Monday, June 01, 2009
That’s a blurry picture of me, post-game, taking a big bite of a Fuck-The-Man Tuna Salad submarine sandwich, with tomatoes. It was my reward for having a perfect day. And it was damn good. Thanks, Donatello!
What constitutes a perfect day? Four singles and three walks in seven plate appearances. It was as good a day as I’ve had swinging the bat (and, three times, not swinging it) in… well, since I passed age 50, anyway. To complete my circle of joy, my team, The Bombers, took both games handily.
BOMBERS – 19 Courtesy Flush – 5
BOMBERS – 25 Courtesy Flush – 11
(Yes, Courtesy Flush was the name of the opposing team. In a softball world filled with Hawks, Titans, Renegades, Flames, Giants, Tigers, and other assorted "normal" team nicknames, they are not afraid to buck the trend. I like their style. I think next year we should call ourselves The Pus-Filled Boils.)
(In case you have no idea what a "courtesy flush" is – I found out, after the game, that MY WIFE hadn’t the slightest – here’s a good explanation.)
Well, when your team scores 44 runs in two games, it’s a pretty good bet that one guy having a perfect day might not be the only one. Jason Atton shared my good fortune, and he did it with much more authority, two doubles and a mammoth home run included in his six hits and a walk. Jason is having an amazing year so far. He’s batting .789 through six games. I’m second on the team after yesterday, at .615. You don’t often see stats where the leading batter on a team is outhitting the next-closest guy by 174 points. Yikes! If I were a pitcher and saw him coming to the plate this year, I’d suddenly develop a hamstring pull and watch from the safety of the dugout while the poor sucker who replaced me got to have his earned run average shot to hell.
Speaking of earned run averages shot to hell, both of our pitchers – Buddy Carchide and the aforementioned Jason Atton – didn’t get great defensive support behind them. The games were hardly ever in doubt, so we weren’t sweating it, but there were some ugly non-plays made by a few of our guys. Jason and Buddy gave up only TWO earned runs each per game, but Courtesy Flush scored 16 total. As good a day as we had, and it WAS swell, we’ve got to stop giving the opposition so many gifts. It will come back to bite us, sooner or later, if we don’t tighten things up defensively.
I had my perfect day at the plate, but my last at-bat was an especially amazing thing of beauty. I knew I had a perfect day going, so I wanted to go out with a real bang. I took a mighty cut, and… well, estimates among my teammates varied as to how far the ball traveled. I would say about four feet, but some of the guys were adamant that it went at least five. Drew said it positively went seven feet, but he’s young and prone to exaggeration.
Here’s what happened. As I say, I knew I had a really good day behind me and this would most likely be my final at-bat. I wanted a good one to end on. The other team was giving me a huge gap in right field. I have no problem hitting opposite field, and – because of my batting style, more about which later – I go opposite field more often than not. On a 1 – 1 count, I tried to poke it there, but popped up, out of play. It’s now 1 – 2, and I decided I’d swing at anything close. Pitch comes in, maybe it’s a strike, maybe not, but I take a hack at it, and it dribbles off the bat down the third base line about four feet. I go, "Oh, shit!" and take off for first. And I reached safely without a throw being made. Since the play was behind me, I have no idea what happened. All I know is it went into the book looking like a vicious line drive that took off some guy’s arm, and that’s how I’ll tell the story twenty years from now.
I should mention more guys by name, since so many guys fattened up their averages yesterday. My good friend and teammate of longest standing, Fast Freddy Goodman, had a three-run homer. Cam Zirpolo had two triples. Joey Baszkiewicz continues to swing a hot bat. He went 5-for-6 with a couple of doubles.
(During the second game, Joey was standing on first base after a run-scoring single. Jason Atton, offering me a challenge in front of the rest of the bench, asked me to spell Joey’s last name. I said “B-A-S-Z-K-I-E-W-I-C-Z,” after which, having heard the performance, Joey gave me a thumbs-up from first. Jason should know better. When I was manager, I had to write Joey’s name, sometimes twice a day, for several years. In addition, during a couple of those years, we had a player named Pete Maszkiewicz, and you’ll notice the only difference between their names is the first letter. So, by this time, spelling Joey’s name is almost as easy as C-A-T.)
With my three walks, I took over the team lead in that category. That’s not something a lot of guys would brag about, but at age 52 and with two rapidly deteriorating knees, I’ll take my glory where I can get it. Actually, yesterday I got to re-emphasize, to the younger guys, some of the points I made in my doctoral thesis on the art of drawing bases-on-balls. In particular, the other team had a number of three-oh counts wherein they stretched themselves out to full height, bat on the shoulder, and then got what they deserved - a big fat strike on the next pitch. I’m happy to report that everybody on our team gets it. If you want to maintain your edge as a hitter, you take your normal stance at all times.
Funny thing is that one of the guys on the other team also got it. See, I take a very exaggerated stance at the plate - knees deeply bent, leaning forward, elbows down, bat head facing slightly groundward – almost entirely wrong for everything EXCEPT working a base-on-balls. I can get away with it because I know damn well I’ve got no power left, but I can still get the bat on the ball somewhat quickly, so I’m not giving up much in actual hitting and I’m gaining about 17 inches in strike zone reduction, or about 40% versus if I took a normal stance. Anyway, first at-bat of the second game, their leadoff hitter – nice guy named Tom - comes up to the plate and pretty much takes MY stance. He looks like he’s planning on taking a poop in the batter’s box, which I guess is what I look like, too. Everyone on his own team was laughing, and he yelled out, “I learned this from Sully!”
Thing is, he got two called balls immediately, and, while I’m smiling down at first base, I’m dying inside. I’m thinking this guy might actually keep it up and cause our pitcher some problems. However, he got a called strike on the next pitch, stepped out of the box, adjusted himself, and took his normal stance when he stepped back in. Later on, on our bench, Jason said to me, "His teammates were laughing, but he’s the only guy over there who gets it!" True. It’s not a good thing for a middle-of-the-order power hitter to adopt, but it’s an optimal strategy for a banjo-hitter with a good eye and fair bat speed, like me - and maybe Tom.
What else can I tell you to fill space? I got a sunburn, my first of the season. From the shoulders down and the neck up, I’m red like a cooked lobster. I forgot to buy sunscreen. Next week, I’ll know better.
Also, next week, Joey Cat – excuse me, Baszkiewicz – will be out of town, so it’s likely I’ll end up catching a game or two (as opposed to spending my day loitering at first base.) The prospect of spending a couple of hours squatting is not something I’m looking forward to, what with my crappy knees. I used to love catching, but now I know I’m likely to do some lasting damage if I go too long behind the plate. I’ll maximize my effectiveness and minimize the damage, somehow. That’s what I strive for every game, so…
And that’s about it, sports fans. A very enjoyable day for the ancient and honorable Suldog. Now I’m off to have another huge tuna sandwich. I’ve got to build up my strength for next week, after all.
Soon, with more better stuff.