Last week saw the conclusion of my adult softball league, as my team was finally booted out of the playoffs (ok, we only made it to the first round, but it still felt like an accomplishment).
One of the goals I set for myself was to try new things. In college, I played intramural dodge ball, indoor and outdoor soccer (of which we were one years intramural champs!), flag football (of which I single handedly scored a few touchdowns), and broom ball. I love trying new things. So, when my sister’s friend asked if we wanted to play on her softball league, of course I jumped right on board. It sounded like a fun enough prospect. And, how hard could catching a ball really be?
It turns out that catching a ball is actually very difficult and playing everything Wednesday night taught me a plethora of things. First of all, while I am a fairly athletic person, our first practice revealed my innate weaknesses in playing actual sports. You know, ones where you need hand eye coordination. I am really good at running, just not the other things you have to do to get to run. Second of all, I learned that it is probably a bad idea to kick a softball. I have no idea what ever gave me the inclination that would be a good idea, but I definitely sustained a gnarly bruise on my foot for a few days after.
But, what I really learned was the complexity of the game and the benefits of being on a team.
The game itself is WAY more complex than I ever thought it would be. Usually, when I go to baseball games, I spend more time talking and people watching than actually observing the game. But, now I know a few more rules, my experience is very different. It is much like playing chess. If you have one runner on first and one on third, and you have this batter who usually hits to the left, you want to try to play the ball home. Or, if you are running and you have no outs, you should try to go for as many bases as possible but if you have some outs, you should probably stay and don’t pull a Logan. And, always pay attention to your base coaches.
The first thing you have to do when playing a sport is to learn ‘the official lingo’. You will not gain entry into the club unless you can talk the talk. You know, things like, calling the umpire a ref, saying you scored a home run when you actually just made it to first base, not running in with the team at third out, saying your batting average is 1.25–those kinds of things probably will not gain you entry into “The Softball Club”.
When I first walked up to the softball field, I did not understand why so many old, over weight people were still playing this sport, but I now understand. For one, our practices never included running, so that was a plus. And, the likelihood that you actually ran a significant amount that you needed to train for was very low. Softball also includes a lot of standing around. You stand while you wait for the batter to “find their ball”, you stand when the ball is going the other direction (or, if you are me, you stand when the ball is coming your way anyways and then just hope someone else hustles enough to catch it). You stand while you are waiting to bat. And, in between all of that standing, you get to be out in nature and enjoy the nice, summer breeze that sweeps off the dew drops from the grass (and sometimes brings a few West-Nile carrying mosquitoes with it). You get to exercise your brain and observe the game (or, in my case, observe the hot guys on the other team) and laugh when Butterfingers dropped the ball, again. You get to socialize with your teammates, flirt with the umpire, make fun of the short armed T-Rex looking player and the funny noise the lady made when the ball hit her very flabby thigh (and how pathetic she looked as she stumbled off the field). Oh, and I forgot that you get to do all of this under the influence. That is the best part. Our team started by not drinking, and then we realized how much better we played after throwing a few back.
My position was right outfield, which I think is where coaches usually put their weakest players, but I think my coach put me there strategically because I was the best cheerleader on the team. Softball is probably one of the most vocal sports I have ever been apart of (perhaps because there is all that standing around?). I never did catch any balls, but I felt an extreme obligation to pump up my teammates all the time. You know, “Nice pitch, Trae!”, “Way to sacrifice you body, Melissa!”, “Great catch, Mark!”. I like to think that (a) they actually heard me and (b) my cheering made them better players (you know, the self-fulfilling prophecy), so even though I never exactly caught the ball, I like to think that I participated in a few outs.
The MOST STRESSFUL part of playing softball is definitely batting. I can’t tell you how nervous I would get–sweaty palms, butterflies in my stomach. I felt like I was back at competition days on my dance team. But of course, batting is the best part, because you are kind of up on stage–all eyes are on YOU–and being a dancer, I love that attention. It is a lot of pressure and the absolute worst part of the game is when you get the third out for your team by swinging at a crappy ball. I would like to think that, by the end of the season, by batting average was at .65? Of course, it’s rec league so no one is really calculating.
Overall, I learned a lot about the game and a lot about life while playing adult rec league softball. And, the really great part is, no one sustained any life threatening injuries. I think I would like to play again. Oh, but I definitely need to get better gear, because apparently better gear makes you a better player.