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.

May 24th, 2009

There’s A Me In Team

I joined a softball team for the summer.

I will give you a minute for saying “whoa” or laughing or having whatever reaction you choose.

Okay.  Truth be told, I had pretty much the same reaction.  I was on the baseball team for two seasons in high school, but I haven’t picked up a bat since then.  If I’ve picked up a glove since then, I don’t remember it.  My whole exercise regime could be summed up similarly.

There were three reasons I signed up:

  1. I spent the last couple of months avoiding people.  I thought softball would be a way for me to get back into the habit of being around people, and people I’m not necessarily around much even when I’m not avoiding people.
  2. I thought it might be a good way for me to get some exercise. As I mentioned, I haven’t gotten much for a long time.  This last birthday was a stark reminder that, hey, I’m getting old.  Not much I can do about that, but maybe getting some exercise would help. Most folk seem to agree with that theory.  Worth checking out, I guess.  I’ve started going to the batting cage and doing the treadmill.  Small steps, but hopefully they’ll lead somewhere.
  3. I’m boring.  This isn’t just a self-assessment – I’ve heard it from others. I’m forced to agree. Sum me up and you’ll get a small list: Scrabble, movies, videogames, work, and church.  Trying new things is a way for me to try to be less boring.

Somewhere in the house is my baseball glove.  I saw it the other day, but I can’t remember where and I can’t find it again.  Finding it is one of my main goals for the weekend, because we have practice on Wednesday.

I’m looking forward to the experience, even though I fully expect to get injured and/or embarass myself.  I’ll keep you posted.

January 14th, 2008

Ice Ice Baby

Despite what it looks like, I am not following up Beatles Week with Vanilla Ice Week (regardless of Brent’s suggestion).

On Saturday, a bunch of Careerians went to an Indiana Ice hockey game (weirdly, their webpage has an ad before you get to any content.) It was only the second hockey game I’ve ever been to, and while it certainly was fun, nothing occurred during the game that would elicit a reaction anywhere near this:

From L. to R: Jen, some of Melissa’s hair (I think maybe she’s glad she didn’t show up in a picture where I look like a raving loonie), me, Jodi, and Melissa (a different Melissa!)

That picture actually shows up on on the Indiana Ice website, in the photo gallery for this game, along with a few other pictures of our group (thanks, Jonell, for finding them!). I think we can all be glad there is no video of me trying to get a free T-shirt by whooping and hollering. What’s a little loss of dignity in the face of getting a free T-shirt? Sadly, it didn’t pan out, so lost some dignity for nothing. That probably would have happened without the prospect of a free T-shirt anyway, so I’m okay with it.

As I’ve mentioned, the game was fun. Hockey’s kind of like a fast moving, more violent soccer. While no actual fights broke out (much to Lee‘s disappointment), there were plenty of solid hits. It was relatively high-scoring for a hockey game (4-3) and even went into overtime and ended in a shootout, so it’s hard to complain about the lack of a fight.

What was more interesting to me was the immediate sense of community bestowed by the game. I’d never been to an Ice game before and was only barely aware there even was a hockey team in the state, but there I was rooting for the Ice like I’d gone to school with each of them. Collective pronouns were par for the course – “We need a goal!” “Our guy just smacked into that other guy!” and that kind of thing. It wasn’t just me, either. We were all rooting for “our” team, made “ours” because it says “Indiana” right on their jerseys and we, being Hoosiers, had to root for them. If it had been two Indiana teams, we would have had to choose between them using a complex algorithm using geographic proximity, experiences in the respective towns, and location of family and friends.

I was again reminded of the Jerry Seinfeld bit where he talks about sports (paraphrased): “You got a guy on your team and you love him. He’s the greatest guy there is. During the offseason, he gets traded to a different team, and when that team plays against your team, you hate the guy. He’s the worst guy ever. What’s different? The guy hasn’t changed. All that’s changed are the clothes he’s wearing. We’re rooting for laundry, basically.”

I’m not a full-on Sports Guy by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t memorize stats, I barely know the players on my favorite teams, and I don’t plan my day around watching games. Even so, I find it’s easy to get excited in the sports atmosphere. There’s a sense of camaraderie with the other fans, even if you’re rooting for different teams – rivalry is its own specific sort of camaraderie – and it’s a good feeling to have that connection with other members of the human race, even if it’s for something as unimportant as a minor league hockey game.

It was a good time, and I really only have two quibbles:

  1. Our team lost.
  2. They never once played “Ice Ice Baby” in the arena, a song that you would just assume would be their theme song, wouldn’t you?