Monday, October 4, 2010

First time in years...

...that I played softball.

I quit playing not long before my older daughter was born. She's going to be 9 in February. I had the itch to play but the timing wasn't right each year. I didn't really want to play for either deaf team - one is just full of arrogant players and the other belongs to a club whose president I would rather avoid as long as she is in the office.

I was asked few weeks ago by a deaf friend to come out and play for a hearing team (meaning either no deaf player or very few deaf players), but I wasn't able to go - the game was rained out, I had a party, and I got inked in that order. Friday night came around again and finally I was able to go.

After I got to the fields early, I sat in my car for a while so I could watch the game from afar. I sensed something inside me, but I thought it was anxiety from not having played in so long and not having had any practice at all. I got texted from the same deaf friend, informing me of the correct field and I moved to there.

The feeling intensified.

I met with my deaf friend who had been begging me to come out for his team. He was surprised to see me not dressed for the game and told me to go get dressed. So I went back to my car and dressed in there, away from prying eyes. I stepped out of my car and...

I became more aware of everything...the smells, the movements, the crunching and sliding of the gravel rocks...and I felt lighter, faster, and stronger.

I met up with my friend and I could see he was a bit anxious and I knew exactly why.

I went right into the coach mode, explaining how to stand, how to hold the bat, how to play catcher, and how to recognize situations. He didn't say anything - he just stood there and took it all in. As I was talking to him, a familar face popped up in my face...literally. I knew her from interpreting program at a college. I couldn't remember if she got certified as an interpreter. She was standing on a built-in deck that serves as seating for people to watch the game. I am over 6 feet tall and she is only 5 feet and some tall. I was amused by her choice of location to say hi to me. She told me that she will be coaching the team and she would put me in the game later. She introduced me to other players; all were hearing but not one knew how to speak sign language.

After 1st inning, the coach told me I would be catching. I slipped right back into the rhythm of the game when I went out on the field. The dirt was a bit hard but broke apart easily. Caked layer. The cold in the air was enough for visible breath mists. The batter's box was lopsided from too many batters digging in for a better grip. The grass was dry where outfielders ran. The lights shone perfectly.

The feeling.

I knew right away it wasn't the anxiety. It was what I had missed the most - the action, the innate ability to see into the future, the muscle memory, the snap of the ball into the pitcher's glove from my arm...

An inning later, it was my turn to bat. I looked around and assessed the placement of the outfielders. Standard formation. Meant I had to drop the ball in front of the outfielders if I went for it. I saw everything on the pitcher clearly...the shifting of weight on his feet, the sweat on his face, the dirt on right side of his face from wiping the sweat off after handling a dirt-caked ball...and he threw the first pitch.

I knew right away that the pitch was too low despite being on target. I leaned back and looked back at the ump and he signalled low pitch.

The count was 2-1.

Stepped out of the lopsided batter's box to re-assess the placement of the outfielders. They hadn't moved at all but seemed more alert, as if they could tell that I knew how to hit the ball. They didn't know I hadn't practiced at all... Stepped back in. The ball came in just right but seemed a bit too short. Thud. Right on the edge of the plate, but the ump called strike. Fine with me.

Count 2-2.

Stepped back out, took a breath, and told myself to wait for the ball. Stepped back in. The ball sailed away from the pitcher a bit and landed off to the side.

3-2, full count.

I dug in. Either the pitcher will throw perfectly for a strike or he will go for the edge and make me work for it. The ball came out and up...

I looked...

I waited...

It looked a bit off...

I waited some more...

Suddenly, I backed off.

The ump signalled for me to take the base.

As I passed the first baseman, I could smell her soap, chemicals, and sweat. My senses were on fire. I advanced to second when the female batter elected to walk instead of batting. That's the standard co-ed league rule. Bases loaded, one out. My legs tensed as I assumed the take-off position from the base.

The male batter swung at first pitch. Crack. I moved few steps off the base and waited. The ball fell in shallow. I took off. Kept my eyes on third base coach. Got the furious signal for home. Turned sharply on third base and ran for home. Safe. Female batter followed me in for three runs.

I caught 2 more innings and I never got to bat again, but the team I played for finally won by the score of 9-8 after going 0-3.

I want to play again. I may be aching in several places from lack of practice, but I want in. All the way in.


Emmy said...

I miss playing softball. Played for way too long, but gave it up when I couldn't find a team that I liked.

Glad you had the chance to play again.

DCHY said...

Emmy - maybe things have changed...look again. I found a good team. Why not you?