Monday, July 11, 2011

Life And Death On The Diamond

Up and down. Back and forth. Highs and lows. That’s the way it is with all sports, including modified fast-pitch softball.

Master Batters – 26 SWINGERS – 7

BOMBERS – 19 Dot Rats – 11
Dot Rats – 17 BOMBERS – 10

First, let’s talk about death.

Last time we were together (and speaking of softball), I told you about the great night for the Atton family. It was also a great night for the Swingers, my weekday team in the M Street Softball League of South Boston. We kept our playoff hopes alive with an extremely satisfying win. It was the sort of victory that reminded me of all the good points of being a manager: camaraderie, pulling together in pursuit of a common goal, some guys giving up their own good stats to give the team a boost. In other words, it was fun.

This past Friday? No fun. We had a must-win game. Or, more precisely, ANOTHER must-win game. I’ll explain.

With the previous victory, we had pushed our record to 4 wins and 7 losses. Nothing great, but it was enough to keep us alive for a playoff spot. With six more games remaining total – and only three playoff spots open from our division – I figured we would probably have to win the three games we had left against opposition from our own “C” (or lower) division, and then pull off a couple of upsets in the three games scheduled against teams from the higher-ranked “B” division. The game of this Friday past was against the Master Batters.

(Yup, the Master Batters. Yikes! The Swingers versus the Master Batters. Sounds like two teams full of perverts from the Larry Flynt League.)

Anyway, the Master Batters are from our division, the lesser one. And they came into the game with a 2 and 7 record. If we couldn’t win, we didn’t deserve a playoff spot. And if we didn’t win, we were pretty much dead.

We are now pretty much dead. And we don’t deserve a playoff spot.

In one of the more profoundly disappointing displays of lack of team spirit in this season full of such stuff, only eight Swingers (and that includes me) showed up to play. That’s from a roster of fifteen.

OK, guys have things to do that sometimes cause them to miss games. There are family commitments and crises, surprise work assignments, injuries, or any number of good reasons to miss relatively non-meaningful softball games. But all I ask is that you tell me that you won’t be there. If you tell me, and it looks as though I won’t have at least a starting nine, I can try to arrange for someone else to fill in.

I heard from two guys who told me they wouldn’t be able to make it. And eight guys showed up. That leaves five guys – a full 1/3 of the roster – who didn’t care enough about their team or their teammates to even give us the courtesy of an e-mail or a phone call saying they wouldn’t be there. That’s pitiful.

(It’s possible all five of them had very good reasons for their absences, so I’m trying not to be a total a-hole here. I’m willing to hear them out. I like all of those guys and I hope they like me. And I hope their reasons for missing the game were not anything truly tragic. But I really want to hear something from them before they’ll play again.)

Anyway, we got our asses handed to us. As good as Drew Atton was in pitching for us during the previous win (and he was really, really good), he just didn’t have it in this loss. His control problems returned. His fielders weren’t doing him a lot of favors, either. And, as hitters, we left multiple men on base in every inning (11 total in the slaughter-rule shortened five-inning game.) Let’s face it - it takes a team effort to lose by 19 runs. And that includes this manager. I wasn’t brilliant, by any means.

The bottom line is that we now will probably need to win all of our remaining five games, with three of those games coming against much stiffer opposition than we’ve faced thus far. I’m not the type who gives up easily, but I don’t see it happening.

(If the rest of the team reads this and gets pissed off enough to prove me wrong, there’s nothing I’d like more.)


Now we can talk about life.

Following this Sunday’s doubleheader, the Bombers are sitting with a record of 3 and 7. That’s worse, on a percentage basis, than the Swingers. The Bombers, however, are alive and kicking. The reasons? First, the playoff set-up in that league is more forgiving. There are six spots open for us. Second, the Bombers are getting better, not worse. We’ve won three of our last four, and more guys showed up this week, not fewer. Third, the remaining regular season schedule is against teams we should beat. Finally, we’ve got guys on that team who don’t miss games even when they rightly could be in the hospital.

Jack Atton has been battling kidney stones for the past week or so. He was in the hospital on Friday getting a morphine shot for the pain. He still hasn’t passed the damn things, and he’s hurting, bad. So, what does he do? He comes down and pitches both ends of the doubleheader for us, picking up a win in the first game (and deserving a better fate in the second game, for that matter.)

That’s the kind of teammate I’ll travel to hell with.

(I caught Jack in one of the games. Unfortunately, I made him work way too much, and it ripped my heart out. One of the simplest things in the game, getting the ball back to the pitcher, was a chore for me on Sunday. I’ve developed a psychological problem with it, like Chuck Knoblauch, the major leaguer, had for a while (if you remember him playing second base and not being able to make simple throws to the first baseman.) I had Jack reaching this way and that, bending for throws, and otherwise did a shitty job of it, and I hate that I did that to him in his condition. He replaced me with Joey Baszkiewicz in the fifth inning, and I don’t blame him one bit. I wasn’t traveling to hell with him; I was sending him there.)

There are some good performances to talk about, so let’s do that instead of me continuing with the mea culpa.

Drew Atton bounced back from his bad Friday with the Swingers and went 4 for 7, with a double, a triple, and a couple of RBI. A fine player from M Street, fellow by the name of Cooch (Steve Couturier), played for us for the first time this season and was magnificent at shortstop. He was also a monster at the plate, with five hits that included two doubles and a home run. He had seven RBI in all. He also had the hustle play of the day, tagging up from second on a long fly and not just going to third, but scoring. Speed kills. Robbie Rogers, a tremendously intelligent player and one of my favorite teammates, made his season debut in style, also collecting five hits. Fast Freddy Goodman gave us a 3 for 4 in the first game. Pat Atton reached base six times, three via hit and three via walk. And P.K. (Patrick Kelly) had a killer home run in game one.

For my part, I finished the day 1 of 2, also had a base-on-balls, and I scored once. Aside from torturing Jack, it was a decent enough day, I suppose.


The Swingers try to come back from the dead this Tuesday and Friday. I hope they make me proud. The Bombers will be alive and kicking ass next Sunday. I have no doubt about that.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Jeni said...

I think sometimes we all have to take my little grandson's words and use them. Kurtis often asks when he gets up in the morning "Is a better day today, Gram?" And we always tell him that "Yes, I'm sure today's going to be a better day." and it all makes him happy to at least think that way.
But you know, I can totally relate to your issues with your teammates and their lack of response/notification about being absent. I'm in the midst of trying to put together a cookbook from recipes given to me (for our church women's group) from parishioners. Our membership is around 300 some and thus far, only about 4-5 people who are members now of our church have given me recipes. I've received a goodly number though from former members who no longer live in this area via e-mail and even snail mail. But one long time member informed me she and her Mom would no way be giving us recipes for this project. Why? Because she is ticked at one lady in our women's group! Petty, petty B.S. there ya know. But anyway, I'm sure you can see the comparison I'm drawing here to your woes with your team. Here's hoping those who were absent have a really good excuse and that none of them stayed away because they were pissed at a teammate!
(And keep thinking too "It will be better today! -Kurtis will commend you if you do that!)

Craig said...

Ugh; those 'no-call, no-shows' are maddening. . .

I've had a similar 'mental block' thing just playing catch with my sons in the street in front of our house. Especially when they're young, and I can't just 'cut loose' on my throws. Really embarrassing to spike the ball into the pavement, when the kid is only ten yards away. . . (I remember Chuck Knoblauch; and Steve Sax)

Go Bombers!

And come on, Swingers! You can do it! Win the Larry Flynt League! (I shudder to wonder what the names of some of the other teams in the league might be. . .)

Maggie May said...

It is very rude not to show up when you are depending on their support for a game.
I guess they didn't all have a life threatening crisis.
And that guy with the kidney stones needs a medal for his sheer determination.
I have heard that the pain from that is one of the most excruciating that any man can experience.
Heres to him!
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Buck said...

Sounds like two teams full of perverts...

There's nary a doubt in my military mind that it IS what it sounds like. Mom always said "water seeks its own level." QED.

Michelle H. said...

Don't worry about not getting your balls straightened out. I'm sure you'll get them juggling the way you want for next time time you play with them. You'll toss them straight.

Daryl said...

Hey did you hear some guy hit 300!

silly rabbit said...

I tip my hat to Jack Atton! That's dedication to the team and game.

Congratulations to the Bombers... and yikes! Sorry about the Swingers. I can imagine your frustration. In baseball, like life you can only get out of something what you put into it. I hope your team mates get a clue and start pitching in their share.

Carolina said...

May Jack Atton's kidney stones magically disappear without causing him any more pain. What a guy!

Couldn't you fine the ones that don't turn up for games (or training sessions) without letting you know beforehand? That may be a typical Dutch reaction; hit them where it hurts most - the wallet

Shammickite said...

OlderSon played in a tourney last weekend while I babysat.... they lost 2 and tied one on Sat, then lost again on Sunday, that was their hopes dashed.... out of the running. Oh well, maybe next year. They still have a chance at the championship at the end of the season.
BTW their team name....? The Hot Tub Woodies.

Anonymous said...

In these days of cell phones, there's no excuse for not calling. You're being very gracious! Love your passion for the game - and I can't believe Jack came out there with kidney stones! That's like playing while you're in labor! Beyond OUCH!

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

I've seen how the Boston streets are laid out. Give them the benefit of doubt. They probably got lost.

Speaking of Boston streets... is the Big Dig finished yet?

i beati said...

and maybe you will win all of them !!Hope you are still having fun too???

messymimi said...

My sympathy on the no shows. It gets me, too, on the swim team for the kids, and back when #1 Son played football. Even those who don't show up to teach or take their turn in the nursery on Sunday.

If you commit, show up.

Chris said...

Ah, good old Knobby. Nice of you to give him a shout-out.

Sucks that the guys didn't even check in with you. Very little (if any) excuse for not dropping you a line.