When I was 9 or 10, I went out for Little League baseball. That was more than a few years ago, and my memories of my Little League baseball career are sketchy at best – with one exception, which is indelibly burned into my brain. It was the first day of tryouts, and I was out in right field. I remember being deathly afraid that the batter was going to hit the ball to me. Then that inevitable pop fly came my way. I can still see it arcing through the air. I got under the ball, held up my glove, and readied myself for impact.
I had impact, all right. The ball landed squarely on the top of my head, and bounced to the ground.
Once they determined that I wasn’t injured (there is at least one advantage to being thick-headed, I guess), I was placed on a team in the developmental “farm league”. I can remember little else about the rest of the season, apart from the fact that I eagerly anticpated its end.
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Apart from the occasional game of whiffleball at the odd picnic, I think the next time that I picked up a bat was when I joined my church softball team as a young 30-something. The coach/captain lured me into signing on by telling me that they needed to add some speed to the team. As a runner, I figured I could offer them that, so I went to KMart, bought a glove, and showed up for the first game. I then realized that speed is an asset in softball only if you can (1) hit the ball so you can get on base, and/or (2) catch the ball once you have run to it. With my skills in both respects having seen little improvement since the halcyon days of my youth when I had gotten knocked in the noggin by a pop fly, I came to dread each Friday night game. I do not enjoy participating in activities for which I have little aptitude – especially when that activity involves an audience. I made it through the season, and hung up my cleats.
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That was about 10 years ago. Why am I writing about it now? I guess I’m a slow learner. Either that, or a glutton for punishment. I have dusted off my KMart glove and am once again playing church league softball. This time, however, a couple of things are different. First, my wife is playing as well – she’s actually the one who lured me back onto the field. How could I not play if she is? Second, I am bound and determined to have fun with it. I have got to stop taking life, and myself, so seriously.
I still hope that the ball is not hit to me. My hand-eye coordination as a 43-year-old church softballer is not much better than it was as a 9 year old Little Leaguer. But, I hope to find that my inner critic has lightened up a bit. We’ll see how it goes.