Monday, May 20, 2013
My job these days is writing. I've been published in both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. I have been contracted by Discover Magazine to write a piece for an upcoming issue, and I have also been doing fact-checking work for them (which, aside from doing what the job title suggests - checking facts - also involves a bit of writing and reporting.) I have 14 or 15 different pieces currently under consideration by various publications, and I have received word from a couple of editors concerning tentative good news. The point is, I can write. I tell you this because I'm somewhat at a loss for words concerning Sunday and I don't want you to think I'm that way because of a general inability to express myself.
We won two games. I can describe every bit of the action involved. I can easily give you detail about who made the important plays in the field, who got the clutch hits, who reached back for the big pitches when they were needed, and other physical parts of what happened on the field. What I'm having trouble putting into words are the feelings I had before, during, and after the games.
Let's get the technical stuff out of the way. Here are the scores.
BOMBERS - 8 Renegades - 7
BOMBERS - 15 Renegades - 5
We start the season 2 and 0, tied for first place after the first week; can't ask for better than that. Everybody on the team contributed something valuable. A few guys had spectacular days. In particular, I'll single out Robbie Costello and Ron Johnson.
Costello went 5 for 5, including a double and a triple. He also drew a walk. He scored 4 runs and had 2 RBI. He pitched the first game and picked up the win. In addition, he kept the bench loose with some of the funniest stories I've ever heard. None of those stories will be printed here because they were filthy, racist, vile and obscene (none of which I have a problem being, on occasion, but you had to have been there to get the full impact of him relating how his gold-toe socks were stolen by his in-laws. Nor will it do you any good for me to tell you how he talked about how much his son poops, everybody on the bench making disgusted faces and going "Ewwwww... Oh, geez, Robbie...", and then him saying, in a matter of fact way, "Yeah, we feed the kid nothing but raisins." )
Ron Johnson wasn't as gut-bustingly hilarious, but it's just a pleasure to still be sharing a field with him after all these years. We're the only two original members of the team remaining (this is our 19th season together) and yesterday he had a perfect day at the plate, going 3 for 3 in game two, with a double and 4 RBI, and made a couple of swell plays defensively. Ron turned 60 this year, and I suppose as long as he keeps playing, I'll have to do so, too. At 56, I'm a youngster by comparison. If I quit and he keeps playing, I'll feel like a pussy.
As I said, though, everybody did something to make the two wins happen. If you want the details, you can probably infer them from the team statistics. Find them HERE.
So, what is it that I'm having trouble putting into words? It's just the overall feeling I get stepping onto a ballfield for the first time each season, and most especially for a season so late in my career. I know I'm on the downside. I have been for a while now. I think I still bring value to my teams, otherwise I'd stay home. Still, I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'm no longer a guaranteed starter. This year, I'm realistically the third-string at my positions. And I'm mostly cool with that. Sure, I'd still like to be the guy who knows he's going to get the start. Every athlete wants to be that guy. But it would be silly for me to think I bring more to the table than Joey Baz, Nutter, Eric or Big Jay, who are the guys likely to start at my positions. They're all younger than me, they all possess strengths in areas in which I've recently declined, and - most important - they're all good teammates who deserve me rooting as hard for them, playing in front of me, as they would root for me if the positions were reversed. I'll be ready anytime Jack calls on me, and if I show I'm good enough to start, great, but I'm OK with being a bench player on a winner. When the team wins, we're all winners.
Even more difficult to describe is how great it feels before the game, especially when I'm the first one to arrive at the field (which I often am.) Sunday morning is a time for religious observance for many people, and some of them would probably give me the stink eye for playing ball instead of being in worship, but I truly find myself as close as possible to God when I'm on a ballfield in the early morning, clear blue skies above, the smell of the dirt and grass in my nostrils, seeing the animals who live on the field (I'm not talking about Joe The Wino - I mean rabbits, geese, hawks, possum, maybe an occasional fox) still going about their business and not worrying about this old geezer doing his stretching. I hold a vast thankfulness in my heart for living, at times like those, and I honestly think it's more valuable, as prayer, than most of the times I've spent Sunday morning dressed in a suit inside of some building listening to a preacher. A ballfield in the sun speaks truth to my soul.
OK, I guess I'm probably being overblown about this, but it's honest feelings. Your mileage may vary. I hope not, though, because if you're a ballplayer and it does, you're not getting as much happiness out of it as I am.
Next week, we're off for Memorial Day. Until then, we're undefeated and in first place (and maybe after then, too, because the team looks good and I think we have an excellent shot at taking it all this season.) Back in two weeks with more fast-pitch softball ruminations.
As for other things, soon, with more better stuff.