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Softball for Fun

Joe and I played in an intramural faculty/staff softball game at USF last weekend. We were in the "fun" division, rather than the competitive division, which was the only way I would join. It turns out that in the fun division, there are just as many rules and emotions involved as in competition, but far less skill.

We were fortunate to have experienced players on our team, such as Joe, who compensated for weaker players, such as myself. The rules in this particular softball game were centered around female participation. For example, either the pitcher or the catcher must be female; females must bat in the order 2, 4, 6, 8; a female can opt to take a base walk without hitting if the male hitter preceding her is walked; etc. While my instinct was to be offended (especially at the latter rule), I didn't make any great efforts to stand out as a player. In fact, Joe and I both sat out of the first four innings, until we were then subbed for two other players. I "played" right field, thankfully, where no action occurred, and Joe played left center, where the ball seemed to be magnetically drawn. I was as much a spectator in the dugout as I was in right field, still trying to settle into the game. I struck out my only two times at bat in the first game, feeling mostly clueless as to whether the ball was any good, but fearing I may look foolish if I let it go. We lost that game rather pitifully, so much so that the score wasn't worth remembering.

The second game was far more exciting. I was put in as catcher for our team, which terrified me at first, but I then realized that I didn't actually have to "catch" the balls that the batter didn't hit, as in baseball; I just had to pick them after they dropped to the ground and throw them back to the pitcher (I must say with some amount of shame--I throw like a girl!). I took my catcher duty very seriously and followed the ball's every move. I hustled to it when it ran loose, even if the bases were empty and there was no chance of a play being made. And in one very exciting moment that nearly eluded me, I caught the ball off of the bat and got an out for the other team. It happened so quickly that I didn't realize I'd done a good thing until I looked out and all of my teammates were clapping and yelling positive things to me. I took a slight curtsy and returned to my squatting spot behind the next batter, beaming with pride.

I batted three times in this second game, striking out the first time, hitting the ball but getting out before first base the second time, and then hitting the ball and actually making it to first base the third time. When I hit the ball the first time, that little "ding" that happened when the ball hit the bat was so entirely pleasing that I had a hard time caring about the out I then incurred before reaching first.

Joe, who didn't know any of the other teammates and was only playing as a condition of my playing, was arguably the best player on the team. Perhaps too competitive for the fun division, he had a lot to say about the lack of talent our team possessed. While his observation was incontestably true, it wasn't really in keeping with the spirit of fun. So passionate was he about the game that, in a line drive hit out to left field, where he was positioned, he took a horizontal dive for the ball, missing it by just a hair. His effort did not go unacknowledged, though, as I watched, from behind home plate, the rest of our team applaud his valiant attempt.

Perhaps, though, the most exciting events of the game occurred not in plays, but in battle between the umpire and the coaches. One benefit of being catcher is that I get to witness up close all of the drama that occurs between home plate and the dugouts. Our particular young umpire caused quite a bit of controversy when he called an out on the other team for changing their batting lineup. He persisted with his ruling as the other team argued and rationalized, and the older but sprightly head coach flailed and yelled until he decided it wasn't worth it and took the out. Then, after a woman on the other team ran home, the umpire called her out because he ordered her to slide and she didn't. Old sprite had a field day with this call, and he unleashed all the curse words in the book on the umpire, and right up in his face, too. The umpire wouldn't have it and threw the coach out of the game. The ump also tried to call an out on us when we had male batters as #9 and #10. Our coach nearly got thrown out for arguing with the ump on this call, until much, much deliberation and mediation occurred and we were able to keep our #10 male batter, who proceeded to get an out anyway. All of this in the fun division!

In the end we lost the second game, as well, but it mattered not to me as I still had the ring of my hits in my ears and the vision of the team clapping for my foul tip catch and for Joe's bold midair dive.


Shelby said…
Having played a number of sports where a racquet/club/bat must meet some form of round object for ultimate success in the game, I can attest to that feeling one gets from the sound or feeling of that object being successfully struck. Whole industries are founded on the fact that a guy will play 18 holes of golf, spend four+ hours in the sun acquiring a score well into the 100s, yet hit that one long, straight drive that sounded so sweet coming off the club, leaving him with images of pars and birdies yet to come if only he had the right kind of equipment. Other guys...not me, of course.
Anna said…
This is hilarious! I'd love to witness those umpires skirmishes too (as well as Joe's competitiveness). I'm glad you had a major success! I feel the same way when I lose to Gabe every time in racquetball (and expect nothing less), but whenever slam that little ball in the corner so low that it's impossible to get a hit off of, I feel like smirking to myself and bobbing my head as I walk back to the serving line, but I have to play it cool 'cause that's part of the game.

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