(cross posted from Monkey Trials)

I'm sore---but it's a good sore. Being in my mid-forties, and (like most Americans) overweight, my opportunities for competition are slipping through my fingers. Father Time, and all that. But I love playing ball, and so for the past two years most of my Tuesdays have been spent playing softball with a bunch of twenty-somethings who for the most part are recent grads of the high school I teach at. Rather unimaginatively (it's the high school's name), we go by the Knights.

Now, the original team wasn't like that. Oh, it had the same name, but it was mostly teachers, my age or older, along with a few recent grads as ringers. Well, pretty much all of my colleagues ended up so banged-up from attempting to play that we had trouble filling a roster. We went 1-8-1 (the one win was a forfeit by the other team!), so we were pretty much the laughingstock of the league. Kind of punishing.

Well, I still wanted to play but my dream of a faculty team was obviously unrealistic. One of the ringers, a former student of mine named Jeff Moore, got the bug to play and (thankfully) managed the club instead of yours truly, who obviously hadn't done that great a job (1-8-1, remember?). Anyway, I was the only over-the-hill guy who stuck around, though we were joined by Mr. Moore's Dad, and I do not exaggerate when I say that Moore Senior was our most reliable hitter in that second season. We ended up being a .500 club, a vast improvement.

Not satisfied, manager Moore recruited more players, including some ladies who not only could play, but didn't have any prominent varicose veins. The downside to this upgrade is that I didn't play the field as much as in the past, but (realistically) this was just as well, as I had managed to hurt myself pretty bad with bruised feet and an abdominal strain. Frankly, I had doubts that I would be able to keep playing, and it affected my ability to contribute to the team in the second half of the season. We started off great and at one point, in our third league, we were 5-0, but then we had a disastrous evening where we couldn't do anything right, including my horrible injuries, and we gave away three games before righting the ship and finishing 6-4. Still, having been in the running for first place, it was a bitter disappointment.

That brings us to our current league, which is our fourth time playing together. We went into last night 6-0, but we had a doubleheader to play, and the second game was with a club (the 'Mighty Mitts') that had been dominating the entire league, and which was 7-0. Realistically, to have a shot at finally winning one of these things, we needed to beat them. As expected, we won our first game rather handily and (thankfully) no one was hurt. That brought up the Mighty Mitts, who clearly were expecting to dominate us as well. It was pretty clear why they were scoring so many runs: they had a couple of guys and gals who were pretty swift, and they were very aggressive on the basepaths.

After an inning and a half, they were up 4-0 and things weren't looking so good. But we started to chisel away with a run here and a run there, and (most importantly) we didn't panic and we played good defense. They ran their lead to 7-4, and then we stopped them in successive innings, adding two to make it a one-run game. At this point, I was (frankly) just enjoying myself tremendously. We hadn't been tested much this season, and here we were, in the last few innings, in a one-run game with the club that was leading our leagues in runs scored. No matter what happened, I thought, it was a thrill to have come this far. When Ronald dug out a low bullet to first on a bang-bang play for the last out in the fifth, it was tremendously exciting!

I went out to coach third in the bottom of the fifth. Our leadoff hitter, a girl, has made a career out of the swinging bunt and she beat out an infield hit. That brought up Gumby (Matt), who drilled a two-run homer to give us our first lead of the ballgame, 8-7! Still, the Mighty Mitts shut us down and they had their ups at the top of the sixth, with seven minutes to play. They quickly scored a pair of runs with one out to retake the lead, 9-8, but with the bases loaded, our defense held and with a light rain beginning to fall, we took the field for the bottom of the sixth.

We had the tying and go-ahead runs on-base with two out. I came up, and laced a single sharply up the middle, but it ricocheted straight up in the air off the second base bag, which slowed it down long enough for their centerfielder to cut it off and we had to hold the runners.Gulp. Bases loaded, down a run, two out, but if we get a hit---we win. And you know what? We did! Our manager, Jeff, came through, crushing the second pitch he saw over the rover in right-center, for a game-winning, three-run triple! Knights win, 11-9, and we improved to 8-0 in our league, all but clinching a title. Very exciting, and I have to admit that I'm proud. I don't care if it's a pizza-and-beer league, when you're my age, any championship is worth savoring.So the soreness today, from the doubleheader? It's a GOOD soreness, believe me.


Andrew Haynes said...

Well, I don't want to correct you TOO much, but I will say a few things:

As much as it hurts, we did go 0-10 in our first season. The only forfeit was made by us on the night of a Fresno State football home game.

The third season, we were 2-8. This past summer, we ended up 6-3-1.

And I would like to make a team name distinction: in our 0-10 seasaon, we were BARB. The next summer we changed to Knights and have done much better ever since.

Anyway, I really wish I could be there and playing right now. It's killing me to be missing out on the undefeated season!

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Corrections duly noted! I could've sworn we tied a game in the first season, though...! Maybe I confused that with last season.

And you're right. BARB sucked, Knights Rule!....:)