Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Is This The End Of The Line?

Concerning a comment I made about softball in my previous entry: I am considering hanging it up.

A decision like this is not easily made. I love playing softball and I love being part of a team. However, I may be reaching the point in my life where I am no longer a plus for the teams I'm on. I don't know for sure. I'm hoping I'll turn it around over the next couple of games. However, my recent play has been less than I'm willing to accept for myself.

My batting eye is still OK, but not as good as it once was. In order to regain what I once had, I think I need to start wearing my glasses when I hit. I've tried it once or twice, though, and I feel really uncomfortable swinging while wearing them. I'm kind of afraid to take a full swing because I have this fear of the glasses flying off. That hasn't happened yet, but I think I'm holding back subconsciously when I wear them.

(I should note here that I never wore glasses for anything until about two years ago. At that time, I had an eye exam and found out that my right eye vision had deteriorated to something along the lines of 20/40. My left eye is 20/20.

When I was a kid, though, I was 20/15 in both. I used to amaze my friends by reading things at distances they couldn't. And I could do the types of things that Ted Williams was famous for, such as reading the label on a spinning phonograph record.

Anyway, I got two pairs of glasses - one just for distance and a set of bifocals. I wore the bifocals for about a week and haven't worn them more than twice since then. I just can't get used to them and know now that I would have been better off getting a separate pair exclusively for reading. I wear the distance glasses for watching TV and occasionally for night driving when I'm extremely tired. This is the pair I should be wearing playing ball, I think, but they cut down my peripheral vision so much that I really hate doing so. And I'm vain, too, of course, so I don't want to look like someone's Grampa while I'm on the field.)

I used to take some pride in my fielding, but I think I might be afraid of the ball now. You can't be afraid of the ball and play. In my last game, I let two grounders get by me that - if I put my body in front of them - would have been rally killers. I've got a big mitt on my hand; I'm wearing a cup; I should just get my damn self in front of the ball. Maybe my glasses would help here, too. I just don't know.

I used to have the best reflexes of anyone I knew. However hard a ball was hit, I knew I could get a glove up in time to save my face, at least, and usually make the catch. Now I'm not as sure as I once was. And, to reiterate, you can't be afraid of the ball and play.

When I was younger, I was actually pretty fast. I'd stretch a lot of singles into doubles, daring outfielders to make the throw. I beat more than one guy in challenge races when he didn't believe that I could, and won a couple of bets doing so. Well, I know that age will tend to slow a person down and I'm OK with that. I've also had arthroscopic on my right knee for a torn meniscus, so I've got a bit of bone-on-bone happening there. I can live with not being as fast as I once was, if that's all I had to adjust to. Add this into the equation with not seeing the ball as well and not being confident and whatever else? It all adds up to the possibility that my time has come.

The arthroscopy was amazing; no doubt about it. Without it, I wouldn't be able to play at all now. However, losing the amount of cartilage I did left me with an inability to turn sharply on a batted ball. Thus, I lost much of my ability to play the outfield. I can come in on a ball as well as I ever could and I can still judge a ball off the bat very quickly, but going back on a ball is hard as hell.

So, no outfield, no speed - I'm limited to first base and catching; maybe second base in a pinch. However, here's another problem. My right shoulder has been OK so far this year, but in recent years it has ached like all hell anytime I've tried to really put any distance or steam on a throw. OK so far this year, as I say, but I'm hesitant to let loose and see if I can make any sort of a decent throw. Thus far, I haven't been called upon to do much more than throw back to the pitcher. It remains a question mark.

If I'm in the line-up tonight (which, the way I've been playing and the position our team is in, isn't a definite by any means or a decision I'd have any right to complain about if I'm not) I'll give it my best shot. I'll will myself to get in front of the ball and I'll concentrate, concentrate, concentrate when I'm hitting. I'll run as fast as I can and if a hard throw needs to be made, I'll do it. I'll slide, I'll hustle, I'll be the best team player I can. And then I'll sit down afterwards and evaluate how I did. If I feel that I'm out of gas, I'll tell my manager and leave it up to him.

Since I'm still the manager for my Sunday team (although that may be changing soon) the decision will be up to me there. Since those are all morning games, it may be different. I think part of the problem also may be the night games. As I said before, I sometimes wear the glasses while driving at night. My night vision is not as good as it is in daylight.

Boy, what a bunch of whining. I really, really want to go out and kick some ass tonight. Most of all, I want us to win. If I can't help the team do that by playing, then I shouldn't be playing. And that's all there is to that.

No matter what happens tonight, I'm not going to continue past this year unless I can at least match certain end-of-season goals for myself. I've always felt that at this level of softball you can translate the statistics on an approximately 3-for-2 level. That is, the equivalent of a .300 hitter in baseball is a .450 in our leagues. I've always been about a .400 or .410 guy, which roughly translates to .270 or so. No superstar, but no bum. My on-base percentage has always been outstanding since I am a patient hitter. I draw lots of walks. If I can't hit .400 for my season totals combined between both teams (and go over .500 for OBP) then I'm done.

More tomorrow. I hope it's good.


endangered coffee said...

Take it easy man, it's softball. If you're still having fun, keep playing. It's not like your play is going to prevent Lebron from winning his first NBA championship or Jeter from winning another World Series.

Anonymous said...

Yah, it's jkust softball. Relax.

Anonymous said...

I'll say the prayer for you but you won't need it. Kick some ass tonight, 'dog.

Suldog said...

Thank you for the best wishes.

See, the problem is that it's not "just softball". If I'm playing at less than what I think I should be capable of, I'm robbing my teammates. It's not just my ego at stake. They deserve better. I owe my teammates the best I can do.

Also, if I'm playing, but playing poorly, I'm keeping someone else off of the field who could be doing better than me. What right do I have to do that?

Finally, I'm a manager and have been for ten years. I don't want to be the guy (I've had them) who the manager has to make playing time for at the expense of the team welfare. That's just selfish.

The one thing I have always been able to pride myself on is my being a team player. I have never put myself before the team and I'm not going to start now.

Who knows? Maybe I go 3-for-4 tonight and make a couple of dazzling plays in the field. Then all of this is just so much hot air.

Stu said...

To illustrate my sincerity in wishing you well in making this decision, allow me to point out that one of my most potent baseball memories was the day that Mike Schmidt retired. May 29th, 1989, I was in a rented beach-house on the Jersey shore, hanging with my family. I wept as he wept, and I will forever think of third base as Mike's corner. The man was a cat.

Anonymous said...

As for the glasses thing, I started wearing glasses just before I started playing Ultimate, but I didn't wear them when I played. But as my eyes got worse, I noticed my reaction time getting lousier and lousier until one day I got a frisbee to the face. I started wearing glasses after that and it made a huge difference.

An even bigger difference is when I went to contacts for playing. I don't wear them normally (I don't like how they feel) but I can see great when I play, I have no problems with peripheral vision, I don't worry about them flying off my face, they don't get fogged up, and they don't get streaked with sweat or rain.

My $0.02.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know I'm late to this particular party. I've been *gone*, damnit, and I'm trying to catch up with everyone. So, better late than never, yada yada yada.

Now, my question for you is...

Why don't you just get some of the shatter-resistant safety glasses like The Wrench wears at work? Then, get one of those elastic-y head strap things at the sporting goods store so that you don't have to worry about the things flying off of your face.

DON'T LOOK IN THE MIRROR. (This part is important) Just GO PLAY BALL!

And have fun.

T. :)