Why am I so self-conscious?

I seem to be hung up on posting stuff that’s useful or thought-provoking… For the past TWO YEARS. So there won’t be a lick of useful information in this one. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Nil.
I don’t have time for useful or thought-provoking. I’m supposed to be working on a Web server. I feel like goofing off. I haven’t had any true goof-off time in a long time. And my evil twin’s not up for a visit. So I’ll act like I’m on a date and talk about myself. How’s that?

Aha, you clicked the “more” link looking for useful information, didn’t you? I already told you, there isn’t any here! What, do you think I’m into reverse psychology or something? My pastor told me it’s wrong to lie. So I don’t do that reverse psychology gig anymore. UNDERSTAND? I trust I make myself clear.

It’s something like 8:15 and I’ve got dinner in the oven, hoping it won’t set off my smoke detector–my neighbors got used to time their dinners by listening for my smoke detector–and I’m sore. Of course I’ll tell you why I’m sore.

Tuesday is softball night. I showed up, and that made seven players. The coach showed up about five minutes after me. He yelled “yee ha!” before he hopped out of his GMC Jimmy, and then he counted heads… And his mood changed. He made out a lineup, then drafted someone out of the audience to catch. A whole bunch of us were playing out of position. I’m normally a catcher these days, since I’m out of shape and past my prime. I won’t say old, because I always get a barrage of angry mail every time I say I’m old, but someone slipped an Early Retirement memo in my mailbox this afternoon… And I found out I’m half the requisite age. Yikes. Halfway to early retirement. That’s not a big deal, but look at professional baseball players. It’s really, really rare for you to get much better after 27. There’s an awful lot that people say about 26-year-old rookies.

Back in my day, before a series of injuries did me in, I was a fiery second baseman. I was loud, I was happy to take a walk, I’d very happily run into you to try to knock you off the bag, I’d always take the extra base, and did I mention I was loud? I had so-so range and an infielder’s arm. Second base was an ideal position for me. Put a six-footer on first base on one side of me and a slick-fielding shortstop on the other side of me, and we’d do okay.

Then I missed two years due to injuries. I lost about 10 pounds during my big growth spurt. And I was 16 before my doctor would clear me to play sports again. So I lived at the batting cage, trying to get my stroke back. It mostly did. I never hit well early in the season anyway, so I was happy with my prospects. My coach wasn’t as impressed. I lost my roster spot to someone whose daddy gave more money to the school. It wasn’t the last time I lost something I wanted to him, on account of that man. Not that it matters anymore. There are only two things I want now that I lack, and I’ll be taking care of the house later this year. I know that’s not true of him.

Time to pop the stack. Baseball was life. Crushed, I hung up my glove and got a job. The only time I played again was in PE my junior and senior years (for about a month apiece), and two company softball games. I was a star hitter but you really hoped no one hit a ball to me.

I played intramural softball my first two years of college. I spent the last two years trying to decide whether I liked softball or journalism better. The school newspaper was a better place to meet girls who were already dating someone.

So I hung it up again. Two years ago, at a company picnic, I came out of retirement and I could still hit. The HR director recruited me to play softball. I couldn’t–I was writing a book. That book was never published. It would be the last time journalism would win out over softball. Last year I played. My mobility gone, I caught and played an inning or two per game at first base to keep my legs stretched out.

Well, this year I set out to get into good enough shape to be able to play left field. Practice was promising–I caught everything I could get to. Problem was I could only get to half of ’em.

I played my first game in left field last week. I made a couple of putouts and I even made a good throw to try to nail a baserunner at third. He got in there, but it was close.

This week, we were desperately short-handed. I’ve been playing right field in my church league, but I don’t talk about that league because the team leaders just show up to drink beer. I keep trying to tell ’em it’s a lot more fun to drink beer after the game when we’ve played hard and won, but to the pitcher, those words are nothing more than a measurement of the amount of time it takes to guzzle a cold one. He finally shut his trap last week when I told him if he said the word “beer” one more time I was leaving. I was the ninth player of nine, so without me we’d have to forfeit. I’m surprised he shut up, frankly. He’d have had more time to drink beer with the game out of his way.

I only get balls in right field with left-handed hitters. Right-handers are so far out ahead of our sloshed pitcher that their balls go down the left-field line, or, at best, to center.

My other coach has never seen me play right field. But since we only had nine players–counting our recruit–our coach took a chance and switched me to right. I’d have done that too. I’m easily the slowest of the three outfielders we had.

Only trouble was, this team had all kinds of power but no bat speed. They hit two or three balls to left field all game. A few more went to center. But I made four putouts in right. There was one ball that I didn’t get, because it sailed about six feet over my head and I was playing deep anyway. There was another ball that I didn’t get because I was playing deep and he looped one to shallow right. I ran in for it. The first baseman ran out for it. He was closer. Neither of us could reach it. It plopped foul. Then he lined into a double play. Mistake erased.

But between that and trying to back up the second baseman on plays to second, I did a lot of running around. Plus I scored from second on a single to left–one of our three runs. “Winded?” one of my coworkers asked as I huffed across the plate. I held my thumb and forefinger real close. It was easier than trying to talk.

One of the girls who went on the mission trip with me chided me for calling softball exercise. Well, when you played competitive soccer in college like she did, it probably isn’t. When you’re out of shape and past your prime like me, it is.

But I’d play anyway, even if it weren’t exercise. I’m happy. We lost. But the team we played was undefeated, and we were shorthanded. And our star shortstop, who also happens to be our best hitter, was out. And our pitcher is nursing an injury. But we only lost by four. I scored one of my team’s three runs. I went 0-for-3 with a walk, but I hit two of the balls solid and one of them should have found a hole except the other team had the second coming of Fred Patek playing shortstop. (Ha! You thought I was going to say Ozzie Smith, didn’t you? I’m a Royals fan! And Little Freddie Patek had plenty of range.) Anyway. Fred Patek II ran out to short center and grabbed what should have been my clean single. I made the pitcher throw plenty of pitches–I worked him to 3-1 or 3-2 every at-bat. And something got into me and I was making plays in right field. I grabbed four fly balls, including one that started to take off as it got to me.

That catch was probably the best thing that’ll happen to me all season. I lunged for it, and then I looked back behind me to see where it went, and then I realized my glove didn’t feel right. I looked at my glove–there was the ball! I’d caught it! I thrust the glove up in the air, ball firmly planted in the webbing, for the ump to see, the biggest grin on my face since I got back from Florida.

“We were never worried for a minute!” the other outfielders yelled to me.

I’m glad they weren’t, because I sure was. That ball picked up some wind near the end.

So that’s why I’m sore. Not that I’m complaining. Not in the least.

What? You’ve read this far? Still looking for something useful? Still trying to get me to make you think? FORGET IT!

I’ve got an early-morning DNS migration to make at work. So I’m off to work an hour early, which means I leave an hour early since overtime’s forbidden now, which means I’ll be able to put in a marathon seven-hour editing session at church afterward. Woo hoo! Trust me, video editing’s way cooler than BIND configuration files.

No time for useful, Dr. Jones.

9 thoughts on “Why am I so self-conscious?

  • July 3, 2002 at 10:22 am
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    comment

    I love it when you write about baseball. And softball will do.

  • July 3, 2002 at 10:56 am
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    Dan led me to your site and I have been reading for a bit – thanks for the softball story – I am a little league gramma with an up and coming right fielder. ;-)) hope the stiffness is gone soon.
    >..

  • July 3, 2002 at 2:30 pm
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    I played softball through high school and my freshman year in college. After that music won over sports but it was fun while I was able to balance both. By the way, sometimes when we think we’re not saying much is when we really are. Deep huh? Hope you get to enjoy a very happy 4th of July! 😉

  • July 3, 2002 at 2:31 pm
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    Oh, man! You sound like you had wonderful evening at the park!

    ..not bad for an old kid *g*!

  • July 3, 2002 at 9:39 pm
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    I loved Fields of Dreams, does that count.

    Tim.

  • July 3, 2002 at 10:36 pm
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    Softball not exercise? Oh man, that’s rich. I’d say any sport, no matter how amature is exercise. If you ache the next day, you exercised.

  • July 3, 2002 at 11:01 pm
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    The aches were gone when I got up at 4:30 this morning. Don’t ask why I was up at 4:30 this morning. I made a mental note that I had to get up early, because I needed to be at work at 7. Well, “early” meant 4:30 two weeks ago. So… I was at work at 6. My boss was absolutely stunned. As he should be. Usually I’m groggy at 8:30.

    But yesterday’s game was still exercise. My rule: If you can’t wear the shirt again the next day, you exercised.

    OK, so that’s not really my rule, but I want people to think it is. It helps my image.

    And Tim, I loved Field of Dreams too. But I won’t count it as exercise. Clear Buck Weaver! Clear Buck Weaver!

    Wait, was he in Field of Dreams too, or was it just Shoeless Joe?

  • July 4, 2002 at 3:19 am
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    Cool story. Glad you’re feeling better.

    For the longest time I couldn’t even stand softball. Now I actually enjoy watching it. To the point that I make a mean scorekeeper (the paid variety *g*).

    Ah, and I love Field of Dreams. Come to think of it, I love all the baseball movies I’ve ever seen. Just don’t like baseball. hm..puzzling.

  • July 4, 2002 at 9:07 am
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    Anything that evokes strong emotions makes for a good story, and over the past century or so, baseball definitely qualifies.

    Here’s a baseball story that needs to be made into a movie. It’ll never happen, of course. But Game 1 of the 1929 World Series was like Field of Dreams and For Love of the Game all wrapped up in one for a now-forgotten pitcher named Howard Ehmke. The rest of the series was spectacular too.

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