em-out double plays, or how they had four men reach base by base on balls and scored none, whereas they gave up only one walk and that was the winning run. This isn’t about ninth inning heroics being too little too late. This isn’t about Soriano swinging at everything off the plate, or about Jason Giambi and Aaron Boone both taking Wakefield deep–but foul.

Or maybe it is. I’ve just come home from the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse, a nice upscale sports bar in Brookline, Mass., where I witnessed the Yankees lose 3-2 to the Red Sox.

I have the urge to break things right now. I have the urge to take some large instrument of destruction like an axe (or a baseball bat?) and smash something into tiny pieces and then lie in a heap sobbing. There are three reasons for this feeling.

1) The aforementioned frustrating Yankees loss.

2) I didn’t take batting practice today, as I have just about every day for the past week.

3) I went to therapy with my boyfriend this morning and I’ve got a lot of frustration to let out there, too.

The Yankees losing normally wouldn’t cause such a mood swing in me. But it is October, and everything seems to mean more at this time of year, not just because of baseball but because of the echoes of September 11th. I’ve written before that for me baseball is my natural Prozac. Even a loss often injects some kind of lift into me. But not this one, not tonight.

The reason I have been taking batting practice all week is that I am getting ready to play in the Women’s Baseball Marathon, a.k.a. 24 Hours For Africa, a twenty four hour long baseball game being arranged by American Women’s Baseball as a charity event for US Doctors for Africa. It’s this weekend at the Chicago White Sox spring training complex in Tucson, Arizona. I’m going there along with 60+ women from around the USA, including some of the top players in the country. My season ended over a month ago, so to keep from being a total embarrassment on the field I signed up at the Dave Valdez Baseball Academy. Dave was drafted at age 16 in the Dominican Republic but as far as I can tell, never made it all the way up the ladder of the major leagues. Doesn’t matter–he’s great. He has set up a baseball school inside the batting cages at Good Time Emporium. On any given afternoon from 3pm to 7pm you’ll find 15-20 students, ranging in age from six to forty two doing soft toss drills, working on pick off moves, footwork, etc…

Dave is fond of saying that hitting a baseball is better than having a boyfriend or girlfriend. (No, I don’t know what his girlfriend thinks of that.) I think that’s the cleaned up version of the saying, actually, since there are usually kid around when he says it. He says it with a wink. Last week we did soft toss one day, Dave pitched us live BP indoors, one nice day we even went outdoors. After watching one of my balls sail deep to left and into a soccer field (holy crap–it might have been one of only ten times in my life that I’ve pulled the ball!), I might have to agree with him. When you absolutely connect, it feels for an instant like everything is right with the world, like you’re centered in the universe.

That’s a feeling I have not had very often in recent years–since September 11th, really. But beyond the larger disturbances of the geo-political spectrum, things have not been right in my home.

I won’t air out too much dirty laundry here, but let’s just say my boyfriend and I have been having Relationship Problems. We’ve been together for almost twelve years. Our anniversary is coming up next month, in fact. Another anniversary we have next week is it will be one whole year since we have been going to couples therapy.

I want to break something. I want to hack away on something that will smash or splinter. But I’m afraid if I actually do, I’ll hurt myself. So I’ll save it for Arizona.

This morning in therapy I told him how frustrated I am. We work on all kinds of little issues of communication and how to get along, but I don’t know what to do about the big, fundamental differences in how we each see this relationship. Let’s put it this way–the way things are now, I’m never going to marry him. I’m never going to have that big ceremony and say vows and all that. I won’t get into the gory details why–that would take at least twenty pages to explain, and that would be the short version. We love each other but we have some incompatible needs and expectations.

I kept thinking I could just change my needs and expectations. I have always been able to adapt myself before–to make myself happy, in a way. But there are limits and I keep butting up against a concrete wall of certain things that it appears I fundamentally cannot do without, but can’t seem to get in our current situation.

Put simply, this sucks.

What does all this have to do with baseball? Oh, I want to resist making a giant metaphor out of tonight’s game, but I’m not going to. Mussina pitched well. Very well. And the Yankees executed well in the field. They did all the little things right — Matsui decoying Millar to keep him at third, Posada perfectly playing the rundown on a botched double steal attempt, Mussina getting a double play grounder off the bat of pinch-hitting Jason Varitek after walking Bill Mueller to load them up intentionally. I feel that corwin and I do a lot of the little things right, too. We get along great. We don’t fight or argue. And where we have conflicts, we are working them out. It takes practice, just like turning the double play, to have effective communication. We are fine-tuning the way we co-exist all the time.

But you know what? Varitek beat out that double play ball. Just safe. And the winning run scored. No matter how well Moose, Jeter, Soriano, and Johnson worked together there, there was someone else who had influence in how that play turned out: the batter. And he made the beautifully orchestrated ballet of the infield fail. At some point things are no longer abstraction, no longer ideas–they are real. Points get put on the board. The game ends.

Of course in a relationship no one is counting the outs. We’ve each hung in there with each other through a lot–you don’t get through twelve years by accident. But at what point does frustration hasten the end? How much misery is too much? Pedro knows something about frustration, wouldn’t you say? I am not the type to take my frustrations out on other people. But I did let it out today, in front of the best umpire, our therapist. That made corwin cry but I never got him to tell me everything he was feeling. At one point I said things weren’t working and he replied “That makes me feel so many things, none of them good.”

I want to bust something up. I want to take a two by four and go at a television set. Does Mike Mussina feel that way, sometimes? He can pitch his heart out but he can’t swing the bats for the nine guys in the lineup. You do your part and you hope for everyone else to do theirs. I feel like I’ve done all I can. I’ve made my best pitch. But I’m going to be on the losing end of the score if corwin lets this one go to the backstop.

All right. I really stretched that metaphor until it broke. Baseball is not life, no matter how important it may seem in October. I’ve just got to keep trying and see what happens. Meanwhile I better take out my frustrations on the ball. I have at-bats waiting for me in Arizona.

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

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