Monday, June 04, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary - 7

Hawks – 14 FLAMES – 4
FLAMES – 16 Ghost Riders – 7

320 years.

That was the total age of the six guys the Flames had arraying the infield on Tuesday evening. 320 years. Between the pitcher, catcher, and four infielders, the AVERAGE age was over 53.

Every softball season, there’s at least one game where you take the field and say to yourself, “Self, this is probably not a winning combination.” It usually has nothing to do with the heart and desire of the players involved. It’s just a matter of talent not matching positions. Such was the case on Tuesday.

Well, that and the fact that the infield was 320 years old.

The Flames carry a roster of 19 players, but that number is a bit misleading. Two of those guys were not expecting to play at all this year – one because he’s the manager and he knows that there are 17 guys available who are younger than he is, and the other because his shoulder is so bad he can’t throw the ball at all. Another two were expecting limited duty, one due to advanced age and the other because he’s going to have a hip replacement performed after the season.

All four of these players started – and played every inning - on Tuesday.

It happens. We aren’t professional ballplayers. Everybody has a job – some guys have more than one – and family obligations (weddings, funerals, graduations) sometimes have to take precedence because, well, we aren't professional ballplayers. Dedication is expected, but desertion of your loved ones is not. So occasionally the best laid plans concerning your available talent get blown to bits and you end up with a 320-year-old infield that includes four guys not playing their usual positions - a first baseman who literally cannot throw, a second baseman whose big heart is in ten times better shape than his hips, a 6’ 7” 300 pound shortstop, and a third baseman who hasn’t played the hot corner in at least five years (and hasn’t played it well in at least ten) – as well as a pitcher pushing 80 and a catcher over 60.

When that happens, you give it your best shot. However, you know in your heart of hearts that, while miracles do sometimes occur, they’re called miracles because of their rarity. And you hope for one, but you don’t have the audacity to pray for one because a joke like a 320-year-old infield is just too good for God to pass up.

We lost, 14 – 4.

We were in the game through the first three innings. We actually led at one point, 1 – 0. Batting leadoff, I singled, went to second on a fielder’s choice, and scored two batters later on Dave Vargas’s single. That was it, though. We trailed 2 – 1 after the first, 5 – 1 after the second, and 8 – 4 after the third. We didn't really threaten after that. There are, however, a couple of things worth mentioning concerning determination and heart.

Last week, I told you I was part of what may have been the oldest battery in league history. This week, that record was obliterated. And that’s even with my finding out that I misrepresented my pitcher’s age last week. I said last week that Bob Ridley is 84. He isn’t. He’s “only” 79. Combined with Pete Mittell catching on Tuesday, the battery was a combined 140 plus. Unless I end up catching a 92-year-old later this year, my name is erased from the record books.

Rob Podoloff and Kevin Meagher – 49 and 48, with a bum hip and bum shoulder, respectively - played full games at second base and first base. God bless them for the effort and God protect them from having to do it again this year, please. Sacrifice of the body is respected but shouldn’t be expected. They both deserve medals for combat.

Jay Atton has the reflexes of a cat, but the bulk of a bear. As a first baseman, he has few peers. He’s also a swell third baseman and a pitcher who can overpower at times. Putting him at shortstop is not deadly, but it’s also far from normal. And rounding out the M*A*S*H* unit was a 50-year-old third baseman with bad knees. I think his name was “Skulldog,” “Bullfrog,” or something like that.

(Maybe “Devil Dog.” He looks like he eats a lot of those.)

Again, I had it driven home to me that my reflexes are not what they used to be. I spent the evening diving for grounders and liners, having them go under my glove by an inch or two each time because I couldn’t will my old ass down to the ground fast enough. Maybe, before this season is over, I’ll have a chance to play every position on the field and prove to myself that I can’t play any of them anymore.

(Wow. That’s pretty harsh. I should cut myself some slack, huh?)

Better news was had on Thursday when a larger complement of players was available. Everybody who played was at a position they were capable of playing and much more comfortable at. I caught the game, Jay Atton split his time between first base and pitching, the not-84-but-still-79 Bob Ridley had some at-bats as a hitter, and the rest of the M*A*S*H* unit sat this one out.

The result? A 16 – 7 win over the Ghost Riders. That win evened our record at 3 – 3.

It was a good workmanlike win, nothing spectacular. We did our jobs against a team we should beat 9 out of 10 times. Lots of people fattened their batting averages, as you might imagine from the score. Go HERE for the team statistics.

I think the one stat that stands out is the base-on-ball to strikeout ratios. We have 36 walks and just 6 strikeouts. Meanwhile, our pitchers have only walked 13 opposing batters and struck out 17. That’s a HUGE difference. We’ve got a bunch of really smart batters, willing to make the other team work to get us out, instead of us doing their work for them by swinging at bad pitches. That's the kind of mindset that wins championships. I’m psyched.

And that will do it for now. I've finally got a full schedule of games coming up again – one Tuesday, one Thursday and a doubleheader with the Bombers on Sunday. This will be the weekly schedule for the remainder of June, amounting to 14 games in 23 days. Good. No excuses for not sweating and, barring rainouts, I should be in really good shape by the end of this string. I expect the Flames to remain solidly in the playoff hunt and I hope the Bombers can get something going, too. It should be a fun month.

See you tomorrow with some non-softball ephemera.


Unknown said...

Haha this is what i was talking to you about a few days ago i cant believe we only lost 14 to 4

Jason Atton said...

Haha this is what i was talking to you about a few days ago i cant believe we only lost 14 to 4