April 20, 2009

softball season

Tonight was the second practice of this year's Critics, our company softball team. It was a beautiful, perfect night to play. I missed last week's practice so tonight was my first time donning the glove since last July. What a practice! In past years many of our pre-season practices have been rained out; this year we're on the field more than in any of my previous 3 seasons. We did drills! We practiced infield strategy! We played a mini-scrimmage! Not knowing how long we would go, I ran my heart out catching pop flies in the outfield in the beginning of practice, only to discover we had another hour and a half of fielding and running.

I have a particular soft spot in my heart for catching pop flies. As a kid I was not a naturally adept softball player; I had an OK arm but I got nervous when the ball came my way and often dropped or missed catches entirely. My stepdad, who loved the sport, began taking me out into the front field (six acres) and practicing. He would stand by the house with a bat and a bag of softballs and hit fly ball after fly ball to where I stood, across the expanse of grass. I began to feel that catching fly balls was a zen-like activity; underneath that long arc you find your place below the ball and you line up your mitt, and the ball drops in with a satisfying smack. I got good at them. I loved to run around the field like a crazy person, leaping for lobbed balls. It's the sweetest memory I have of my stepdad.

Tonight was like that. Most of the way through practice I heard Brendan say, from third base, "Best night ever."

I decided to wear my game socks to practice. They're why I have my team nickname -- Rainbow Brite. They used to be toe socks but when the toes began giving me foot cramps, I cut the feet off and began wearing them as leg warmers. When that got too warm and uncomfortable I started folding them in half. That's how I wore them all last season. The effect is a little like wearing two rainbow-striped knee pads. Maybe wearing the socks helped me feel committed tonight. I snagged so many balls, both at second base (my preferred position) and in the outfield, that during the lull our coach (the IT guy at the opera) said, "You're just like a human backstop."

softball: practice

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