Friday, April 27, 2012

No. 769 – Walk on the Ocean

Performer: Toad the Wet Sprocket
Songwriters: Glen Phillips, Todd Nichols, Dean Dinning, Randy Guss
Original Release: Fear
Year: 1991
Definitive Version: None

Even after the fall coed season, I wanted more softball in 1992. Dave knew about a church league that played near Fenton, and it was an interesting set-up: Three small teams would play a tricorner game.

Two teams would be in the field, one team at bat. When the team batting used up its three outs, the teams would rotate, so the team on the left side of the field would move to the right and take over pitching chores and the team that was pitching would bat.

It was great to a certain extent, because the teams played a max of five players to a side, so everyone played. After two seasons (summer and fall) of watching half the time from the bench, this was what I was looking for—I had more at bats in a single game than I had had in a month of coed ball. Also, because it was a men’s league, we actually could play to win instead of making sure everyone (i.e., enough women) had enough fun so they’d show up again the next week.

But it didn’t take long to see that our team, which usually consisted of me, Dave, John and a friend of Dave’s from church, wasn’t one of the better teams. All teams kept score. The teams that finished 1-2 among the three got to play on a different (and nicer) field. The third team played on the same field. We played on the same field most of the time. Oh well.

The field where we typically played had a reasonably short fence in left, and I thought I could reach it but never did. This, of course, was a source of constant frustration—particularly when guys on the teams we played against were jacking them over the fence all the time (and we’d have to go retrieve the ball from the forest beyond the left-field fence).

One of the best teams—I can’t remember if they were the eventual champs—had one player in particular who didn’t look like much but had a perfect swing. He’d just flick his bat with his wrists and launch ball after ball over the fence. After about the fourth home run he hit against us, I realized that if I ever wanted to hit home runs, I needed to change my swing and put more of an uppercut into it, like he did, to generate loft. Much off-season work was needed.

My abysmal summer season, when I decided to retire from pitching, wasn’t my pitching farewell after all. I didn’t pitch at all during the coed fall season and kept to that in the church league until I got tired of watching the other team trot around the bases. I studied the hitters and was convinced I knew how to shut them down. I tried to pass along my wisdom, but something was lost in the translation, so I took the mound myself the last inning. And darned if I wasn’t right.

My advice was to pitch them high. With their uppercut swings, they golfed the low ball out of the yard. Pitch them high, and those balls turn to pop ups, and that’s exactly what happened. I pitched a shutout inning—I want to say it was 1-2-3—a near-impossibility in that league.

Later I had another audacious pitching outing in that league. The one time we were on the big kids’ field, the other two teams were duking it out for league supremacy. We were clearly outmatched. And we really started to hear it from one of the teams, saying that we were costing them the chance to win.

Aside from the obvious fact that we were in the field against both teams, so it should make no difference, it wasn’t as though we were trying to screw up. And their whining seemed particularly bad form for team in a church league. So when they, unfortunately, took the lead late, I had had enough.

I took the mound and called Dave over for a conference. “I’m gonna dump it,” I told him. I’m going to give the other team nothing but fat, flat ones down the middle, and if I field anything I’m going to throw it into the outfield. Dave agreed to the plan in principle. And—shockingly—a 3-run lead went down to 1 in no time. (There’s no commandment that says Thou Shalt Not Dump Thy Ballgame Against Whiny Schmoes that I’m aware of.)

But when push came to shove, when the tying run was on base and two out, Dave just couldn’t do it—to his credit, I guess. He made the final out, and afterwards, I had to shake the hands of the aforementioned whiny schmoes in fellowship. I don’t know how hockey players do it.

1 comment:

  1. That's the first -- and only -- time I've ever seen a league with that set up! Crazy stuff.