Monday, July 14, 2008

More Softball, I'm Afraid (That Is, I Was, But Not Now)

Got to talk this out. Sorry.

Sometimes, you’re a hero. Sometimes, you’re a bum. And sometimes, you realize you’ve come full circle and the decision you made a while back was the right one.

(Softball talk coming up. Feel free to come back in a day or two when I’ll have something else.)

Last time I wrote about softball, I was a happy guy. I contributed to a win. I got a hit and scored the winning run. Nice. For a guy who truly wasn’t expecting to ever play another softball game, it was a serious rush.

(I’ve given my softball story too many times already, so if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I apologize, but I’m not going to bore everybody with it again. The quick recap is in the story linked above.)

In that nice game, I wore jeans. I've done that all year. This is because last year I threw away my softball pants, gave away my glove, and seriously was not planning on playing, ever again. So, when I slid into home and ripped up my knee, it was those jeans that got ripped up.

Jack Atton, my manager, begged me to get some softball pants. Well, "begged" isn't the right word, but it's close. Anyway, having that game to put in my back pocket, I needed to get a new back pocket. Saturday, I shopped for softball pants. I figured as long as I was going to play, I may as well do it right, so I also bought a new pair of batting gloves.

Yesterday was the first time back on the field since that nice game. It felt good to be in a real, complete uniform.

The day started well, but ended with me feeling that last year's decision to retire was pretty much spot on. I’m not saying that I have nothing more to contribute to this team, but yesterday has given me a pretty good clue as to how limited my contributions may end up being.

The thing is, this team has a fair chance to win our league. It would be an upset, but it isn’t out of the question. We easily have the best pitching out of all 10 teams. Our hitting is better than most, although we still have a bit too much lack of discipline. Our fielding? Not great. It’s getting better, though, and we only need to field adequately enough to stay within reach of the other team. If we can do that, we’ll win more than we’ll lose.

I’m a catcher and a first baseman. For many years, I was basically the only catcher on the team. That’s not the case now. We have two guys better than me, both defensively and as hitters. First base? I don’t know. I might still be the best defensive first baseman we have, but that’s debatable. As a hitter, most anyone we put there will outhit me. And that’s the crux of this whole thing.

My job, as a leadoff man, is to get on base. I don’t need power, and I’m not there to drive in runs – although, if the situation calls for it, I’m supposed to. I first look for wildness on the pitcher’s part, and if I can draw a walk, my job is done. Then it’s up to the guys behind me to drive me in. If the pitcher has his control, then I have to hit, instead.

In the first game yesterday, I did my job. I played first base. I was batting leadoff. In four plate appearances, I walked three times. I flied to short center in the other at-bat. Behind some magnificent pitching by Al Martin, we won, 17 – 0.

In game two, we lost 11 – 0. I was the DH. I wasn’t batting leadoff, so my job changed slightly. I was in the 8 spot, so the situations I came up in called for me to be looking for hits more than walks. I had two times at the plate. I struck out twice - once swinging, once looking.

Striking out is bad, but not the end of the world. Everyone strikes out at some point in their career. The thing that really bothers me is HOW I struck out. I felt... I don’t know. It wasn’t overmatched, because the pitcher wasn’t that fast or crafty. I guess "inadequate" might be the word I’m looking for. I had no real confidence. Having no confidence in my abilities is strange and unsettling.

In the first game, I knew I could catch up to whatever that pitcher threw me. I could afford to wait, and that’s a good thing. I’ve been a reaction hitter my entire life. I never guess on what’s coming. I just wait for it to come and then react. It’s not as easy as it used to be. My reflexes aren't as sharp as they once were. By the time I decide to swing now, the ball is sometimes not where I expected it to be. I'm just enough off to hit lots of weak pop-ups to right. Anyway, first game, no problem. I didn’t need to swing three out of the four times I batted. I walked.

Second game, the pitcher has a bit more speed than the first guy. He also has decent control. So, he wasn't going to make it easy and I didn’t believe, in my own head, that I could do the job. I didn’t verbalize that to myself at the time, but looking back, I know it was true. I went up there HOPING to draw a walk, rather than trying to work one (or, better, ready to hack.) It's a crucial difference. I was afraid of what would happen if I was forced into swinging.

That’s not easy to admit, but it’s true. I was afraid.

I usually have no problem giving the pitcher two strikes. I’m willing to take two – usually – because I know I can do something with a third strike should it come. Yesterday, after getting one strike on me, I was looking to make contact. I was afraid to let a second strike go by.

The same situation presented itself twice. After taking one strike, I fouled the ball back for strike two, twice. Then, on the first at-bat, I took a weak swing on a high outside pitch for strike three. On the second at-bat, I watched a low inside ball go by. The umpire called it a strike. It wasn’t technically a strike, but he was calling that pitch a strike all day, so I should have been protecting the plate.

Those two at-bats were as bad a pair of at-bats as I’ve had back-to-back in the past ten years. So now, I’m all full of doubts and feeling my age and whining about it here. Sorry about that.

Fuck it. I'm not going out on this shitty performance. Next week, and for the rest of the season, I’ll kick ass and take names. If I'm going to retire, it's going to be like I planned it last year. It will be on MY terms.

Use me, Jack. I'm going to rip it up.

Soon - next Sunday, insofar as softball is concerned - with much better stuff.


Tara said...

"The pleasure of what we enjoy is lost by wanting more"

You will always be a #1 catcher in my eyes and heart.

And you will always have those "wonder years" moments that can never be taken away.

endangered coffee said...

You are the Brett Favre of softball catchers. The neat trick is that you also get to be the Peter King of chronicling the Brett Favre of softball catchers.

Suldog said...

Tara - "The pleasure of what we enjoy is lost by wanting more"

Very wise words. Thank you!

EC - Brett Favre? If I was getting the money he gets, I'd have kept myself in much better shape :-)

Rooster said...

I always remember baseball (maybe more so than softball) being a frigging roller coaster. You go 4 for 4 one day and it is the best sport in the world, but you whiff 3 times in a row the next game and you wonder why you bother playing.

Sounds like you might have been on the down side of the coaster in that game. Like you said, get back out there and go at it again.

Lisa Johnson said...

I'm glad you're playing again! Looking forward to more stories!

SandraRee said...

That was a home run to my eyes, Sul. I haven't seen that much emotion put into the f word in a loooong time. Ten percent talent and ninety percent attitude I always say. When you're young with that attitude you don't always know how to harness it.

Kick butt, take names and then rip up the list!

Hilary said...

I love the way your thought process is exposed, evolves and resolves over the course of your blog post. You're a natural, open-hearted story teller. And you're always back with "better stuff."

Melinda said...

Glad to hear you're back to it Sully! It's clear how much you love the game. Definitely time to keep on playin'.

Janet said...

There's my Sul, right there at the end. You had me worried for the teensiest minute. I think it's amazingly cool that you have your own trading card. I played catcher on 2 different teams, 2 seasons 10 years apart. I never had a hit the first season - completely terrified with a bat in my hands. The second round someone took the time to pay attention to what I was doing and I got on base every time. Never made it home though. Ah well. I played catcher, too. That's how I earned the dainty nickname of "Moose."

Anonymous said...

Just have fun. The rest will take care of itself. :)

Suldog said...

It's so nice having a rooting section made up of such lovely females! Well, of course, except for you, Rooster. You're lovely, too, but you're not my type.

Thanks, everyone!

David Sullivan said...

Ec said it right, but I'll take it a step further. You are like Clemens, bring him in for the second half for the playoff run. Now all you have to do is cycles of Winstrol and Viagra and you should be all set for the playoffs!

Ali P said...

I second Thimbelle. I thought "playing" was supposed to be fun, unless you are getting paid for it then its work. Stop pressuring yourself and blocking your hitting energy. Be at ease at the plate!
You are still the bomb even if you bomb because, after all, aren't explosions awesome???;oP

lime said...

hang in there. they wouldn't have asked you back if they didn't want you.

regardless of physical condition, i am seeing the truth in how much of the game is played between your ears too. but i am not telling you anything you don't know.

add me to the cheering section.

Stu said...

As the revered Crash Davis said, "Look for the fastball up. He's gotta come with the cheese. Relax. Relax. Quick bat. Pop the clubhead. Open the hips. Relax. You're thinking too much. Get outta your fuckin' head..."

Anonymous said...

Hey Red!
I've enjoyed poking around in your blog. I've often wondered where you were and how you were.

Suldog said...


Drop me a line at, when you get a chance.

Cath said...

Now those last lines are the Jim I see in this blog! That's more like it.
Getting older and admitting changes sucks. But go out with style and dignity!

And, I notice, there's your comment from Mark. Is there an email addy or website address attached to the profile? Try it out if there is.

Anonymous said...

Here is a little story about suldog (from old yeller)

Old Suldog is a 2008 softball film directed by The Bombers, produced by the sunday softball league Productions, and released to theaters by Jason Atton. Based upon the website Olld suldog by Jim Sullivan, Old suldog is a story set in post-bombers championship season in harvard yard and brighton Mass about a team and a stray, retired catcher, firstbaseman they befriends. The teams success resulted in more films about a team and there suldog, including an Old suldog sequel, i.

The film stars Jason Atton, Jack Atton, Ronnie Johnson, and Joe (I don't even Know how to spell my own name) Baz--------z, and also features freddy goodman, Pat Atton, Donna Sullivan, and softball megastar Jim Sullivan as "Old Suldog."

[edit] Plot
The Bombers team consists of coach Jack (Jack Atton), slugger Big J (Jason Atton), coach's older son Pat (Patrick) and a guy getting hit in the nuts Fred (Fred Goodman). The Bombers are so bad that their team have never seen a playoff, other the worthless loser bracket.

While Jack is away on a scouting trip, a scruffy "softball player" Jim visits the Team uninvited. Jason unsuccessfully tries to shoot him off, while his younger cousin Patrick is crazy about him. Their catcher joes intervenes and suldog eventually gains Jason' respect and love till the two are close in the way only a player and a player can be.

At one point, the rightful owner of suldog, Mrs. Suldog (Donna Sullivan) shows up looking for hey stud. She realizes that this team needs the suldog more than she does and agrees to trade the dog to Jack in exchange for a horny goodman and a home-cooked meal.

Toward the end, Suldog develops oldage (not that good anymore) after being walked while playing softball many many times ,

To protect his team, Sully tearfully retires from the game he loves and in doing so takes a painful first step into retirement. Depressed from the retirement of his beloved glove which he gives to the slugger since he nevers bring a glove to to the field since 2002 he even throws his pants in the garbage. The Sequal to come in a month

The Return of Suldog

here is the IMDB of old yeller

Old Yeller is a 1957 film directed by Robert Stevenson, produced by Walt Disney Productions, and released to theaters by Buena Vista Distribution. Based upon the 1956 Newbery Honor-winning book Old Yeller by Fred Gipson, Old Yeller is a story set in post-Civil War Texas about a boy and a stray dog he befriends. The film's success resulted in more films about a boy and his pet, including an Old Yeller sequel, Savage Sam.

The film stars Dorothy McGuire, Fess Parker, Kevin Corcoran, and Tommy Kirk, and also features Chuck Connors, Jeff York, Beverly Washburn, and animal actor Spike as "Old Yeller."

[edit] Plot
The Coates family consists of father Jim (Fess Parker), mother Katie (Dorothy McGuire), older son Travis (Tommy Kirk) and a younger son Arliss (Kevin Corcoran). The Coates are so poor that their children have never seen a dollar bill, other than now-worthless Confederate dollars.

While Jim is away on a cattle drive, a scruffy "yeller" mutt visits the family uninvited. Travis unsuccessfully tries to shoot him off, while his younger brother Arliss is crazy about him. Their mother intervenes and Yeller eventually gains Travis' respect and love till the two are close in the way only a child and a pet can be.

At one point, the rightful owner of Yeller, Mr. Sanderson (Chuck Connors) shows up looking for his dog. He realizes that this family needs the dog more than he does and agrees to trade the dog to Arliss in exchange for a horny toad and a home-cooked meal.

Toward the end, Yeller develops hydrophobia (rabies) after being bitten while defending the family from an infected Gray Wolf. To protect his family, Travis tearfully shoots Yeller and in doing so takes a painful first step into manhood. Depressed from the death of his beloved dog, Travis even turns down the offer of a new puppy from his family, a pup of Old Yeller. But then his father explains to him the facts about life and death. Travis understands, and then adopts the puppy, starting a brand-new friendship. Travis christens the puppy "Young Yeller", in honor of his father.

Suldog said...

OMG. You're even more insane than me. That's why I love you, of course. You make me look normal by comparison.

Old Suldog

Anonymous said...

Ya i figured you would get a chuckle about that one.

Hope to see you sunday