I’m playing on guts and guile, and this point. Small remnants of physical ability flash through, here and there, but mostly it’s the slow deterioration of another fine American man.
There are some nights (OK, most nights) when it feels like that, out on the softball field. Last night was one of those nights.
It started out quite awesome-ly for me in left field. I had to track back a long way to keep up with a deep fly ball, but I made the catch. Two batters later I threw out a runner trying to go from first to third on a single. It was probably the best throw of my 30s, and by a wide margin. I placed the ball at knee level for our third baseman, who made a sweeping tag on the diving baserunner. It ended the threat and the inning.
My play deteriorated from that point forward. I walked in my first at-bat, and missed my cutoff man the next half-inning that allowed a run to score. I struck out swinging (yes, I struck out in slow pitch softball) in my next at-bat. It was deflating. My timing is off at the plate and I know it. I’m reaching, badly, and when I make contact I’m pulling EVERYTHING. I’m way out in front, and almost all the time.
So I sought the sage advice of our manager, who said I need to be more patient, and to maybe add a cocking motion to my swing. But that’s not how my swing works, I’m a bat-head-out-in-front kind of guy. Adding a hitch to my swing is the last thing I need. (Thanks, coach!) So I decided to try the little half-step forward that I see other guys attempting with varying degrees of success. And to an extent, it actually worked.
I singled through the left side of the infield in my next at-bat and drove in my first run of the season. It wasn’t looking like I was going to get more than four ABs until our opponent got to within one run and things got interesting.
With about six minutes remaining in our game, the umpire decided to begin one more inning. This meant that no matter what happened in the top half, we would still get our last at-bat. Well, our opponent forced the issue when a super deep fly ball (to me!) was dropped and the batter came around to score. The game was now tied. If I was deflated before I was flattened now. But BUT our pitcher held them to just the one run and we got out of a big jam with the opportunity to win the game with just a single run.
Our first batter singled to reach base but our next two popped out. With two outs, a runner on third (via errors) and me on deck, their pitcher decides he wants to intentionally walk the batter in order to pitch to you-know-who.
He’s calling me out. And I know it.
I stepped into the plate knowing that I was going to take that half-step. I looked at his first pitch — strike. His second pitch — too deep. His third pitch — WHACK! I swung and hit it as hard as I could at their third baseman. I didn’t see what happened next (because I was chugging down the line) but somehow our runner scored and we won the game!
Did the ball eat him up? Did he make a bad throw to the plate? I don’t know and I don’t care. We won the game. There had been a bunch of ups and downs but I came up big in the biggest moment. I had capitalized on my opportunity for clutch-ness.