Sunday, August 21, 2016

Talkin' Softball

The greatest comeback of all time was somewhat overshadowed by….uh, the greatest comeback of all time.  My epic return to the world of softball was only slightly dampened by the fact that we blew a 10-run lead (!) in the final inning (!!) and lost 19-18.  We can’t blame a pitcher (it was three-pitch rules, with the ball tossed by a teammate), so it was overall just a team meltdown.  There were a few errors on our side, but mostly, the opposing team en masse turned into Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez and started driving the ball all over the field.  Given the quick pace of three-pitch softball, this entire rally took place in less than 10 minutes, leaving us all too shellshocked to really react or adjust.  The loss was so crushing that it almost stopped me from going out to Dairy Queen for a strawberry sundae after the game, and when I say “almost stopped,” it’s a lie.   

But don’t be fooled: my epic return to the world of softball certainly still lived up to its billing.  Thanks to a number of absences on his regular roster, my pal Matt recently had to break out the proverbial red telephone to summon the man, the myth, the me.  It was the first time I had stepped onto a softball diamond since 2008, and while retirement had been good to me, I was ultimately swayed by two factors…

1. This generation of fans who missed my golden years can now say they saw me play
2. I had nothing better to do on a Thursday night

So, I grabbed my gear and went down to the diamond.  Ok, so not really ’gear,’ since my glove is sitting in a closet somewhere at my parents’ place.  And really, even my t-shirt was wrong, given that Matt’s team is actually organized and has uniforms and everything, yet I couldn’t find a single purple shirt in my closet to match their colour scheme.  I spent six years on Western’s campus and didn’t come out of it with one stinking purple shirt?  For shame.

My biggest concern was that I would instantly pull every muscle in my body given how long it had been since I last did any sort of physical activity played softball.  Erosion of skills wasn’t really a fear, since one can never hit a decline phase if they never incline in the first place.  So the good news is, I managed to escape the game without injury.  The feet were a little sore and I did get one medium-sized bruise on my lower leg from blocking an errant throw at second base (as opposed to, you know, catching the ball) but all in all, I emerged in one piece.  I spent six innings of the seven-inning game at second base, wowing everyone with my deft glovework.  Sure, there were the two errors, but I choose instead to focus on the positive of catching one ball on a force play.  Since a .333 batting average is terrific and even a .333 on-base percentage is pretty solid, I can only conclude that a .333 fielding percentage is also impressive.

But we didn’t come here to talk about fielding.  I’m sure the first question on your mind (maybe second, after “wait, HOW long is this post?!”) is how did the legendary slugger known as the London Lumber* fare at the place?  The answer?  Shockingly well!  A FOUR-HIT night, finishing 4-for-5 with four singles and four RBI.  Whaaaaat?

* = it’s either that or the London Lumberer, in reference to my baserunning

Now, all kidding aside, this was literally the greatest hitting performance of my life.  I can count all the two-hit games of my baseball/softball career on one hand, so a four-hit game is like suddenly waking up one day and running a four-minute mile.  (Or, for me, just running a mile.  Or, just running!)  I wasn’t exactly much of a hitter back in my house league days, given that my career highlights at the plate include…

* an inside-the-infield home run that I credited to my blazing speed, though the killjoy scorer felt it was due to the three separate errors committed on the play.  Booooooo!
* faking getting hit by a pitch, causing a reaction of half-amazement, half-disgust from my first base coach when he asked me if I was hurt.  Five years of high school drama class paid off!
* leading my house league in bunt base hits, mostly because I was the only one who’d ever conceive of bunting during a house league game.

….and that’s it.  Needless to say, four hits exceeded all expectations.  Turns out it’s way easier to hit the ball when it’s being slowly lobbed by a teammate rather than pitched by an opponent.  Who knew? 

Some might argue that bragging about one’s personal achievements in a game your team a) lost, and b) lost in horrific fashion is the sign of a selfish, me-first player.  To this I say, ME ME ME ME ME ME ME.  Given my career history, if you’d asked my former teammates what was more likely to happen that fateful Thursday night, all of them would’ve predicted a 10-run collapse over a four-hit night from ol’ Question Mark.  Statistically, my achievement is much rarer, so it’s the true focus here.  Now, if I’m ever called on as a sub once more, the sky is the limit.  A five-hit night?  TWO successful putouts at second base?  The mind boggles.

The strawberry sundae was pretty good, btw.

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