Monday, April 23, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary - Chapter One

It begins again.

This softball season of my 50th year, my last softball season, is underway. Yesterday, in The Fens - just a couple of blocks behind Fenway Park - I hit the field for the first time. Both of the teams I play for, during the regular season, played each other in a pre-season scrimmage. My weekday team, the Flames, won in fairly easy fashion over the Bombers, my Sunday team. I caught the game for the Flames.

I’m not feeling too bad right now, but the real test will be tomorrow. Even in younger days, the first time catching usually resulted in very sore thighs the next day. That’s just the way it goes when playing that position.

(I'm also a bit sunburnt and that was to be expected after the first day, too.)

I don’t actually expect to do too much catching this year. Jack, the manager of the Sunday team, has already told me that I’ll either be at First Base or Designated Hitter most of the time – and that’s just fine by me. We have plenty of catchers on the roster this year, so no need to destroy my knees unless a couple of those fellows go down with injuries. I expect I’ll catch a couple of games for the Flames, but I’m probably second-string on that roster and can expect to play mostly at First Base for them, too.


It’s always fun getting back out on the field for the first time and seeing the guys again. The nature of these leagues is such that there’s usually not much turnover in the rosters. If someone moves away, they’ll be missing. We’re not pros, though, so nobody gets traded or cut, and nobody is ever forced into retirement. You have to have sense enough, like I hope I do, to realize when you’re at the end of the line. So, the players who were on the team last year – and the year before, and possibly fifteen years before that – will mostly be back. And this means that the first practice of the year gives everyone an opportunity to trot out their “wow, did you get (fat, thin, bald, old, ugly) during the off-season” jokes.

By telling everyone up-front that this is going to be my last year, I defused some of the jokes that might have been made about me, which might have included four out of the five qualifiers mentioned above. The thing is, nobody badmouths a guy who realizes that his best years as a player are behind him, but who is giving it his last best shot. That sort of treatment is reserved for the guys who have too high an opinion of their abilities. For instance…

There’s always a lot of braggadocio in the pre-season. Just about everybody has built up their confidence through NOT hitting pop-ups in the winter. Every dying quail from the year before has become a line drive that almost killed an opponent. Every single turned into a triple through bad outfield play has been categorized in the memory as a tour of the bases worthy of a Ricky Henderson or a Lou Brock. And a couple of meatballs popped over a short left field fence have become a slew of Bondsian smashes that made young girls swoon and opposing managers tear their shirts and cover their heads in ashes.

There are, on the field in The Fens, football stands across the outfield that serve as a fence. Beyond those stands, there is a small river. If you clear the stands, the ball will likely end up in the river. It takes a decent shot to clear them, but nothing so hideous that you’ll be tested for steroids if you do so.

One fellow – I won’t give his name – kept saying yesterday, before every at-bat, that he’d put one into the river. He was actually offering to bet real money on this proposition. Lucky for him, nobody took him up on it. He popped out, grounded out, and – ignominy of ignominies in a light pre-season scrimmage – struck out, swinging. He was the recipient of much verbal abuse, all righteously earned.

The only ribbing I took yesterday concerned good play. Some guys just can’t stand it when they see intelligence displayed on the field. So, when I walked twice, I had my manhood questioned.

“Oh, Sully, I used to have some respect for you, but now…”

“You took a base-on-balls in a scrimmage? Oh my God…”

“Fer Chrissakes, Sully, you’re supposed to be swinging the damn bat, not strolling down to First.”

Hey, is it my job to swing at bad pitches? No, and it doesn’t matter if it’s pre-season or heat of the playoffs. My on-base percentage is over .500 for my career for a reason. I don’t go out of my way to cultivate bad habits. Maybe you needed to groove your swing, but I needed to make sure my batting eye is still good. And so it is.


From what I saw on the field yesterday, I’d guess that my chances of finally playing for a championship team are fair to middling. The Flames are probably the best shot. They appear to be a decent squad and will probably score lots of runs. The Bombers look weak defensively and, as has been the case in recent years, are lacking slugging. They hit for a decent average, but lack power – just like me, these days.

Much of how things work out will depend on the pitching, of course. It appears that both teams will benefit from having the Attons available for the complete season. Jack (the man to whom I handed the reigns of the Bombers last year, after I had been manager for the past 10 seasons) and his nephew, Jay, are probably the best one-two pitching staff in the Sunday league. Even with the deficiencies apparent on the Bombers, pitching like they can provide will keep you in an awful lot of games. I don’t know if they’re the best staff in the weekday league, but I think they’re at least the second best. Combine that with a team that can score runs in bunches and maybe...


This will be the regular Monday piece for the foreseeable future, by the way. If you hate sports, I’m sorry, but I hope I’ll give you enough of the personal side of the game, my little triumphs and tragedies, a sense of what it’s like to play out the string and enough other interesting stuff to make it worth your while. As the season goes on, I’ll end these pieces with stat lines, so that you can follow the team progress and mine. Something like this:


Opp. Score Record AB H 2B 3B HR RBI AVG. BB K OB% SLG% OPS Position
Bombers 21-8 1-0 2 1 1 0 0 1 .500 2 0 .750 1.000 1.750 C

And so forth. Of course, yesterday was just a scrimmage, so these stats mean nothing. As the regular season (and, I hope, playoffs) happen, I’ll give running totals for my season to that point.

(I have the feeling that the numbers above may look like gobbledegook because I still know so very little about formatting. If so, I'll work on geting it right and have something readable by the time the real games begin.)

See you tomorrow with non-sports stuff.


Rebecca said...

Catchers always have more class than the rest of 'em... ;)

Barbara said...

What will you do with the void in your life next year? Are there coaching opportunities?

Mushy said...

How in the world did you survive squating for all those years! My knees would not take it!

A better man than me - no doubt!

Anali said...

Sounds like a good time! And it is most definitely not your job to swing at bad pitches! : )

I like the idea of softball on Mondays too!

44 fan said...

Boy that jay atton kid is some kind of stud you must be paying him alot. is there a fantasy softball draft this year if so i want him to be my number one pick

go 44

Suldog said...

Jay is a nice kid, but a bit full of himself...

Paula abdul said...

Still true

Suldog said...

Still true, but now he at least eats his carrots.