Today was the last day of the softball season. (You'll all still have to hear about softball though since after taking next weekend off, we have the playoffs to look forward to.
We had two games against the Bobcats, our arch enemies. For weeks, we were number one in the division, but when we lost last week, we were 1.5 games behind the Bobcats. (Remember that tied game early in the season?) So today, we had to win the first game to tie them, and win the second game to be the season champions. (Or something. It comes down to one of those stats with three decimal places.)
We played in Bloomfield, New Jersey. As usual in Bloomfield, there were vast puddles in the infield that would very well show up on Google Maps. So that meant we were playing on the grass, family reunion softball style. It was hot and steamy today. The predicted thundershowers never materialized. And the dead still air was stirred by exactly one breeze the entire time we were there. (There was this beautiful collective "Ahhhhh..." for the half a minute that it lasted.)
The first game. Oh man. What a heartbreaker. We got three runs, they tied it up, they got two runs, we tied it up. It was neck-and-neck the entire time. The Ball Breakers played some amazing softball. Collectively, as a team. But, alas, so did the Bobcats. In the penultimate inning, it was once again tied up. We were visitors, meaning that the Bobcats had last ups at bat. So it was absolutely critical that we hold them. And they got a run in and won the game.
So we would not be the division champs. But whatever happened, we'd be number two.
This begged the question: did we really want to be out here in the heat to play a second game that wouldn't make a difference?
The answer, of course, was "Hell yeah!"
And so we did.
I personally was for this, as I was benched for the first game, so I wanted to see some action. I did pretty well with catching the first two innings. But then came my first at-bat. It wasn't the strongest I've ever hit the ball, not making it out of the infield. But all things being equal, I think I could have once again beat the ball to first base. But I maybe shoulda coulda given more time to my torn hamstring to heal. Two weeks was clearly not enough. There I was, lurching my way down the baseline, sort of propelling myself with all my might with my right leg and giving a weird little hop with my left leg. No doubt it was comical. And that meant that I was out of the game.
Which the Ball Breakers won.
One of the guys on our team, Billy, lived just down the road and had invited us all over for a barbecue. So we packed up our gear for the last time during the 2007 season (stay tuned for the playoffs!), climbed into our cars, and headed off to eat.
The food was excellent, highlights including home made mozzarella from this place in Hoboken.
And there was much drinking of beer, laughter, and a little bit of speechifying. There was general agreement that as opposed to some seasons past--maybe all seasons passed--the new Ball Breakers were great. So great, in fact, that we threatened them with death if they don't come back next year. Gruesome, horrible, painful death. Not that we weren't dubious, since a few of them were (gasp!) heterosexual. But luckily the number of times I've had to take the drastic action of Calling Homophobia on them (which goes like this: I point the accusatory finger and holler, "I call Homophobia on Mike!" for infractions like making an Ewwwww-face when we discuss fisting in grafic detail) not more than seven or eight times during the season.
Way back in April, I vowed to work hard and make this the season that I was no longer such a liability to the team. Countless hours I've spent at the batting cages. I'm not gonna say I'm there yet, but I've gotten a lot better. And look at me! I'm a catcher! I love being a catcher! Some seasons, not infrequently did I think to myself, "I got up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday and drove two hours for this?" There has been infighting, there have been seemingly endless strings of crushing defeats, there have been battles with the league, there have been nasty fights among Ball Breakers. At times, it's been a rough ride.
But not this year.
With everything else that's been going on with me, softball has been the one thing I could count on. Win or lose (and we won more often than we lost), I had a blast.
At the start of the game, before we take the field, we stand in a circle, and give a cheer: "Bal-l-l-l-l-l-l-l Breakers!" Today, when we did the cheer, I added in a tremulous voice, "Love you guys!" I did this for humorous effect, and it was successful, but the truth is, I meant it.
I'm doubting a lot about myself lately, my competence, my skills, my self-worth, my Faith. Even my identity as a leatherman. But there's one thing I'm not doubting: I am a Ball Breaker.