Last night’s game was the regular season finale and, considering I’m not currently slated to play in next week’s playoff game, it could be my last game of the season. Or, potentially, my last game ever, depending on whether or not the team makes the tactical mistake of allowing everyone in the company to play again.
The potential finality of the game was something I hadn’t considered until literally just a few minutes ago. Had I known, you can rest assured I would have put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself, failed to even come close to meeting my own expectations, and spent most of the game caught in a tidal wave of nostalgia over events both great and small. “This may be my last ever at-bat.” “This could be my last ever time taking the field.” “This could be the last time I ever sit on this exact bench.”
Instead, I went out there last night and did pretty much what I’ve done for most of this season: Be perfectly mediocre. Sure, last week’s game was a bit worse than mediocre, the week before was a little better, but when you take the whole thing into consideration, I’m hovering around the middle.
There were a couple of changes to the lineup. For one thing, I was shifted to third in the batting order, up from second to last which is where I was last week. I can’t explain the strategy behind this as three-hole hitters tend to have a little bit of pop and be good at getting on base, neither of which describe me, but whatever. I’m happy when people remember to write my name down, I don’t care about the order.
Changes occurred on the defensive side of things, as well. As you know, I’ve spent most of the season toiling away in the dead of right field, occasionally catching things, but mostly just standing around, watching balls fly as far away from me as my team could manage. That’s not a complaint, that’s just sound strategy. But last night, I was moved to shortstop. The most athletic, important, dare-devilly position there … no I wasn’t. I did get a new position, but that position was right center. Still a dead zone, but I would be closer to the action. There was a scare where it looked as if I might have to play centerfield all by my lonesome, but luckily someone had miscounted somewhere and we had one more player than we thought.
Let’s start in the field. Despite the other team having a decent number of lefties, I had another light night. I only had one ball hit well over my head, I got to run in field a few grounders and line drives that dropped and found their way into the outfield, but that was about it. There was one play where the ball was rolling quickly towards me, I was running quickly towards it and because my depth perception is occasionally terrible, I ran right by it. The ball and I were like two trains passing each other on opposite tracks. Outside of that, though, it was a fairly quiet night over on the right side of the field once again.
But what about at the plate? Last week I managed to do the very-near impossible and strike out twice in slow pitch softball, once swinging and once looking. Remember, this week I felt just the usual amount of self-imposed pressure to not suck and none of the added weight that would come if I’d realized it could be my last game. First time up, I have no idea what happened. I honestly don’t remember. I know I didn’t get on base, but how I got out, I can’t say. I know it wasn’t a strike out though. I didn’t do that at all last night. I think ground out, maybe?
Second time up, though, line drive over the head of the shortstop. Base hit! Good contact too, if I do say so myself. I ended up getting stranded at first, but so it goes. Third trip to the plate, I grounded into a fielder’s choice. The fielders didn’t choose to throw me out and a few batters later I was crossing the plate for my fifth, FIFTH, run of the season. That’s six more runs than I thought I would get before the season (I thought I might get a hit and then run the wrong way around the bases, resulting in a negative run per my understanding of baseball/softball rules).
My last at bat, though. This is the thing legends are made out of. I went up there. Took a ball which I will almost never do. I’ve probably swung at 90% of the pitches that have been thrown my way this year. I have no ability to tell what’s a strike and what’s not so as long as the ball isn’t rolling on the ground or 20 feet over my head, there’s a good chance I’ll swing. Then, I took another one because I was feeling bold. The count was 3-1 (everyone starts with a 1-1 count). One foul tip later, the count was full. Had I known this could be my last game, the pressure of facing a full count late in the game would have caused me to go full-Alex Mack and just turn myself into a puddle and slip away.
But again, I didn’t know, so as the pitch came in, I swung with all my might and … I made the best contact I’ve ever made. I could feel it. I hit the ball right on the screws as they say. It was a sight to behold, let me tell you. That ball soaring majestically, past the pitcher, out of the infield, into the outfield, going, going, going … right into the glove of the shortstop who’d been playing in shallow left center, which is the only direction the ball ever goes in when I make contact. Still, even though it was an out, that was damn good contact.
We ended up losing the game pretty resoundingly by an unknown score. The other team was really good. They had one guy who could hit the ball in whatever direction he wanted. It was incredible.
That drops our team record to 2-4 on the season. Individually, I’m at 5 games played, 6-18 for an even .300 batting average with 5 runs scored and a big fat zero RBIs. I do also have 3 strikeouts on the season to my credit.
The playoffs begin next week and as I said, I’m not scheduled to play, but expect a recap if I do. Otherwise, this has been fun. I’m sorry my return to softball didn’t end up being as catastrophically bad as it probably should have been, but I’d like to think we still had some fun.