June 8th, 2009

One In Three

I played baseball for two seasons in high school, my Sophomore and Junior years. I got some play time the first year because the Seniors went on the Senior Trip. I think I played in two, maybe three games. The one vivid memory I have from that time is letting a grounder go through my legs during a game. Is there anything more cliché? I guess some things are clichés for a reason.

I played a few more games my Junior year. I was second base and I loved it there. The highlight of my season was participating in a double play. A player came up to bat and I remembered that last time he was up to bat, he hit it directly over second base. The second baseman lines up about halfway between first and second, so I hadn’t gotten that one. When he came up to bat this time, though, I shifted a little, and, sure enough, he hit in the same exact spot. I snagged it, stepped on second, then threw the ball to Josh on first for the double play. Granted, if Josh hadn’t been 6’3″, we might not have pulled it off, but he was able to stretch enough to grab it.

I think I actually was a pretty good infielder. The problem was, I couldn’t bat for anything. For some reason, I never got much batting practice in during practice, and coach never worked with me on it – bigger fish to fry, I imagine. Our pitching staff batted better than I did, so coach ended up using a designated hitter for my place in the lineup, which was fine by me.

Somewhere in the middle of the season, though, coach found another guy on the roster who could bat a little and field a little, and he must have decided the tradeoff was worthwhile because he pulled me. I believe I was a better fielder than the other guy, but the non-batting did me in. Truth be told, coach never liked me that much anyway — and that’s not me thinking everyone’s out to get me, that can be verified by external sources who I am not afraid to call in on this (Eric, Josh, and Dave – that’s you guys).

So I moved into my new role on the team: benchsitter/team clown. I was the loudest cheerer, but I also had a morale-boosting hat I’d wear on the bench: it had Vulcan ears on it, and it was epic. Coach hated it, but the team mostly liked it and the fans got a kick out of it. And, hey, being in sports is about having fun, right?

Advance the clock to this past Saturday: I’m sitting on a bench in our first softball game of the season, only the Vulcan hat has long been lost in the sands of time. I haven’t played any organized sports in longer than I’d care to admit, and I’m actually feeling a little overwhelmed by the officialness of it all – there’s rosters, batting orders, umpires, and even some fans who’ve come out to watch, and it’s all very surreal. I don’t actually get a field position to start off, but the rule in this league is that everyone bats, even if they’re not on the field.

I get on base with my first at-bat, and no one’s more surprised than me. I end up making it all the way home over the course of the next couple of batters, but not before injuring myself on my trip from first to second — and by “trip” I mean a literal trip. The ground is a little uneven, and my legs are a bit unused to running, and right before I got to second base, I fell.

You know the part near the end of T2 where the T-1000 is being frozen by the liquid nitrogen? He takes a few steps with difficulty, and then one one step his leg breaks off about mid-calf and he does this kind of three-point fall? My trip near second looked about like that, with my hand thankfully on the base at the end of it, safe.

I discovered that I probably need to invest in a pair of cleats for this season. I did end up playing second base for two of the seven innings and I really enjoyed it. But on one particular play, the ball came my way, and after I got it and threw it, my right foot slidout to the side far enough that I was off-balance and fell forward. I turned it into a somersault and got right back up, but I’m pretty sure it was the only softball-field somersault saw that day, and possibly ever. If you can do your job on the field and be the team clown? That’s what I want to do.

I did get to bat two more times, but the ball beat me to first base both times. I ended the game with a .333 batting average which is, as I’m sure you know, an average the pros would get paid millions for.

First thing I’m buying when those millions come in? A new Vulcan hat.