Monday, October 13, 2014

The Inevitable De-Wheeling of My Softball Bandwagon

The good thing about being a pessimist is that you’re never surprised when the wheels fall off. You’re just like, “Well, that was bound to happen” and then you deal with it. Meanwhile optimists are wracking their brains, contorting themselves in weird and “Exorcist-y” ways all to find the elusive – and usually non-existent – bright side to their present misfortune.
                That just sounds way too exhausting for me.

                Tuesday was supposed to be my week off from softball, but due to a lack of players I was summoned to represent my employer in athletic competition. Furthermore, due to a lack of female players, my girlfriend was also summoned even though she is not an employee.

                My new-found ability to be barely adequate at softball has been well-documented. Equally well-documented (if I do say so myself) has been my surprise at this and my expectation for me to revert back to my previous ability level, which my 7th grade baseball coach publicly likened to that of “an old lady.”

                Well revert it did on Tuesday night. I’d blame my girlfriend for jinxing me with her presence, but there’s not a lawyer in the world who could make that case. We’ve all been expecting this to happen for too long for that to be anything other than an unfortunate coincidence.

                I found myself near the bottom of the batting order this week instead of the leadoff spot I’d occupied recently. I should have seen this for what it was – a dark omen of things to come – and just run off screaming into the night. But for whatever reason, I didn’t make the connection at the time.    

                On defense nothing changed. I was in my usual spot in right field, wisely placed there to minimize the chances I’d be called upon to do anything of value and screw it up. I had exactly one ball hit my way by the team full of righties we played. It was a grounder. I picked it up, threw it wildly to the person covering second, who somehow was able to field it and tag out a runner. I’m going to give myself an outfield assist on that play even though the only reason the play even happened was because the other team’s runner had slid well passed the bag. The rest of my night was a whole lotta standing, which I will in no way complain about. It’s just risk management 101.

                My performance at the plate made my wild throw to second look Hall of Fame-worthy in comparison. First trip up: Swing at the first pitch, pop out to third, forget to run it out because I was too busy watching to see if it went foul or not. It didn’t. Amazingly, things managed to get even worse from there.

                The bases were loaded when I wandered up to the plate for my second at bat. Last time I was in that situation, I grounded out to end the game so I wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence this time around. I swung at the first pitch. Missed. Strike one. Second pitch, same as the first and there went that. Struck out swinging in slow pitch softball. (Everyone comes to the plate with a 1-1 count.)That’s hard to do if you’re trying.

                Good news. It gets worse.

                Third trip to the plate. Once again bases are loaded because god hates me more than he hates that Joan Osbourne song and Job combined. I vowed to myself to take a pitch because I just can’t keep going up there and hacking at everything. So I take the first pitch. It’s a ball. Good. Foul tip on the second pitch. Count is even at two. Take the third pitch. Strike out. Looking! Looking of all things. Two strike outs on one game! One strikeout is a ridiculous failure the scope of which even Michael Bay can’t fathom. But two? That’s unheard of. England used to draw and quarter people for less.

                The thing is, the rest of the team was rolling. My girlfriend kept getting on base because she’s awesome at a lot of things, but two of her favorites are softball in general and also making me look like a chump at sports. It’s why I love her. Elsewhere in the lineup, people kept getting home runs, triples, etc. Balls were flying every which way.

                That was tremendous … expect for it meant I’d likely get one more at bat. I was horrified. The only way things could get worse than back to back strikeouts with the bases loaded would be if I made contact and the ball struck and killed a decorated war vet or a small child who happened to be watching.  

                There were runners on base when I approached the plate for at bat number four. I feared for their safety. I feared for my own safety. There was a dog in the dugout. I feared for that dog’s safety more than anything.

                Earlier in the game, one of my teammates told me I was standing too far forward at the plate, so I stepped back a little. The pitch was thrown. I swung at it because my nerves were too frayed to do anything else. I made … contact? The ball sailed over the head of the shortstop and into the outfield. I was on first base! Then my girlfriend got a hit because she’s better than me at sports and I was on second! Then I came home when a guy on our team hit his third home run of the game. That’s impressive, but then again, I struck out twice, which is also really hard to do, so…

                Anyway, we won the game by ten runs thanks to a wonderful team effort to drag the bloated carcass of my softball career all night long. That improves our overall record to 2-3 on the season. Individually, I’m at 4 games played, 5-14 for a .357 batting average with 3 strikeouts and 2 catches.
               I’m scheduled to play again next Tuesday, the final game of the regular season. After that comes at least one playoff game, more if we win. Lots of questions going into  next week's game. Will my slight redemption at the end of this one cause even more bad luck to come my way next week? Will … well actually, that’s not a question. It’s pretty much a guarantee. Sigh.    

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