Monday, April 30, 2007
Sunday was the last practice before the regular season. Both the Bombers and Flames had practices scheduled for 9am, but the Bombers had an actual scrimmage against another team – the Reds - so I chose to play with the Bombers.
The day was overcast and drizzly, not a good day for softball at all. Since it was unseasonably cold, I wore my lovely new Red Sox warm-up jacket (Thanks, Mom!) to the field. When I got there, I saw two of the Reds walking the fields and determining if any of them were playable.
We play the majority of our games in the Sunday league at Smith Field in Allston/Brighton. Smith is situated directly between Harvard Stadium and the studios of WBZ-TV and we softball players aren’t really warmly welcomed by either entity. Parking by the players is discouraged in both of the lots owned by those facilities. Harvard tries to get folks to buy a parking permit, but I don’t personally know anyone who has. It’s freakin’ Harvard; like they need the $15 they want some poor schlub of a softball player to fork over.
(I believe in the sanctity of personal property and all, but c’mon. It’s Sunday morning. It’s not like any of us are taking up spaces that anyone else would be using then. Even so, I’ll usually try to find a spot on the street because I don’t want to take the chance that some security guard with a hair across his ass will take it upon himself to call the tow trucks someday.)
Smith – someday I’ll have to find out just who Smith was - has three softball fields, two Little League fields, a street hockey area and truly horrible drainage. If it rains heavily on Thursday, there’s always a good chance that the fields will be waterlogged on Sunday. And that was exactly the case this morning. There was a lake in center field on one diamond, another at second base on the next diamond, and the pitcher would have needed scuba gear on the third diamond.
I conferred with the two players from the Reds. They wanted to set up a makeshift diamond in a far corner of the outfield of one of the diamonds. There was a reasonable amount of playable field if they did that, although we’d have no real infield - no dirt. I suggested that we check out another field in Brighton that I knew of, and I volunteered to drive over to it and take it look.
Well, that field was a no-go, too. Not only was there a soggy infield, there was also a soccer net set up right smack in the middle of left field. So, I drove back to Smith.
When I got there, other Bombers had still yet to arrive. The Reds had 8 guys throwing around already and they had set up the temporary diamond. I walked out to them and told them about the other field and that, since there were no other Bombers yet, my doubts concerning whether or not this scrimmage would actually happen. I went back to my car to sit, have a smoke, enjoy a little heat, and see if anyone else would show.
I was pretty much one minute from going home when Jack – the manager - pulled up behind me. He had his son, Pat, and Emilio, our shortstop, with him. Freddie Goodman almost immediately followed. After talking to these guys, I was reassured that there were others on the way.
I get too damned worried about these things. I’m not the manager anymore, so I should just assume that Jack has things in hand. One of the reasons I wanted to just be a player this final year was so that I could sit back, enjoy, and NOT stress about this stuff. Well, I guess pre-season is useful for more things than grooving your swing. Lesson learned. I’ll take a chill pill and maybe not be the first guy down to the field every week, like I have been for the past 12 years.
Not much to talk about concerning the scrimmage itself. I caught, more as a result of who did show up, as opposed to my being most useful there. As I’ve mentioned, we have plenty of catchers on the roster, but not so many showed up for this practice. Just as well, as I needed the more strenuous workout my legs got from catching.
I’m pretty sure we lost the scrimmage, but nobody was really keeping a strict score after the second inning. For a rainy sort of day, it was fun. Guys on both squads were pretty loose. We had no umpires for this one, so catchers on both teams called balls and strikes, as well as fouls and the bases. Both the Reds catcher and I called a very loose strike zone, since neither of us felt like squatting in the cold mud through a bunch of walks.
The Bombers still appear very shaky defensively. Of course, Jack is trying things out in the practices, to see what guys can and can’t do, but the outfield play has been abysmal. Today wasn’t a great test, as the field was slick and wet and nobody wanted to run into a pulled groin or anything else, but even given the conditions there wasn’t much to be impressed with in the outfield.
One play in particular stands out. The Reds batter lofted a high fly to left center. It may or may not have been catchable with a good effort, but neither our left fielder nor our center fielder even moved an inch. They both stood there like statues waiting for the other guy to sprint for it. By the time either one of them moved, it was down and gone and what should have been at best a double was a home run.
The thing is this for me: If a guy doesn’t have real talent, but he hustles his ass off, OK. I can live with that. What I can’t stand is a lackadaisical attitude on a ballfield. That just pisses me off to no end.
(I’m not saying these guys were dogging it in a way that they would have, given a real game situation. However, now I won’t know for sure until that situation occurs in a real game. I’ll always give the benefit of the doubt, but they could have dispelled the doubt already. Oh, well.)
I’m getting closer to game shape. I’ll be OK by next Sunday, as long as I lay off the Fig Newtons and Capicolla sandwiches I put onto my training table this past Saturday. Duh. I’m going to walk a few miles a couple of days and try to lay off the carbs and fat this coming week. I’ve got a bit of a sore wrist – don’t have any idea where that came from – and a red ear. I took the bounce of a short curveball by Jack on the side of the head. Thankfully, I’ve got one of the wrap-around goalie-style catcher’s masks, so I had protection, but it still stung and my ear feels slightly warm. No biggie.
The only other thing I feel like talking about is how I perceive Jack treating me. He’s a very nice guy to begin with, but I think he may be showing me a bit of extra deference because of my being the manager for the 10 previous seasons. He seems to be bending over backwards to make sure I’m happy. Not that I don’t appreciate the nice treatment, but I’d rather he just put me where he wants and then I’ll do the best job I can. He doesn’t need the extra headache of wondering if my feelings are being hurt or something like that. Maybe I’m reading too much into things.
It appears that I’ll be third batter on the Bombers this year, which is a distinct change. I’ve been leadoff for years now, but I can see the logic behind making this move. I’ve certainly lost some speed. I’m going to have to come up with a bit more power to justify my hitting third, though. I hope I can. I haven’t really tried much for power in quite some time. I’ve been a singles hitter and a walking machine for so long now that I don’t know if I can be more than that.
Or maybe I should just STOP THINKING. Jack knows what my game is and he wants me batting third. If I’m not doing what he wants, he’ll tell me, right? Right.
Yeah! Next week for real, in both leagues. I hope it’s sunny and hot.
Tomorrow, with something that has nothing whatsoever to do with softball.