Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Monday (Except That It's Tuesday) Softball Diary - 6

FLAMES – 23 Ghost Riders – 1

There wasn’t a lot of softball this past week, but what little there was certainly was satisfying.

As you can see from the above score, the Flames found a groove. The game was never in doubt. We scored 4 in the first inning, 12 in the second, 2 in the third and 5 in the fourth. That was as far as it went, of course, since there is a 10-run slaughter rule after four complete innings.

(By the way, can anybody explain to me the actual grammatical rule for numbers? When are you supposed to use the number itself and when are you supposed to write it out? Seriously, I don’t know. I’d appreciate the answer.)

I went 1 for 2, with 2 walks, 2 RBI and 3 runs scored. That was satisfying. If I were the official scorer, I might have given myself 2 hits, as the time at bat not scored a hit was a sharp grounder back through the box that deflected off of the pitcher’s leg out to the shortstop, who then fumbled it a bit and was unable to make a play. If he had fielded it cleanly, however, he probably had a play at second, so I’ve really got no complaint.

The starting pitcher for the other team was wild. He had no control at all. He only lasted the first two innings and gave up 10 walks. When he was able to get it over the plate, he was just aiming it, not throwing with authority, so the guys walloped his strikes. At 5-0 in the second, he had just walked the bases loaded when Carl Hyman hit a grand slam and that was pretty much the game. After that, it was just a matter of whether we’d close them out in four innings or have to go farther. We were able to close them out in four because of our pitching and defense.

Our pitcher was the ageless wonder, Bob Ridley, whom I believe is 84 this season. That’s not a typo. He really is that old. It was my pleasure to catch him for the four innings he worked. We probably set a record for oldest combined age for a battery. Between us, we’re 134 years old.

Bobby doesn’t rely on power, as you might imagine. Instead, he changes speeds (from slow to slower to “that pitch is hardly moving, so how does it stay in the air?”) and he has great control. Wherever I set up, he hits the mitt. So, it’s my job to try and spot the hole in the opposing batter’s swing and then set up so Bobby can take advantage of that. I was fairly successful at doing so. The few times I made a mistake, we got some really good defense to back us up. All told, Bobby scattered 6 hits, striking out one and walking nobody. The only run came on a leadoff homer in the fourth.

Guys like Bobby make me seriously want to reconsider my decision to retire after this year. Given his example, I have almost 35 more seasons left. I’ve played with some other guys who might give me hope. Jimmy Jackson, from the Bombers, played well into his 60’s. Stu Stone, who just left the Bombers last year, is pushing 60. Pete Mittell, my coach with the Flames, is in his 60’s, I believe.

I’m still retiring. What do those guys have that I haven’t got? They all pitch. I’m a hideous pitcher. I tried it seriously last year and almost literally got myself killed. My skills with the bat are what I have to live on as a player. And those skills have deteriorated seriously over the last couple of years.

Over the past five years, I’ve been whittling my game down to match my remaining assets. I used to be able to hit with some power; I used to have reflexes that allowed me to wait until a pitch was almost on top of the plate before swinging; I used to have some decent speed on the base paths that made up for when I lost the power. Now I can’t hit the ball over an outfield wall if I hit it out of my hand. I can’t stretch singles into doubles. I swing EARLY and I’m still hitting to the opposite field. Between both teams last year, I hit close to .500, but I believe I had only two extra-base hits all season. And I was damned lucky to hit for the average I did. I had an awful lot of bloopers fall between fielders. I’m done. All I want now is to prove to myself that I can get through one more season by using my brain to make up for the physical lacks.

I’d also like to win that elusive championship, of course. The Flames now stand at 2 and 2. I think this is a really good team with an honest chance to get it done. We’ll see.

We had another game scheduled for Thursday, but the league decided to cancel that night’s games since so many guys supposedly wanted to get away early for a start on Memorial Day weekend. I personally find that hard to believe, since I would rather play ball than take a vacation any day of the week, but OK. We’ll get to play that game later in the year, so no real loss.

(The Sunday team, The Bombers, as I’ve explained in too much detail before, is off until June 10th, due to a combination of off-weeks and byes. We will continue to sport our lovely 0 – 2 record until further notice.)

Back tomorrow with the usual non-softball crap I put out here most days. See you then.

Flames statistics


endangered coffee said...

Will they be retiring your T-shirt(s) at the end of the season?

Also, what will you write about on Mondays (except when it's Tuesdays)?

Suldog said...

I expect that #29 will never be worn again on either team. This is because nobody else has ever expressed a desire to have it on their shirt except me.

I will write a 27-part dissertation on whether or not Turkish Taffy actually is. I expect it to easily generate as much interest as this series has.