Monday, May 08, 2006
For how I feel about softball, go here.
Softball season has begun and it’s a good news/bad news kind of thing. The good news? This gimpy-kneed 49-year-old catcher is batting .400 with an on-base percentage of .667. The bad news? The teams I play for are a combined 1 and 2. I’d rather the teams be 3 and 0 with me striking out every time up.
I guess that’s the part of my make-up that goes towards making me the manager of one of the teams. I will always take the win over personal stats. I suppose in its own way that might sound self-serving – I’m such a good fellow that I’m willing to sacrifice myself for the good of the team – but it’s the truth, so why should I apologize?
The weekday team started play on Thursday with an easy 17 – 4 win. Is there such a thing as a tough 17 – 4 win? I guess not. In any case it was over after 5 innings, there being a 12 run “mercy” rule in that league. I played the game at first base, going 1 for 2 at the plate. I also had 2 walks, 3 runs batted in and a run scored. In the field, one good play and one bad play stood out.
The good play involved a bit of luck. With a runner on second, a hard shot to third was corralled by the third baseman, but his throw was wild and in the dirt. I kept my body in front of it, but had turned my head reflexively. The ball slammed into my calf and died. So, no advance beyond first for the batter and no runs scored.
The bad play was one of those things that happen when you’re out on the field for the first time in the year and you’re getting older. A left-handed batter popped up to the right side. His swing was actually coming down on the ball, so I instinctively broke in. As soon as I took the first step, I knew it was a mistake. Now, if I was 29 instead of 49, I probably could have recovered quickly enough to go back and get it. Instead, I felt like some Hanna-Barbera cartoon character. It seemed like I stopped and, after turning, I ran in place for a second or two until my body would go the other way. The ball fell for a single, about ten feet beyond the infield. Luckily for me, no runs scored that inning so no harm done.
The Sunday team – the one I manage – began play this week by dropping a doubleheader to a team called The Moe Howard Club. As much as I like the Stooges, I would rather have beaten them. And we should have beaten them, at least once.
The two games included some of the best pitching I’ve seen. Jason Atton, my starter in game one, had 11 strikeouts in the 7-innings that comprise a game in our league. 11 strikeouts! The league doesn’t have an official record book but if that isn’t a league record, I’ll lick a pigeon. It was as dominant a game as I’ve ever seen thrown at my level of fast-pitch softball. And we lost, 8 – 6.
How did we manage to lose a game like that? Defense. Jason had four errors behind him Two of them were easy fly balls dropped by his outfield with men on base. Only two of the eight runs were earned. And I shouldn’t discount the other team’s pitcher. He had us no-nit through four and compiled 7 Ks of his own. We came back from 8 – 0, but too little, too late. We had the winning run at the plate in the seventh, but no go.
When your team wastes a pitching performance like that, you wonder about the effect it will have on the team psychology. You also wonder if your pitcher will become suicidal.
Well, there was a second game to be played. Jason’s uncle, Jack Atton, was my game two starter. Amazingly enough, Jack went out and threw no-hit ball for the first three innings while striking out five batters. He was on a pace to beat Jason’s performance in game one. And we got on top of them this time. Charlie White, who had made the two outfield errors in the first game, clocked a two-run homer in our half of the first. We scored three more in the third, for a 5 – 0 cushion.
Jack was hurting, though, and wanted to come out. Normally, if a guy says he’s hurting and needs to come out, I won’t argue with him. What am I going to do? Tell him he’s not in pain? However, Jack wasn’t aware that he had a no-hitter going. I felt it might be doing him a disservice to not let him be aware of this fact, even though it’s considered bad luck to mention such a thing to a pitcher. Well, if I didn’t tell him, what good would it do? I told him he had one going and that he might like to try continuing, at least until they got a hit off of him. I left it up to him to tell me what he wanted to do when we were ready to go back out on the field.
(I should mention that it wasn’t his arm that was hurting. I wasn’t going to let him destroy himself.)
Jack decided to give it a go. In the meantime, I warmed Jason on the sideline. He would go back out on the mound if his uncle couldn’t continue.
Jack walked the first hitter and gave up a single to batter #2, so that was that. Jason sucked it up and went back in. He picked up right where he had left off in game one, striking out the first hitter he faced.
The next batter hit a soft, but curving, liner to third. Andy, who is a really good player but having a really horrible day, had it go off his glove for an error. So, bases loaded, one out, instead of first and second with two. A single followed, scoring two.
Jason now struck out his 13th batter of the day. No error and he’s out of the inning with a 5 – 2 lead. However, a team can’t keep giving up extra outs like that and expect to survive. Jason had done everything that could reasonably be expected, and then some. He was running out of gas, and by the time the dust had settled we were trailing 7 – 5. We lost 10 – 6.
I’m glad I have a blog on which to write about this. It will keep me from collaring perfect strangers and asking them to listen to my tale of woe. You, however, have been my sounding board and I thank you for your patient endurance.
One more thing of note. I have a new player this year who may turn out to be something quite special. Her name is Cara. Yes, her name. Male or female, she’s a player. To the best of my knowledge, she is the third female to play in this league and from what I remember of the other two, she is by far the best. She went a solid 4 for 7 and made every play at second base. I was so impressed with her showing in the first game, where I had her batting tenth, that I gave up my leadoff spot to her in game two. Heck of a nice surprise and I hope we men can play up to her level next game.
Tomorrow with no whining. See you then.