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Thursday, April 24, 2003  

Putting the “Soft” in “Softball”

Trash and I live about a block away from a pretty nice park. It occupies two city blocks and it contains a basketball court, playground equipment, a kiddie pool, and the community center where we vote every once in a while. It also has a few baseball diamonds, complete with backstops. Trash and I brought our new balls, our new gloves, and her weenie new bat to one of them last night so she could practice hitting.

As we walked down to the park, Trash tossing a ball high in the air as I covered my head in panic, it occurred to me that it’s kind of a shame we don’t use the park more. I mean, we drive past it nearly every day, our tax dollars support it, and here we are coming up on a decade in the neighborhood and we’ve spent hardly any time there. I was glad that was finally changing.

Trash swung her bat while I threw maybe a half-dozen pitches at the dirt three feet in front of the plate before we got kicked out.

A park employee came out of the aforementioned community center and explained, very nicely and apologetically, that the section of the park we were on was off-limits. It seems that poor drainage had been slowly turning the park into a shallow pond over the past few years, so the whole lot had been re-leveled and re-seeded and now, if the Park Police caught any citizens trying to actually use the facility we’d paid to fix, we’d be subject to an eighty-five-dollar fine. This is the case until autumn.

How many times are we going to have to pay for this park, anyway? Am I going to have to start attending neighborhood council meetings now?

Trash and I are lucky enough to live in an area whose park density is just slightly less than that of Manhattan, so we were able to go to another park that’s only five blocks away in a different direction. Trash took her position in front of the backstop and I started throwing my horrible pitches in her general direction.

Once again, the wisdom of buying a six-pack of softballs became apparent. Because as it turns out, Trash can still hit. With one ball, we would have been stuck in a tedious routine:

1. I throw a pitch. 2. It rolls to a stop. 3. Trash walks halfway to where I’m standing (which is halfway between home plate and the pitcher’s mound) picks up the ball, and tosses it back to me. 4. I drop it. 5. I chase it across the grass. 6. I pick it up. 7. I throw a pitch. 8. It casts a tiny shadow on Trash’s shoulder as it soars over her head. 9. She walks back to pick it up, then taps it with her bat to lob it back to me, but it rolls up the third base line instead. 10. I chase it. 11. I throw a pitch. 12. She breaks into a run, chases it down, leaps into the air, and hits it at the apex of her jump. 11. I get in the car to go get it. 12. Repeat until suicidal.

The six-ball system offered us much greater flexibility, because we could run after several balls at a time instead of just one. This is why teams practice together, I think. With more people covering the field, it tends to minimize the chasing.

This is also why God invented batting cages, which I suspect is where Trash will be doing more of her batting practice in the future. Waiting to swing at the one good pitch out of twenty wasn’t going to do her much good, but we’re a little worried that if I keep pitching to her, she’s going to lose her ability to know when not to swing. And that’s a very important skill in softball. I should know; when I played, it was the only one I had.

After a while we swapped places so she could practice catching hit balls. When I used to play as a kid, I could never understand how my coaches could hit balls in a specific direction or at a specific height when I was lucky to hit the ball at all. Now I know that it’s not as hard as it seems when you’re a grown-up using a bat that’s lighter than an expensive steak. I hit Trash a few hot grounders and made her chase a few fly balls in between fouling into the backstop and whiffing entirely. I can only imagine how well I would have done at this if it were an activity I’d attempted to engage in since my early teens. Most of the balls that did go into the field tended towards trajectories that were within forty-five degrees of where Trash was standing. And the ones that didn’t? Well, running is practice too.

Obviously neither of us is in any danger of going pro, especially me. But that’s so beside the point that the point looks like a line from where it is. We’re getting a little exercise and some fresh air. We have an excuse to be outside, because as everyone knows, grown-ups always need an excuse to be outside (which is why barbecue grills were invented). We spend time together. We enjoy each other’s company. We have fun.

At least until she fires me for sucking so bad.

posted by M. Giant 3:40 PM 0 comments


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