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11:27 a.m. - July 11, 2005
Your Hero Makes a Less Than Triumphant Return to the Field of Battle
Every baseball fan, at some point, thinks they can manage their favorite team better than the current manager.

In fact, some of us, (called g-e-e-k-s) actually play board games or computer games on occasion where you CAN emulate being a big league manager. For those of you who want proof that I’m off my rocker a bit, there you go.

But, in a sort, I’m living out the dream of every baseball fan this year by coaching the softball team made up of some friends, co-workers, and other assorted good natured folks.

I used to play for this team back in the late 90’s, but gave it up when I got my new job and didn’t think I could justify driving 45 miles to play softball when I already drove 45 miles to work each day. Oh, and the fact that my swing got all messed up and I was in a massive slump.

However, now that we’ve moved back to my hometown, I asked if the team was still together. Sid told me that they were still playing, and that they needed bodies so that they wouldn’t forfeit. And as a bonus, they need someone to act as the coach because no one really wanted to write out the lineups and all.

Sure, why not? I’m a sucker. I know these guys.

Our team is actually pretty good. We have some great players, and me. My vision was that we’d have 10 or 11 players show up, and I’d only play in blowouts or the rare time we’d need someone. I can pitch and that way we can move a stronger defensive player somewhere else if need be when we’re short.

The first game of the year confirmed my thoughts. We had plenty of players, and pasted the other team. I only came in late in the game.

Well, that was the first game. Turns out that was the highlight of the year. The issues started with the next game.

If I can explain about softball in Crawfordsville, many people take it very seriously around here. For a county of 28,000, there are over 60 teams (men, women, and co-ed) that play softball. Many of those teams play tournaments over the weekend as well.

A lot of the players on our team used to be intense about softball – but they all had an epiphany that there’s more to life than hitting a large spheroid lobbed toward you. We all like to play the game, and really enjoy each other’s company. But as far as wanting to be ultra-competitive, those days are long gone. That may also be due to the age of our team. We have a couple of youngsters (under 30) but many of our team are hovering at 35 or higher, and are married with children that are in the prime of their active age.

Wouldn’t you know it – the youth schedules don’t consult the men’s softball schedule to coordinate games! So we’ve had a lot of games with shortened manpower.

That’s led to some interesting lineups – all of them including me in them. I’ve had to take the mound quite a few times, and have pitched fairly well. (Pitching slow pitch isn’t as easy as it seems, you have to have the right arch or you’ll get killed. Plus, they DO call balls and strikes so you need to make sure you drop it in there just so.)

So after our first win, we’ve been on a skid. We had to forfeit twice because we just couldn’t round up enough players on the team. We played one game with eight players and four games with nine players, and lost all of those. And one game with ten players (yes, you get ten in slow pitch) was played with probably the most interesting lineup I’ve ever had to put together.

We also had some bad luck this year. One of our best players broke his collarbone. We had one player have to travel to study at grad school for two weeks. We had relatives drop in on some players with little notice, taking them out of action, kids games get made up at the last minute, and other such turmoil. We’ve had to add a few players as the season went along, and so far 19 players have suited up for us.

We had two wins, and a lot of losses, but a lot of confidence because we’ve only had two games where we had our entire real honest to goodness team, and we really hit the ball well in those games. (Note: I didn’t play in those games!)

But this past week was our rainout week - we played three games in a row and it looked like we’d have a full team together. We wouldn’t have two of our top players but we’d have at least 10 every night.

Well, it was a struggle. We didn’t hit the ball at all on the first night and lost. The second night, we only had 9 players because of a child issue and the other team had their hitting shoes on. We were pasted by a large margin.

Those things happen, but this team rather much rubbed it in. We were going to be run-ruled (if you’re behind by 12 or more runs after five innings, the games over) but they ‘let’ us score enough runs to keep playing. Then they went out and whacked it around some more.

One guy, er, jerk, who is a righthanded batter normally, batted lefthanded and got a hit. Then up by 11 runs, he stole second base. Now you’re wondering how you steal bases in softball. There’s a rule now (at least in our leagues) that you can steal once it crosses the plate. But why the heck would you do that up by 11 runs?

Well, this guy gets to third. I fire in a pitch, the catcher throws it back, and wouldn’t you know it this guy steals home.

Our first baseman walked off the field.

Needless to say, we lost that game.

The last night, desparate for a win, I’m thinking of shaking up the lineup but a disparaging look by Pinto made me come to my senses and so I come out with a reasonable lineup. We were playing the best team in the league and had a lead after six innings.

A few hits and errors and six runs later, we’re standing at 2-12 on the season.

I think that people would be asking for my head if I was getting paid for it. But to be honest, we’ve never really had our full team there except for maybe three games. We have two games left against teams we should beat, and then we have the city tourney. There’s always hope!

Even if I am making out the lineup card!

 

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