Thursday, April 8, 2010

Morning: Base-a-bol...Been Berry Berry Good to Me

Yesterday, I had my first softball league game on the upper, upper west side. Or so I thought. I took the train to 145th street, wandered around the Colonel Charles Young fields, and found nobody. I finally called the manager, and it turns out the game happens next Wednesday. I wandered off, but in lieu of sulking to the train for the long ride back to Brooklyn, I struck up a conversation with a few Hispanic dudes who were about to play a scrimmage. Some of their teammates were delayed, so I agreed to step in for a few innings.

The skipper put me at second base, and the first batter for the bad guys was a thin lefty. Watching him go through the pre-pitch ritual, I knew he was going to hit it my way. The certain future hung in the dusty air. I could only hope for the best. This was the first time I'd played any variant of the game since 2005. It's a tough sport to play in the city, and while basketball and football remained constant companions, the national pasttime faded. Now, the dirt was swirling, the lights had come on, and let me tell you: the goosebumps arrived. Baseball!

On the fourth pitch, the batter ripped a grounder to my left. Instead of planting myself securely in front of the ball, I decided to try and rediscover my old flair by charging, fielding from the side, and using a sidearm flip. Robbie Cano style- the only way to roll. The ball took a weird hop, but still hit my glove. It trickled forward, I picked it up with the bare hand, and flicked on to first for the out. 4-3, if you're keeping score at home.

After five years away from the game, it was a pretty groovy feeling. But even that rush was eclipsed when I stepped into the batter's box. The old tingle of nerves danced around my stomach. I bobbed and weaved, twirled the bat in quick circles, let it linger on the pitcher when he started his wind-up, and then crouched in the old stance, bat tilted lazily back like Rod Carew. First pitch, ball. Second pitch low, but I swung away. Grounder to third, fielded cleanly, but the throw's in the dirt, and I'm on! E-5, baby!

I ended up scoring, and in my second at-bat I was one pitch away from an undesirable walk, so I swung at a low pitch again. This time the shortstop made a clean play and threw me out by two steps. 6-3. The next inning, the rest of the team arrived and my day was done. Final stats: 1 put-out on one chance, 0-2 at the plate with a run scored. I'm back in the show!

And now the time is right to get pumped about professional baseball. The Dukies monopolized my attention, and rightly so, but I'm starting to take the first tentative steps toward the boys of summer. Today, I'll be talking Yankees. And some Masters, too. It's good to see Tiger Woods back in the news; I feel like we never hear from him in the winter months.

The Devils hold the title. The Yankees hold the title. Fandom may never be so fine. It's spring, and someone in my dictionary's up to no good.

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