“Hey batter batter batter, SWING!”
Familiar words from my childhood, which intermingle with the smell of grass, dirt-smeared white knickers, and the heavy feel of cleats on my feet, scraping against the ground. My little league teammates and I sat around in the dugout, chewing Big League Chew bubblegum and, encouraged by our coaches, yelling out unsportsmanlike taunts to the other team.
Go back, go back
go back in the woods!
Your coach ain’t got no spirit
and your team is no good!
I was a catcher. Kind of a lame position to play, in retrospect, since I had to stay in a squat position for most of the game, and had exactly three tasks:
- Catch the ball. A lot.
- Return the ball to the pitcher.
- Don’t get hit by the bat.
I guess I did pretty okay at these. I also did pretty okay at batting. I’m a leftie, and often got walked by pitchers who were freaked out that I was standing on the wrong side of the plate. I was okay with being pretty okay, and I enjoyed playing softball. But softball was nothing compared to soccer. In soccer, you got to run and move and try out cool tricks and, well, do stuff all the time, instead of standing or sitting around, waiting for something to happen.
When my kids were growing up, only one participated in little league baseball. My oldest son did tee-ball and coach pitch, and he was also pretty okay. But for him, just like for me, soccer had the louder siren song, so he abandoned the baseball diamond for the soccer pitch.
A few days ago, I decided to give softball a whirl again. A Meetup group I’m a part of was getting together with another group of mostly middle-aged wanna be athletes to play at a local park. It had been many years since I’d played, so I was pretty nervous that I’d play like a total newb. There were no dirt-smeared knickers or cleats, but the air smelled like grass (no, not that kind of grass). It was exactly as I’d remembered it, though the kids were all aged 30-50-something, and the pitcher would keep pitching the ball until you got a hit, so no one struck out.
I played third base, hoping that I’d see lots of action. But the ball rarely came my way, and runners were often intercepted before even reaching second base. So, there was still a lot of standing around, waiting. A few innings later, I was starting to wish I hadn’t skipped my Sunday morning Zumba class. I mean, how on earth did we kids manage to wait and wait and wait in those pre-cell phone days? Oh yeah. Go back, go back, go back in the woods…
Finally, I stepped up to bat for the last time. Each inning, I’d managed to get a base hit, except for one pretty little pop fly to center field that got three of us out and ended the inning. *Groan*
The pitcher lobbed the ball my way, and — CRACK!! I’ve got to tell you…when you hit the ball hard, and it’s just right, there is nothing like the sound the bat makes when it strikes the ball and sends it soaring. Nothing.
I wish I could say I hit a home run. Or even got an RBI. I didn’t But base by base, I got to fly like the wind, until at last, I reached home plate. Boom! That was the feeling I’d been waiting for all morning. The reason why baseball players can stand all the waiting, waiting, waiting. Because when something finally happens, it’s like a thunder strike. Almost as great as scoring a goal in soccer. Almost.
And it doesn’t even matter that I didn’t hit a homerun. Who cares whether I made it home all at once or one base at a time? The point is that, I made it home.